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TUCoPS :: Networks :: trace.txt

Tracing email messages - even from spoofers, spammers etc!

Newsgroups: alt.2600,alt.spam,,,alt.hackers,alt.answers,news.answers
Subject: alt.spam FAQ or "Figuring out fake E-Mail & Posts". Rev 960513
Date: 13 May 1996 17:55:21 GMT
Organization: FLORIDA ONLINE, Florida's Premier Internet Provider
Lines: 951
Approved: news-answers-request@MIT.EDU
Message-ID: <4n7t29$>
Summary: This posting describes how to find out where a fake post or e-mail originated from.
Xref: alt.2600:194429 alt.spam:8138 alt.hackers:9408 alt.answers:17738 news.answers:71768

Archive-name: net-abuse-faq/spam-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 960513

Greetings and Salutations:

This is addition to the most excellent:

Net Abuse FAQ (posted to, alt.current- etc...), brought to you by J.D. Falk 
<> :

And Bill's WWW page "Everything You'd Rather Not Have To Know About 
Net-Abuse" :

The latest & greatest version of this FAQ will be found at:

PLEASE email follow-ups, additions / changes to

My news source is OK, but I sometimes miss items.

There are places in this FAQ with ALL CAPS.  This is where I need some 
help or input.  I accept all and any input.  I consider myself to be 
the manager of this FAQ for the good of everyone, not the absolute & 
controlling Owner Of The FAQ.  I do not always write in a completely 
coherent manner.  What makes sense to me may not make sense to others.  
If the community wants something added or deleted, I will do so.  I 
removed any e-mail and last name references to someone making a 
suggestion / addition..  This is so that someone doesn't get upset at 
this FAQ and do something stupid.  If you don't mind having your e-
mail in this FAQ (or where it is required), please tell me and I will 
add it back in.

First off, before trying to determine where the post or e-mail 
originated from, you should realize that (just like the National 
Inquirer, or a logical argument from C&S) the message will have *some* 
amount of truth, but all or most of the information may be forged.  Be 
careful before accusing someone.

Commands used in this FAQ are UNIX & VMS commands.  Sorry if they 
don't work for you, you might wish to try looking around at your 
commands to find an equivalent command (or I might be able to help out 

And no, I am not going to tell you how to post a fake message or fake 
e-mail.  It only took me about 2 days (a few hours a day) to figure it 
out.  It ain't difficult.

Three sections to this portion of the FAQ :

   o   Tracing an e-mail message
          o   Listserve messages
   o   Tracing a posted message
   o   What is an IP address and converting an IP address
          o   WWW IP Lookup URL's
          o   Converting that IP to a name
   o   Getting a complaint to the correct person
   o   Filtering E-Mail using procmail or News with Gnus
   o   Misc. (Because I can't spell miscellaneous :-)) stuff
       I couldn't think to put anywhere else.
          o   Origins of Spam
          o   The MMF (Make Money Fast) Posts or any fraud on the 
          o   Those annoying 1-900 & 1-800 Sex Phone Ads
          o   How To Respond to SPAM
   o   Revenge - What to do & not to do (mostly not)
          o   Telephoning someone
          o   Snail Mailing someone

Every e-mail or post will have a point at which it was injected into 
the information stream.  E-mail will have a real computer from which 
it was passed along.  Likewise a post will have a news server that 
started passing the post.  You need to get cooperation of the 
postmaster at the sites the message passed thru.  Then you can get 
information from the logs telling you what sites the message actually 
passed thru, and where the message "looked" like it passed thru (but 
actually didn't).  Of course you do have to have the cooperation of 
all the postmasters in a string of sites...

        Tracing an e-mail message

First (and easiest) thing to forge is the e-mail return address.  Most 
personal computer posting software lets you type in just about any e-
mail address you want to (for example the software I am using to post 
this message).  Unless someone is a real idiot or they truly don't 
know they will annoy tons of people, they will forge a fake e-mail 
return or put in the e-mail of someone they don't like.

