Spam is annoying. Unsolicited emails filling up your inbox trying to hawk all sorts of things. Spam is also illegal ... or at least it is supposed to be. In 2003, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing, also known as the CAN-SPAM Act, was passed. It was supposed to limit the type of unsolicited emails that can be sent. I am not going to go into all the technical and legal details of the CAN-SPAM Act or any of the following related legislation because, quite frankly, there is still spam. The good news is that you do have some control to fight spam.
First of all, let us define what is generally considered spam. Spam is advertising messages sent that are unsolicited. Many people consider both email and text messaging to be spam. This means you must opt in to get messages from an advertiser. You might do this because you want to get ads related to your favorite stores. However, the key here is that you explicitly requested it. Companies cannot imply or auto enroll anyone to their email lists. I also want to emphasis the advertising nature of spam. What are called "transactional" emails should not be considered spam. These are emails used to conduct business. These might be purchase receipts, shipping updates or user instructions.
Your first line of defense is your email’s spam filter. Depending on who provides your email (Gmail, Yahoo, your employer, etc.), you may or may not have much control over configuring your spam filter. That is a little more technical than most people want to get. However, what you can do with your spam filter is mark emails you receive as spam when appropriate. Most spam filters are dynamic. That is, they build a profile of email senders and the pattern of content in them. If a lot of people mark a certain email address as spam, future messages from that address are more likely to be marked as spam. Using the "Mark as Spam" feature will help you and the wider community fight against spam.
Secondly, most advertising emails have an opt out section in them (or again they are supposed to). Take a look at the bottom of the email in the fine print of the message. There you should find something along the lines of an "Unsubscribe" button. This should remove you from the list. In the case of text messaging spam, replying the word "Stop" can often get you off the text messaging list.
You can also reach out to the sender themselves. Sometimes there are honest mistakes in sending out messages. If that is the case, contacting the company will help them know that they are inadvertently annoying a lot of people. However, this can be time consuming and the sender might just not care about your particular case.
The most extreme step would be to report the message to a governmental agency. If it is email, you need to forward the email with an explanation to the Federal Trade Commission. That email address is email@example.com. If it is a text message, then you will have to file a report with the Federal Communication Commission at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/requests/new?ticket_form_id=39744. Be prepared for this process to take a lot of time and patience. I have gone through the process with the FCC only to be thrown into an endless loop of explaining the problem and receiving generic replies.
Spam is annoying, illegal and will probably never go away. There are some steps to protect yourself and reduce spam, but be prepared for an endless battle.
Brian Boyer is the managing partner of Web Pyro (http://?www.webpyro.com) located in Wooster.