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Knowledgebase: Spam/Email Filters
How do I report spam?
Posted on 22 November 2003 04:55 AM

To report spam, you will need to determine the source of the email. This requires reading and interpreting the email headers. You will need to determine the originating IP address from which the email was sent. Normally this is contained in one of the Received lines of the email message. You can then look up the administrator of the IP address at one of the Regional Internet Registries (RIR):

  • APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Centre) - Asia/Pacific Region
  • ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) - Americas and Sub-Sahara Africa
  • LACNIC (Regional Latin-American and Caribbean IP Address Registry) – Latin America and some Caribbean Islands
  • RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens) - Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and African countries located north of the equator

Once you have located the administrator of the IP address, you can consult the Abuse.net database, to determine the best reporting address for that site. Sometimes a WHOIS lookup will also give suggested reporting addresses as well. Failing that, postmaster@example.com and abuse@example.com are fairly standard reporting addresses for most domains. (Replace "example.com" with the actual domain name.)

You may also find other online or third party investigation tools, as well as online services, which may be helpful. A number of tools integrate the functions into a central location and may even automate parts of the investigation and reporting process. Please note that automated tools are not foolproof and they may sometimes give incorrect results. Therefore, it is always good to be able to either examine the headers yourself to confirm the results of such tools or to have access to discussion forums where you may be able to get help.

When sending your report, make sure to include the full headers of the unwanted email that you received. Most agencies will take no investigative or punitive actions unless full email headers are submitted in the complaint.

In some cases, you may wish to also contact the upstream providers if the administrators of the site appear unresponsive to your complaints. If the WHOIS and RIR results do not give you information about the upstream providers, then a traceroute may be helpful in determining the upstream.

For additional assistance on investigating and reporting spam, you may wish to join some of the known spam fighting communities, such as those at SpamCop.net, NANAE (news.admin.net-abuse.email newsgroup), or the SPAM-L mailing list.

Additional Resources:
Tracking Spam Topic from the SPAM-L FAQ
DNSstuff: investigation tools
Spam Tracking category at The Open Directory Project