It seems that most machines will accept e-mail from any other machine, 
so don't send e-mail to postmasters at "upstream" sites that are just 
passing the message along.

You will need to take a look at the headers on the message (if you 
can) In PINE (for example) hit "h" to get headers.  Look for a line 
like the following:

Message-ID: <>

You should look at the message ID first & see what site it appeared to 
come from (the part after the "@" sign).  If it is a bunch of numbers 
(an IP address) then you should then do a "nslookup" (see further 
below for a description of nslookup) to see what the site name is.  
Furthermore all the message-ID lines should have a unique number.  If 
not then you have someone who is *very* familiar with the SMTP 
protocol and is forging the e-mail to another site (like the Euphoria 
Tape spammer).  Sometimes this header will even tell you who the 
message actually came from.

From the below, the only way we can tell the origin site is in the 
Message-Id (which has an IP of is to do a nslookup on 
the IP address, and proceed from there.

>Received: from [] ( []) by 
>sirocco.CC.McGill.CA (8.6.12/8.6.6) with SMTP id EAA16681; Sat, 11 
Nov 1995 
>04:50:30 -0500
>X-SMTP-Posting-Origin: [] ( 
>X-Sender: (Unverified)
>Message-Id: <v0153051facca0e1e11d6@[]>

Sample fake e-mail message :

From A@b.c.d Sat Nov 11 13:16 EST 1995
Received: from ( []) by (8.6.11/8.6.9) with ESMTP id NAA04656 for 
<>; Sat, 11 Nov 1995 13:16:03 -0500
Received: from ( []) by (8.6.12/8.6.9) with SMTP id KAA27279 for; Sat, 11 Nov 1995 10:27:52 -0800
Received: from ( []) by (8.6.11/8.6.9) with ESMTP id OAA18017 for 
<>; Tue, 24 Oct 1995 14:09:46 -0400
Received: from ( 
[]) by (8.6.12/8.6.9) with SMTP id LAA02685 
for <>; Tue, 24 Oct 1995 11:21:12 -0700

This is a mail message I sent to myself just to use as an example.  I 
have cut out a bit of the other header information so that I could 
take a look at just the important parts.

Obvious faked piece is the "From" address.  You read the headers from 
the bottom to the top to trace which sites the message has gone thru.

Make sure that you do a nslookup on the IP address's (for example I 
would verify actually is  If the IP 
doesn't jive with the name then you may have the IP address of the e-
mail faker.  This message decodes to the following = = =

From site               To site            Date / Time (delta GMT)
                                                Time in GMT hh:mm:ss
==============================================================     Tue, 24 Oct 1995 11:21:12 -0700
                                                      18:21:12 Tue, 24 Oct 1995 14:09:46 -400
                                                      18:09:46     Sat, 11 Nov 1995 10:27:52 -800
                                                      18:27:52 Sat, 11 Nov 1995 13:16:03 -500

Wolfgang Schelongowski <> reminds us :
The first is WULT (WULT == Widely Unknown Local Time :-)) 
with a delta from GMT, so you add in the delta to get a "zero" time.  
The time is from the computer transmitting, so it is possible to have 
the clocks several minutes apart.
GMT = Greenwich Mean Time.  The "time" was kept at RGO (Royal 
Greenwich Observatory?), Greenwich England at one time and is also 
known as UTC (UTC = Coordinated Universal Time, or Universal 
Coordinated Time) or "Zulu" or Zero time.  It is kept by the UK 
National Physical Laboratory, and is no longer at the RGO (Royal 
Greenwich Observatory?).

I manually inserted the first two mail transfers myself (as you can 
see from the date / times) to muddy the waters.  It looks like this 
message originated from, when in reality it came 
from  The date / time (in this case) tells you that 
something is wrong, but sometimes a computer may be down along the way 
which would hold up the mail.

