Stop Spam And Unwanted Calls

Two of the most annoying things on the planet just may be spam (those annoying unsolicited e-mails that cram your e-mail inbox) and relentless calls from telemarketers to your home.

There are, however, things you can do to stop both nuisances.

Jim Guest, president of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, visits The Early Show Tuesday with some suggestions to help stop spam and unwanted telemarketing calls.

For the current cover story for Consumer Reports magazine, Guest says his staff at Consumer Reports became "supersleuths" on spam and investigated how spammers find e-mail addresses, what Internet Service Providers are doing to block it. Then they rated eleven spam-blocking software products, and found some are definitely better than others, says Guest.

The top three spam-blocking products, according to Guest, were:

SA Proxy, made by Stata Labs (Cost: Free. Product received the highest rating from Consumer Reports.)

Spam Catcher Universal, made by Mailshell (Cost: Initially $20; $14 annually)

Spam Sleuth, made by Blue Squirrel (Cost: $30 Initially; $10 annually)

According to Consumer Reports, spam volume has grown so much that it is about to overtake legitimate use of e-mail. It's even expanding beyond computers — invading cell phone text messages.

Guest explains spam is a much cheaper way of soliciting the public than regular mail. Spammers can send a million messages for only $500. And, he warns parents should be aware many spam messages come from adult-oriented Web sites and may not be suitable for young eyes.

Consumer Reports magazine suggests some of the following to avoid being targeted by spam:

  • Don't buy anything promoted in spam.

  • Use one e-mail address for family/friends and a separate account for everyone else.

  • Use spam filter programs.

  • Don't click "remove my name from list" when asked by spam email, because it confirms that your email is a legitimate address and you will end up on a spam "super list."

  • Choose a "hard-to-guess" e-mail address.

  • Be careful shopping online by checking the privacy policy of a Web site. ConsumerReports.org has a list of companies and their privacy policies.

    For those who are bothered by unsolicited phone calls from telemarketers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have set up the national "Do-Not-Call" registry. Guest explains that after October 1, a telemarketer has to check a list once a month that has numbers registered not be called.

    If they call a listed person, they can be charged $11,000. Also, Guest says, the new rules prohibit companies from posting "not available" or "out of service area" messages on phone's Caller I.D.

    There are two ways to register on the "Do-Not-Call" registry. You can go online at DoNotCall.gov
    or call toll free, 1-888-382-1222 to register.

    Guest says if your state has a similar registry, you should register on it, too.

    Between now and October 1, you can still get telemarketing calls even if you register.
    • Rome Neal

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