'Mung' your address to block e-mail 'spam-mongers'

Do you wonder how you receive so much "advertising" email?

This morning I received thirteen emails, none personal. Three were announcements from services that I use; five were email "newsletters" from magazines that I receive weekly in the mail and five were unsolicited advertisements from concerns with which I have no association.

These latter five unsolicited advertisements could be considered "junk" email or, in the new language of the Internet, "spam."

How did these advertisers get my address? There are a lot of ways. Think of how many times we use our email addresses on the Internet. If we ever use the Usenet, or newsgroups, it is easy for sophisticated computer programs to capture our address. After all, a newsgroup posting sits out there in Cyberspace just waiting for someone to come along.

Another way to get addresses is from information we voluntarily submit to web sites by filling out forms such as guest books or registration forms. Then the company that has this information makes it available or sells it to others. The old adage in marketing that nothing is more valuable to a company than its mailing list is just as true in the Internet age. If you purchase a widget from company A, how much is your address worth to company B who would like to sell you widget accessories?

There are many other ways to capture email addresses. Some computer programs simply guess at addresses and send them out in Cyberspace and see how many go through. If it doesn't get rejected, it probably was a good address. Other methods are less obvious and require a lot of digging, but that's what computers are good at.

Finally, if you don't want to do all this work yourself, you can go to a number of "list brokers" who will sell you names. One broker advertises, "11 million verified fresh email addresses" on compact disks. Buy the CD and send your own junk email.

Is there any way to keep from getting unsolicited advertising email? The real answer probably is no. Somewhere along the line your address is going to appear on a list.

Can you minimize the amount of junk email that you receive? Yes. Probably the first rule is never click on the part of the email that says "click here to remove yourself from this mailing list." If you do click, you just have verified that your email address is good.

There are some "spam blocking" programs but these rely on blocking email that comes from specific addresses. But clever spammers keep changing their addresses to defeat these programs.

If you want to get more sophisticated, you can "mung" your own address. Munging is a new Internet term that means "spam blocking." You can mung by changing your return email address that you use in newsgroups or email messages. There are disadvantages to this method however. For information, look up "munging" on any of the popular Internet search engines.

Maybe the best way to handle junk email is by deleting it. The five unsolicited messages I got this morning I simply deleted without reading. If I don't recognize the sender, I delete. Easy, non-techie, effective.

So junk email might just be another one of these things we have to put up with in order to enjoy a free and open Internet.

For additional information use the search engine and search for spam, email list brokers and munging. Then go to for information on how mailing lists are generated.

Remember, keep the neurons happy, the synapses snapping and enjoy computing.

 _____________________________________________________________________________ Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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