You really need cooperation from other people & get multiple messages 
to compare the headers.  There will be a common "injection" point.  
Whether it is the starting point or in the middle.  Ask that 
postmaster  to look thru the logs & figure out who sent that e-mail.  
Someone from the first common injection point "From" site spammed out 
the e-mail.

It has been kindly pointed out to me that there is a "feature" (read 
"bug") in the UNIX mail spool wherein the person e-mailing you a 
message can append a "message" (with the headers) to the end of their 
message.  It makes the mail reader think you have 2 messages when the 
joker that sent the original message only sent one message (with a 
fake message appended).  If the headers look *really* screwy, you 
might look at the message before the screwy message and consider if it 
may not be a "joke" message.

    Listserve messages

A Listserve is an automated (moderated or unmoderated) mailing list 
for an interest group.  A message gets sent to the Listserve and it 
gets passed to everyone on the Listserve list.  A one to many 

Example Header appears below:
Received: from ( []) by (8.7.5/8.6.9) with SMTP id GAA27292 for <>; 
Sun, 5 May 1996 06:31:15 +0900 (JST)
Received: from by with SMTP (PP) using DNS  
id <>; Sat, 4 May 1996 20:56:49 +0100
Received: from (actually by  with SMTP (PP); Sat, 4 May 1996 21:13:03 +0100
Received: by (8.6.12/8.6.12) id PAA29156; Sat, 4 
May 1996 15:35:53 -0400
Date: Sat, 4 May 1996 15:35:53 -0400
Message-ID: <>
Subject: CRaZy Complimentary Offer........

This is a post from Kevin Lipsitz for his "===>> FREE 1 yr. USA 
Magazine Subscriptions".  Reports are that he doesn't provide very 
good service after the sale of the subscription (that is if you even 
get a magazine).  In relation to the Internet he makes a slimy used 
car salesman look like a saint.  We won't even start to discuss the 
fact the he likes to use female names for his messages...

For more info about "Krazy Kevin" or the Magazine Spam , Tony tells us 
the page "Stop Spam!" is available in html format at:

Joel mentions that if you want even more details about Kevin, do a 
search on "Lipsitz" in or or a 
similar search.

That having been said, e-mail from a Listserve can usually be broken 
down the same way as "normal" e-mail headers.  There are just more 
waypoints along the way.  As you can see from the above, the e-mail 
originated from :

You might with to also direct the listserve owner to look at & ask 
questions in about how to keep spam off the 
listserve.  It probably won't be all that difficult of a thing to do.

        Tracing a posted message
Tracing a fake post is probably easier than a fake e-mail because of 
some posting peculiarities.  You just have to save and look at a few 
"normal" posts to try to spot peculiarities.  Most people are not 
energetic to go to the lengths of the below, but you never know.

Dan reminds us that first you should gather the same post from 
*several* different sites (get your friends to mail the posts to you) 
and look at the "Path" line.  Somewhere it should "branch".  If there 
is a portion that is common to all posts, then the "actual" posting 
computer is (most likely) in that portion of the path.  That should be 
the starting postmaster to contact.  Be sure to do this expeditiously 
because the log files that help to trace these posts may be deleted 

Once again, start by looking at the Message-ID, and ask yourself if 
that site makes sense.  Again, look at the number after the Message-ID 
and see if it is identical for several *different* posts (i.e. posts 
to different groups).  Message-ID's are unique for each *different* 
post.  If the Message-ID is the same, then it is faked.  If you 
*really* want to see some fake posts, look in alt.test or in the 
alt.binaries.wares.* groups.

A fake post:

From: User)
Subject: Femdom In Search of Naughty Boys
Message-ID: <>
Sender: User)
Organization: Internet Direct, Inc.
X-Newsreader: Trumpet for Windows[Version 1.0 Rev B final beta #1]
Date: Mon, 6 Nov 1995 01:59:38 GMT
Lines: 13

This poor lady (Name deleted by suggestion) was abused by someone for 
a couple of days in an epic spam.  Many messages were gathered.  The 
message ID was different for several messages.  But several anomalies 
showed an inept poster.

