Step 1: What is spam?
What is spam? How do they get your email address?
When you first start using the internet with a brand new email address, life is really great. The only messages in your inbox are from genuine contacts, but the trouble is, this doesn't last long! As you go about your online life, you will find that giving out your contact details is unavoidable, so it is only a matter of time before your email address ends up in the hands of a spammer. From this moment on, life becomes a constant battle with junk mail, so let's see how they got your address.
If you publish your email address on a website, spammers will 'harvest' them with software that crawls millions of web pages searching for addresses to automatically add to their list. To avoid your address being harvested, you should use a contact form instead. A secure contact form hides your email address from spammers because your address is not contained in the actual form that is on your web page, it is written in a separate script that email harvesters are unable to access.
Please note that some less secure contact forms actually put your email address in the form itself, rather than in the script which processes the form - do not use forms like this, they are as open to harvesters as if you just published your email address directly on the page. If you can see your email address in the source code of your web page, then so can the spammers!
Some people hide their email address from harvesting software by encrypting it - this is a very nice 'low tech' solution for people who are having trouble setting up a proper contact form. However, please be aware that encoding your email address is not 100% secure, it will protect you from the majority of spammers but the most advanced harvesting software can decode them. A proper contact form is the best solution.
Usenet & Forums
Spammers will particularly target usenet groups, forums and chat rooms in their search for email addresses. You must NEVER use a real email address if you register as a user for services like this - create an anonymous account at somewhere like hotmail.com, specifically for this purpose.
When anyone registers a domain name, they are legally obliged to give a valid contact email address - unfortunately, it is also a legal requirement that these records are made publicly available. The result of this is that spammers search the whois records and collect your address - but don't worry, there are easy solutions to this problem which I will explain later on, in step 2.
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately, once your email address is on a spammers mailing list the damage has been done. The junk mail will never stop. There is no point trying to unsubscribe - all that does is confirm to the spammer that your address is active, which makes it more valuable - so they will send you even more mail!
The only solution is to cancel your old address and start again with a new one - but this time, making sure that you don't let it fall into the hands of spammers!