Anti-spam plea to 'dump the junk'
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Anti-spam campaigners are urging computer users to "dump the junk" before unsolicited e-mail cripples business.
The drive in the UK by Internet giant Yahoo! comes as politicians and Internet service providers grapple with spammers, who are thought to be responsible for about 40 percent of all e-mails.
Notices encouraging people to combat spam rather than putting up with it are being put on dustcarts and garbage bags across the UK, where it costs business an estimated $5 billion a year, according to Yahoo!
A Yahoo! survey found one in four people are fooled into opening spam which drops uninvited into e-mail boxes. About 2 percent of those polled said they had bought goods in response to spam.
Spam -- named after the processed meat eulogized in a Monty Python sketch -- was first sent on a computer system in 1978.
These days it floods computer systems, with spammers devising new ways to bypass software designed to block or filter e-mail.
Hotmail, which has 110 million users, estimates that 80 percent of 2 billion messages sent via its services each day are junk. Yahoo! says it intercepts 1 billion spam messages a day.
The European Union plans to make spam illegal while in the U.S. state of Virginia, spammers are being threatened with jail.
But the Internet remains hard to police and so far legislation has failed to stop spam.
Spammers, mostly based in the United States, can send millions of e-mails quickly and cheaply having bought databases of e-mail addresses.
London art dealer Antonia Tozer says the business she runs with her husband is suffering because they cannot afford the best software to screen spam.
"It's a problem you have to put up with every morning," she told CNN.
Tips to reduce spam
• Do not open an e-mail unless you know who it is from. If you open it, this signals that your e-mail address is active and more spam will follow
• Do not reply to or forward junk e-mail
• Be careful about giving out your e-mail address. If possible spell it out rather than using the @ symbol, for example: john at email dot com
• Investigate getting software to block and filter e-mails. Some are free but you have to pay for the most sophisticated shields.