The headers were screwed up, and when looking at a selection of 
messages from several sites, the central site was, 
where gets / injects news at.  This lead to the conclusion 
that either or should be contacted to see 
who the original spammer was. I never heard the results of this, but 
the spamming eventually stopped.

E-Mail return is probably the easiest to fake and is * always * 
suspect.  The NNTP-Posting-Host and / or Message-ID are harder to fake 
(but not *much* harder...) and probably deserve a closer look at those 

You can try looking at sites & see if they have that message by :
telnet 119
Connected to
200 InterNetNews server INN 1.4 22-Dec-93 
head <>

Message was not found at that site, so it did not go thru that 
computer, or the article has already expired or been deleted off of 
that news reader.

  What is an IP address and converting an IP address
When all you have is a number the looks like "", and no 
computer name, then you have to figure out what the name of that 
computer is.  Most likely if you complain to 
"postmaster@" it will go directly to the spammer 
themselves (if it goes anywhere at all).

    WWW IP Lookup URL's
A whole *host* of WWW IP utils is thoughtfully provided by Mike at :
Or for a WWW Traceroute you can try the URL : 
For a WWW version of Dig : )
WWW Nslookup :
TIG Internet Domain-Name Database :
IP to Lat - Lon (For those times when only a Tactical Nuke will do ;-
)) :
Yet Another IP to name:

Converting that IP to a name
If the site is a IP address like "", you can do a DNS lookup 
to backtrack the site.  A DNS lookup or a host command (see example 
below) uses the info in a Domain Name Server database.  This is the 
same info that is used for packet routing.  The UNIX command is :


And you get :

InterNIC is your friend. The InterNIC Registration Services Host 
contains ONLY Internet Information (Networks, ASN's, Domains, and 
POC's).  Please use the whois server at for MILNET 
Information.  Try :


If that doesn't provide anything, try chopping off the last digits and 
you might get:
Whois: 204.162.179

Success!  BARRNet has the blocks of the IP's.

John tells us :
Um yes, but that particular sub-block belongs to  barrnet 
is obviously's provider, the barrnet block looks like 4 class 
B's (or 256 THOUSAND IP's..), while the block is a mere 32 
class C's (or 8 thousand IP's)...
So a whois NETBLK-SLIP gives us (among other information) : 
   Netname: NETBLK-SLIP
   Netblock: -

To see who the upstream provider is, try :

multinet traceroute

You might get :
traceroute to IP30.ABQ-DIALIN.HOLLYBERRY.COM (, 30 hops 
max, 38 byte packets
 1 (  190 ms  210 ms  120 ms
 2 (  100 ms  100 
ms  60 ms
 3 (  180 ms  130 ms  70 ms
 4 (  150 ms  140 ms  
150 ms
 5 (  180 ms  200 ms  
180 ms
 6 (  170 ms  290 ms  
240 ms
 7 (  300 ms  210 ms  
270 ms
 8 (  180 ms  240 ms  180 ms
 9 (  290 ms  220 ms  230 ms
10  * * *

Humm..... Seems that after we get no 
response, so *that* is who I would complain to... or you can just send 
a message to

JamBreaker sez : Be sure to let the traceroute go until the traceroute 
stops after 30 hops or so.  A reply of "* * *" doesn't mean that 
you've got the right destination; it just means that either the 
gateways don't send ICMP "time exceeded" messages or that they send 
them with a ttl (time-to-live) too small to reach you. 

