FTC Says 'Spam' Email Filters Getting Smarter, But so is Spam

E-mail "spammers" are aggressive as ever, and smarter too, but Internet providers are getting better at blocking junk messages before they reach users' inboxes, according to a U.S. Federal Trade Commission study released on Monday.

The FTC found that spammers continue to "scrape" e-mail addresses from the Web using automated programs that look for the telltale "@" sign.

But up to 96 percent of those messages were blocked by the two Web-based e-mail providers used by the FTC in its test. The FTC did not say which providers it used in its study.

"This encouraging result suggests that anti-spam technologies may be dramatically reducing the burden of spam on consumers," the report said.

The FTC noted that Internet providers still must bear the burden of filtering out those messages.

Consumers can stay off spammers' lists by writing out their addresses in an alternate syntax if they must post them online, the FTC said.

Writing an e-mail addresses as "janedoe (at) isp (com)" rather than " snipped-for-privacy@isp.com" will fool most spammers' harvesting programs, the FTC said.

E-mail addresses posted on test Web sites were likely to attract spam, but those posted on blogs, chat rooms or other online forums were less likely to become spam magnets, the FTC said.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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