Never EVER Opt Me In! How a Friendly Newsletter Opt-in Violates Anti-Spam Regulations


Just because we’re friends on Facebook, connected via LinkedIn or pals on Pinterest doesn’t mean I want to receive your email newsletter. The same holds true for that conference we both attended – when I handed you my business card, it didn’t mean I wanted to come home to an email newsletter from you (how touching that you cared so much to send out a mass email).

Besides being annoying, very bad manners and a surefire way to alienate people, adding your social media friends, connections and fans to your email list violates anti-spam regulations set out in the CAN-SPAM Act and by service providers. The best-case scenario is your bad behavior costs you a few friends or followers. Worst case is serious fines, service suspension and blacklisting.

About the CAN-SPAM Act

Spam is defined as “unwanted or unsolicited email message” (it’s called permission marketing for a reason, folks…as in you need MY permission to send it). It covers “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.”

What you need to know about the CAN-SPAM Act…

The email message itself:

  • Cannot contain false or misleading information. From, to and reply-to must be accurate and clearly identify the company or person sending the message.
  • Subject line must not be deceptive and accurately reflect the content of the message.
  • Must include a disclosure statement that the email is an advertisement.
  • Include your mailing address – either your street address, post office box or a private mailbox.
  • Contain clear instructions on how to opt out of receiving future emails from you. If a subscriber opts out, you must comply within 10 business days by removing that address from your list.
  • AND you must oversee the activities of anyone you outsource your email management to (as even their violations can result in you both being fined).

Failure to comply with the above will cost you $16,000 per violation. For more serious offenses, like email address harvesting (defined as the process of obtaining lists of email addresses using various methods), the penalties significantly increase and may even include jail time.

So, I ask…is it really worth taking my email address from my social media profile and adding it to your email list without my permission?

How to Report an Email Spammer

Just you should help keep social media spam-free by reporting abuse via your social media account, it’s important to take the time to report email abuse.

Click Report Spam – Email marketing providers all have strict abuse policies and often build one-click reporting buttons into their newsletter templates. Spam reports are based on the cumulative number of reports so if enough people complain, the abuser gets warned and then suspended.

Forward to Your ISP – Internet Service Providers participate in an anti-spam program to prevent spam abuse from their customers. Do a quick Internet search to find out how to report abuse directly to your ISP.

Report via Online Account – Online email services, like HotMail and Gmail, include a Report Spam or Junk feature that automatically flags the message in their system and helps filter out future messages. If the offending message originates from that system, you can also forward it to their abuse department.

Report it to the – The FTC is the governing body responsible for the CAN-SPAM act. Submit a complaint directly to the FTC via telephone, email or by filling out an online form. The FTC doesn’t investigate individual complaints, but enters all reports into their online database. Again, the cumulative effect of reports determines action.


About Author

Carla Young, Publisher If there’s living proof that women can have it all – and then some – it’s Carla Young. Building her multiple businesses on a virtual work-at-home model, Carla is an inspiration to other mothers who want to start a lifestyle business. During her early days as a mom entrepreneur, Carla made every single mistake in the book (and a few new ones for good measure). Realizing that “doing it all” was unhealthy and unsustainable, Carla started by getting organized to the extreme, developing support systems for both her work and family. After other mothers started asking how they too could enjoy her lifestyle, Carla launched to support moms at work, at home and at play (because every mommy deserves a little me-time)!


  1. One point to make is that if you have received an email newsletter – unsubscribe first. I have had people who have actually subscribed to my newsletter click “Report as Spam” and that’s annoying. We have a very simple – one click unsubscribe. If you’ve done that and you’re still getting emailed then yes – follow those other steps.

  2. Pingback: Virtual Assistants: Is it Worth $16,000? - Your Virtual Assistant: Providing Virtual Services to Small Business Owners

Leave A Reply