Try  'dig' (or one of its derivatives), it is used to search DNS 
records :
(For the software :

yourhost> dig -x

; <<>> dig 2.0 <<>> -x 
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY , status: NOERROR, id: 6
;; flags: qr aa rd ra ; Ques: 1, Ans: 1, Auth: 3, Addit: 3
;;, type = ANY, class = IN
;; ANSWERS:      86400   PTR
;; AUTHORITY RECORDS:     86400   NS     86400   NS     86400   NS
;; ADDITIONAL RECORDS:     86400   A    86400   A    86400   A
;; Sent 1 pkts, answer found in time: 64 msec 
;; FROM: (yourhostname) to SERVER: default -- (yourDNSip)
;; WHEN: Thu Nov 16 23:30:42 1995
;; MSG SIZE  sent: 43  rcvd: 216

  Getting a complaint to the correct person
O.K... So you have a common site that you can complain to.  Good.  
Post the FULL HEADERS (this is *very* important for tracing) to and send complaint with FULL HEADERS in e-
mail to any or all of the below :

Note : and are not "standard" complaint 
e-mail addresses, but I have seen those listed more and more 

Chris tells us :
If you see MMFs or other gross abuses from AOL, MSN, MCI 
(_not_internetmci), Primenet, Panix, please do not report them to  Just wastes bandwidth.  Email your report 
directly to the provider:

By "gross abuses", please try to ensure that it really is likely to be 
spam.  Not one article cross-posted lots, but lots of articles that 
you see yourself.  In AOL or MCI's case, the definition of abuse is 
somewhat stricter (AOL bans commercial use.  MCI's tolerance 
thresholds is lower)

   For the following providers the correct e-mail address is:
ABSnet -
AOL - Emergency - send complete copies to -
Hongkong's ISPs - send an email to with anything 
in the subject/body. You'll get a most recent version of the list 
contacts by email within minutes. - Mr. K H Lee -
IBM Net - - Also see
MCI Net - postmaster@internetMCI.COM .  Per Joel ( 
) 800-977-iNOC is staffed 24 hours a day. Complaints regarding 
Internet abuse are taken seriously at MCI.
          Note : If the Spam crosses MCI lines, Contact if the headers in a Usenet or Email spam indicate 
that it had something to do with MCI or its lines.  
MCSNet -
Netcom-  for standard SPAM junk. 
is for instances of forgery, cracking etc.
PSI Net - schoff@PSI.COM - From  PSI Net 
policies -,,
Slip Net - - Tech Support
Teleport System Administration - -
UUNET Customer Liaison  -

From : David Jackson ( (and this applies to *any* 
abuse) :
To report an instance of USENET abuse send mail to 
- please remember to include a complete copy of the USENET article, 
including all headers, to help us quickly quash the abuse.

Scott reminds us :
It might also be a good idea to remind people that sometimes the 
postmaster _is_ the spammer. Joe Spam might have his own domain (since 
they _used_ to be free) inside of which they are the postmaster. This 
is terrifyingly common with net.twits (kooks, etc.) but seems rare for 
spam. A quick note that if the spammer is the admin contact in whois, 
notifying the postmaster will surely generate laughs on their end.

If you don't get a proper response from the postmaster, remember, 
Whois - is your friend.  You can get information on / 
about a site by:


The InterNIC Registration Services Host contains ONLY Internet 
Information (Networks, ASN's, Domains, and POC's).  Please use the 
whois server at for MILNET Information.

This *should* get you a person to talk to & their personal e-mail 
address.  If you don't get any response from that postmaster, then you 
should try the provider to that site.  This gets a little trickier, 
but a multinet traceroute should show you the upstream provider, and 
from there you can try contacting the postmasters of *that* site.

Worst case, a site can be UDP (Usenet Death Penalty) out so that other 
sites stop accepting news or even e-mail from that site.  They are cut 
off from the net.  Decisions like this are discussed in the news group .

