Remove Me

Today’s “Lighter Side” post is about what happens when you “unsubscribe” from spam.  Rather than providing opt-out links for your convenience, spammers have an ulterior motive for providing what appears to be a legitimate “removal” option that has nothing to do with the CAN-SPAM Act.

You should be really careful about unsubscribe attempts.

Here’s why:

you've got mail
Chris Hiers (

But seriously, spammers usually provide “removal” opt-out options for two purposes that have nothing to do with honoring your privacy.

  1. When you reply to a spam email with REMOVE in the subject line or if you click on the “unsubscribe link” this only confirms that your address is valid, and actively in use. This is valuable information to a spammer.
  2. The “appearance” of compliance with the law (by providing removal options and mailing addresses) reduces the volume of complaints against the spammer.
  3. This also then provides some “evidence” the spammer can use to argue they are a legitimate direct marketer, which may slow down the process of actions that are taken against them.

On the other hand, and to be fair, legitimate businesses will generally honor opt out requests (eventually) because they do have to stop short of actually breaking the law.

To avoid the negative consequences of being removed use this rule of thumb:

If you’re not sure if it’s from a legitimate business, don’t try to unsubscribe.

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