Staying off spammers' lists

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Spam-free diet

Technology certainly plays an important role in helping agencies keep spam at bay, but a bit of behavior modification on the part of users can also make a difference.

Because the vast majority of spam occurs when spammers use automated software to read, or scrape, e-mail addresses from official Web sites, one step you can take is to "find fairly simple ways to disguise e-mail addresses to make them not so easily scrapable," said John Morris, director of the Internet Standards, Technology and Policy Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology. The center's focus is "to reduce [the] risk that they will get on spammers' lists to begin with," Morris said.

Here are some other tips:

Disguise any e-mail address that is listed on a Web site. Instead of using a traditional address format, such as "[email protected]," consider writing "yourname at agency dot gov" or use a graphic representation instead.

Don't post to Usenet discussion groups using a live address in the header because many e-mail addresses are scraped from Usenet headers. It's OK if your address is in the body of the message as long as it's disguised.

Opt out of other uses of your e-mail address when you give it to a Web business. Don't do business with sites that don't offer opt-out options.

Use multiple or disposable e-mail addresses.

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