Thanx to Leslie, whom to contact about domains that have invalid 
contact information :
Internic Registration Services should be contacted by phone:
 or email:

If you think you know a machine close to the spammer, you can change 
your default DNS lookup server (and get *lots* more info ;-)) by :
$ nslookup
> server
Default Server:
> ls -d
[]                       SOA (10 
21600 3600604800 86400)                       NS                       NS                       MX    10                       SOA (10 
21600 3600604800 86400)

If you are quick enough, you can see if the spammer is still on by :

multinet RUSERS

And you might get :

kuller ray timbers jweinman timbers john timbers rayzer

Assuming that the spammer is from you can expand the 
Spammers UserID (some sites have expn / vrfy turned off) by:

> telnet smtp
Trying ...
Connected to
Escape character is '^]'.
220 Sendmail 4.1/SMI-4.1 ready at Sun, 22 Oct 95 15:13:39 
expn krazykev
250 Lipsitz Kevin <>

We connect to port 25 (smtp) and issues an expn command.  Looks like is being used as a maildrop for this user.  I'll 
would send my complaint to as well (not that it 
would do any good in Krazy Kevin's case...  but the reply to your e-
mail might be amusing).

To find out the Mail Exchange records, do a nslookup for the MX 
records only.  You can then look up the expansion of the postmaster or 
root to see who they really are.  For example :
% nslookup
> set type=mx
> preference = 20, mail exchanger = preference = 10, mail exchanger =

% telnet smtp
220 ESMTP Sendmail 8.7.1/8.6.9 ready at Thu, 11 Jan 
1996 12:54:26 -0500 (EST)
expn postmaster
250 <>
expn root
250 <>

You can use the 'host' command. It's really simple:
% host -t any

This will give you anything your name server can find out.

% host -t ns

This tells you the name servers. Not all systems have host, but it's a 
small program which should be easy to compile (like whois).

The command "last" will tell where the spammer logged on from last, 
but it has to be done by a user from that site. For example :

last imrket4u

Would produce :

imrket4u     ttypf Fri Sep 15 00:27 
- 00:34 (00:06)
imrket4u     ttyq8 Fri Sep 15 00:19 
- 00:20 (00:01)
imrket4u     ttyqc    abq-ts1              Thu Sep 14 20:42 - 22:21  
imrket4u     ttyqc         Thu Sep 14 18:39 - 18:41  
imrket4u     ttypb    abq-ts1              Thu Sep 14 17:55 - 17:57  

Filtering E-Mail using procmail or News with Gnus

Get the procmail FAQ :

Or read about it when it is posted to :
Newsgroups: comp.mail.misc , comp.mail.elm , comp.mail.pine , 
comp.answers , news.answers 
Subject: Filtering Mail FAQ 

Brian has a Gnus scorefile from the Internet blacklist :

Or his example global scorefile :

Many news readers have a "kill" file that will filter out the posts 
from either a certain user-id, or posts with certain titles.  Each 
news reader is unique.  You might wish to read the help file on the 
subject of kill files.

   Origins of Spam
The history of calling inappropriate postings in great numbers "Spam" 
is from a Monty Python skit (yes, it is very silly...) where a couple 
go into a restaurant, and try to get something other than Spam.  In 
the background are a bunch of Vikings that sing the praises of Spam.  
Pretty soon the only thing you can hear in the skit is the word 
"Spam".  That same idea would happen to the Internet if large scale 
inappropriate postings were allowed.  You couldn't pick the real 
postings out from the Spam. 

Black listed Internet Advertisers :

First off, the only CORRECT way to "Spam" the net :
Show SPAM Gifts

A collection of Spam links :

The Church of Spam :

The MMF (Make Money Fast) Posts or any fraud on the Internet
There is a WWW site dedicated to *any* kind of fraud.  It is :
A partnership of the National Association of Attorneys General, the 
Federal Trade Commission and The National Consumers League

Wolfgang Schelongowski <> sez :IMHO MMF is associated 
with "Hello, my name is Dave Rhodes. In 198...".
There was also a forged article purporting to tell how MMF is illegal 
 From: (Melvin Purvis)
                              ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ he arrested / shot John 
 Subject: 'Make Money Fast' Scam

Jon said : "Hermann" appears to have spammed at least 27 Bitnet 
mailing lists, including TANGO-L, where I saw it, with a standard MMF. 
I checked at the US Post Office web site and verified that chain 
letters are federal crimes under Title 18, United State Code, Section 
1302. This does apply to email as well as paper; quoting from URL

