Information Services

West Chester University

Adel Barimani, CIO
Vice President for Information Services
Anderson Hall Room 23
West Chester University

What is Spam you ask?

Well, Spam is a meat product distributed by Hormel. Spam also happens to the term used for any unsolicited email. A better description of spam is email that is unsolicited and does not have a legitimate return address label. There are email messages that you receive that are still unsolicited; however, they are coming from legitimate sources.

How did I get on their lists?

There are many ways your email address could have been submitted to a list. First, you may have subscribed to an email distribution list or filled out an online form for a company that does not have a privacy policy. The distribution list owner most likely sold the list to an email distributor.

Another method is by specialized software that hunts for email addresses. The software is set loose on web sites, bulletin boards, Usenet, and other documents published on the internet. These address hunters, create their lists, and use them for email distributors.

Finally, there's the sneaky way... The spammers send a message to some list that they have. However, that list may have lots of invalid addresses. So, they clean it up by putting a link on the bottom of a message telling you to "click here" to remove yourself from the list. Once you click here, the spammer now knows that this was a valid address, and moves your email address to a "good" list.

What do I do now?

This is a difficult question to answer. The answer is "it depends." If it is true spam, there may not be an easy way to get your address off their lists. However, if it is unsolicited email from a legitimate company, you can compose a new message (don't reply) to the company that is "advertised". Ask them to remove your email address from their list. Many times legitimate companies have a generic address such as, or

With true spam, the return address is usually invalid. Therefore, it is difficult to determine who really sent it. Many times you'll see spam from Hotmail.COM or AOL.COM. These are just about impossible to trace without a lot of technical research to trace the message. These messages probably traversed many networks or even countries before it ended up in your Inbox.

Isn't this illegal?

Currently there are no federal crimes associated specifically with spam or unsolicited email. The only exception is if the email content may be deemed illegal (i.e. child pornography, threatening messages, etc.). The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does have a law related to spam which is Title 18, Section 5903 (subsections a, b, and h). This mainly addresses pornographic email by requiring a "rating" be specified in the subject line of the message.

Pennsylvania Crimes Code, Title 18, Chapter 76, Section 7661, which was introduced in 2003, addresses some issues with the transmission of electronic mail.

Campus policy restricts the sending of unsolicited email except when approved by department directors, chairs, deans, VPs, and the president. This policy can be found in the current Rams Eye View.

How do I avoid getting on lists?

This is another tough question. Make sure that you verify any web site's privacy policy before submitting your email address or name to the site. This includes online purchases and subscriptions. If you do receive unsolicited email, don't reply to the message or click on the "unsubscribe" option, unless you know it's a valid option.


If you have any questions about spam or unsolicited email that you received, you can contact the Help Desk for assistance. If you received email that you believe may be illegal, please contact Frank Piscitello by sending email to abuse @ or calling x3192.