This page serves three purposes:
To explain to you how Refer Me works so you know exactly how and why you received your message.
To give you reasons why you're NOT a victim of spam (Unsolicited Commercial Email).
To let you know what you can do about it if you're still not happy when you reach the end of this page.
There are four people involved here:
- System Programmer - has ultimate control over everything.
- The Webmaster - somebody who has installed this program on their site to make it easy for people to "tell a friend" about the great site they're visiting.
- The Sender - the person who sent you the message.
- You - the recipient of the message.
Facts about the Webmaster: he did not send you the message, all he did was offer
somebody a convenient way to send you one email, instead of the person using his
own email program.
The webmaster has the option of being notified when somebody refers his site (it's very
exciting to know when somebody says they like your site, you should try it!) and he can
see your name and email address as a part of the notification. However, any webmaster
caught using Refer Me for anything remotely connected with spam is immediately banned,
permanently, from the entire system. Besides, your friend is only likely to recommend
legitimate sites to you, so there's very little danger of your name falling into the
hands of any evil webmasters.
Facts about the Sender: he is a personal friend or colleague of yours. In order to send you the message he had to know your name and email address.
Facts about the Refer Me system:
- It does not work automatically. There is a HUMAN behind every message sent.
- It does NOT gather or "harvest" email addresses from Web sites. The only way you can receive a message is for somebody to know your name and email address and physically type them in to a Web form. Only one message can be sent per email address, per session.
- It's a "ONE-TO-ONE" system. It is no more efficient than your own mail program for broadcasting multiple messages simultaneously. Just like the BCC: field in your mail program, the sender must type in each name and email address.
I hate spam more than the next man. When I created this service I was well aware of the potential for mischief, so right from the beginning I built in safeguards to protect against any abuse. Traditionally, there are two reasons why somebody would want to send you spam:
This is by far the most common. You need a large number of email addresses for this. Refer Me has no way of automatically harvesting addresses, nor does it broadcast the same message to many people. Each message is unique.
As you'll see from the one you received, every Refer Me message contains full details about:
Yes, the sender can use a bogus email address (although the syntax of the address must be correct). But then again, he could just as easily do that with his own mail program, with the added benefit of not having to announce all the details described above. For example, wouldn't it be a lot easier for him to set up a Hotmail account and harass you with that instead?
- URL of the Webmaster's site
- Sender's name and email address
- Sender's IP number (see below)
- Link to the Refer Me page which leads to this page which in turn will help you to resolve the situation straight away.
Yes, the "more friends" page asks for up to six more addresses. However, each address must be different to avoid an error message. Therefore, the sender cannot send you six (or even two) messages at once.
Are you beginning to see how dumb somebody would have to be to use this system in anger?
You have four options:
- Reply to the sender - this is by far the most sensible method. If you don't recognise his name, why not just politely ask who he is and how he got your address, he almost certainly sent you the message genuinely thinking you'd be pleased to receive it.
- Permanently block your email address from this system - you can instantly prevent anybody from ever sending you another message using this system. Once you've submitted your address for blocking, you can go to any Refer Me form on any site and test it. Your blocked address will give an error message.
- Pursue the sender - this is not a simple task, you should only take this route if you're determined and prepared for a long haul. I don't recommend this method.
If you look in the email header of the offending message, you'll see a header named "X-Loop:" where you'll find the IP number of the sender clearly shown. Tracking down the person behind the IP number involves two steps:
- Identify the sender's Internet Service Provider (ISP).
- Contact the ISP and ask them to help you track down the offending person.
To make your task a little easier, the following tool will attempt to resolve the IP number into a name by performing a DNS lookup.
- Ask for help - please use this method only as a last resort. If you have a special case where you think somebody is trying to abuse this system on purpose we'll be very keen to investigate and ban the site if necessary. Please use the abuse form.