From :
"Recently, high-tech chain letters have begun surfacing. They may be 
disseminated over the Internet, or may require the copying and mailing 
of computer disks rather than paper. Regardless of what technology is 
used to advance the scheme, if the mail is used at any step along the 
way, it is still illegal."
To find your nearest postal inspector in the USA, see URL
I believe that the applicable Canadian description can be found at :
And from the Canadian Department of Justice server 
COMPETITION - Definition of "scheme of pyramid selling" - Section 55.1


Those annoying 1-900 & 1-800 Sex Phone Ads
I would like to thank Eileen at the FTC for kindly answering my 
questions about 1-900 & 1-800 phone numbers.

Paraphrasing what she e-mailed me :
When a 1-900 number is advertised, the price must also be disclosed 
(this may be found at 16 CFR Part 308).

When calling a 1-800 number that charges, there must be an existing 
subscription agreement between the buyer and the seller Federal Trade Commission Home Page Telemarketing Sales Rule Telemarketing Sales Rule Online Scams

(from the "Online Scams page)

For More Information
If you have a question or complaint about a suspect online ad or 
promotion, contact your commercial service provider. In addition, you 
can file complaints with your state attorney general, consumer 
protection office or with the Federal Trade Commission (write to: 
Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, 6th St. & 
Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580). Also, contact the 
National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business 
Bureaus, 845 Third Avenue, New York, New York 10022.

Questions about whether or not an investment sales person is licensed, 
or if an offered security is registered, should be directed to the 
Office of Consumer Affairs, Securities and Exchange Commission, 202-

The National Fraud Information Center maintains a toll-free Consumer 
Assistance Service, 1-800-876-7060, to provide consumers with answers 
to questions about telephone or mail solicitations and online scams. 
They also offer information about how and where to report fraud and 
give help in filing complaints.

   How To Respond to SPAM

Howard reminds us :
Note to all:  NEVER followup to a spam.  NEVER.  Express your 
indignation in mail to the poster and/or the, but NEVER in the newsgroups!

Karen asks:
But what about the newbies who look at a group, see lots of spam and 
ads, see NO posts decrying them, and conclude that ads are therefore 

Ran replies :
When it gets bad,  you'll usually see some "What can we do about 
this?" threads.  That's a good place to attach a reply that tells 
people why it's bad, and what they can, in fact, do.
Austin Suggests:
At the risk of attracting flames, let me suggest an exception to 
Howard's law.  A followup is allowed if the following 3 conditions 
   1)  The offending article is clearly a SCAM (for instance, the 
*Canada* calls with the Seychelles Islands phone # scam)
   2) No one else has followed-up with a posting identifying it as a 
scam (in other words, no 'Me too' warnings)
   3) It is unlikely to be canceled soon, either because it seems to 
be below the thresholds, or it is in a local hierarchy that doesn't 
get cancels, or Chris Lewis is on vacation in the Seychelles Islands.  
If all three conditions are met, a followup that X's out the contact 
information , severely trims the contents and identifies the post as a 
scam is exempt from Howard's law.
Bill's and Wolfgang's addition :
   4) Follow-ups should be cross posted to n.a.n-a.m _and_ the groups 
of the spam, but Followup-To: *MUST* be set to n.a.n-a.m *ONLY*
post a follow-up and *SET* Followup-To:
In the first case change 
 Subject: Important FREE $$$
 Subject: SPAM (was Re: Important FREE $$$)
and include the original Newsgroups and Message-ID line, so the 
professional despammers will immediately find what you're talking 
about.  Do not post unless you're absolutely sure that you can do all 
that properly. Also 1) - 3) do apply. 

If you see the same article with different Message-IDs in several 
groups, collect the _complete_ headers of each article and check 
n.a.n-a.m if it's already been reported. If not, start a thread with 
Subject: SPAM (was Re: <original Subject>) in n.a.n-a.m. Include all 
of the headers and as much of the body of one article as you see fit.

  Revenge - What to do & not to do

No matter how much we hate Spam and how much we dislike what the 
spammers to our quiet little corner of the Universe known as the 
Internet, Spam is not illegal (yet).  If you try anything against the 
spammers, please * do not * put yourself in risk of breaking the law.  
It only makes them happy if you get in trouble because you were trying 
to get back at them.

The reason why spammers use "throwaway" accounts is because they know 
the e-mail account will be deleted.  They usually provide either 
another e-mail address or a name / phone number or postal address so 
that prospective "customers" can be contacted.  Be sure to complain to 
the postmaster of all e-mail names provided to make sure that this 
route is inhibited.

 Telephoning someone

Calling someone once is fine.  If enough people are pissed at the 
spammer and they all call the 1-800 number the spammer provides, the 
spammer will get the idea (sooner or later) that it is costing them 
more in irate people (and most especially loss of business) and it is 
not worth it to spam.

Do not dial any phone numbers more than once from your home.  Phone 
harassment is * illegal * and you * can * be prosecuted in court for 
this. Even tho' *67 prevents your number from being displayed on their 
telephone at home if they have caller ID, *57 will give the phone 
company the number.  If it is a 1-800 number there are two problems.  
First they can *always* get your phone number, and secondly it may 
*not* be a toll free number.  You may be charged for calling a 1-800 

Likewise, do not call collect using 1-800-COLLECT or 1-800-CALL-ATT 
from home, once again this can be traced.

Austin comments : I would say that calling a listed non-800 number 
*once* collect to voice a complaint is not harassment, but justified.  
They sent you a postage due message, didn't they?  If they don't want 
to accept collect calls, they should say so - and if they do, you 
should be a responsible person and not do it again.

AT&T Information for 1-800 numbers is 1-800-555-1212, but that only 
helps if you know the company name you are trying to call.  Also, you 
can try searching for a 1-800 number (you do not have to know the 
company name) at :
         or (advanced search 

Snail Mailing someone

Likewise, one well thought out letter sent to the spammer might help 
convince the spammer not to do this again.  Especially if the spammer 
was part of a corporation that didn't realize the detrimental effects 
of spamming the Internet.

If you decide to deluge the spammers postal address by filling out one 
or two "bingo" (popcorn) postage paid cards in the technical magazines 
(by circling a few dozen "product info" requests per card & putting on 
printed out self sticking labels with the spammers address), or by 
putting preprinted labels on postage paid cards that come in the mail 
in the little plastic packages, don't organize a public campaign (that 
they can point to) against the spammer in the newsgroup.

Scott also reminds us :
Since this is the "Spam FAQ", I'd like to point this out: You're 
basically Spamming the company offering information in a magazine.  It 
costs companies money, not the one you're spamming. They get a free 
pile of junk which is easy to throw out. In other words, this may be 
harming third parties more than the intended target.  I'm not trying 
to be Mr. Nice Guy, just trying to point out an important 

You should also read Title 47 of the United States Code, Section 227. 
There is a FAQ at for the text of the law (gopher or 
ftp or, and you can use 
Dejanews to read the USC 47 thread on n.a.n-a.m. to make up your own 
mind (it invariably comes up) or you can look at :

Organizing a campaign against the spammer in a news group could lead 
to the spammer trying to get a cease & desist police order against the 
organizers.  On the upside note, the spammer will have to try to 
figure out where these "anonymous" cards were coming from (especially 
hard to do in a big city).

Of course if someone (every once in a while) reminded the newsgroup of 
the spammers address by posting a message (for informational purposes 
only, and not to encourage mail bombing), I don't see how that could 
be considered harassment ;-).

I am not a lawyer, and all of the above could be wrong.  80% of the 
Internet is bull... Free advice is worth every penny you paid for it 

Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards for they are easily angered.
This user wishes to remain anonymous because of job considerations.
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