Unwanted, unsolicited email is a frustrating problem for almost everyone who uses the Internet. Spam email clutters inboxes, slows down web servers, and costs time and money to manage.
Spam can't be prevented entirely, but REALTORS® can reduce the amount of unwanted email that comes into their in-boxes. And on the flip side of the coin, REALTORS® who use email to find and work with clients can take steps to ensure that their own electronic communications aren't seen as spam.NAR strongly supports efforts to control fraudulent, misleading and abusive unsolicited emails and emailing practices.
Federal laws regulate the use of email, telephone, and fax for solicitation purposes. None of these requirements are new, and instead this article is intended to serve as a resource for basic compliance with each set of laws. It is important to remember that state laws continue to govern intrastate communications and so you will need to be familiar with any such laws in your state.
CAN SPAM requires that all commercial electronic mail messages contain the following:
- a legitimate return e-mail and physical postal address;
- a clear and conspicuous notice of the recipient's opportunity to “opt-out,” or decline to receive any future messages;
- an opt out mechanism active for at least 30 days after message transmission; and
- a clear and conspicuous notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation.
A consumer’s opt out request must be honored within ten days. The business can give the consumer a menu of opt out options If a consumer consents to receiving commercial electronic mail messages from the business, the business must still comply with CAN SPAM’s email requirements, except that the business does not have to mark the electronic mail message as an advertisement or solicitation.
CAN SPAM does not contain a private right of action for consumers, and so the law will be enforced by federal agencies and state attorneys general (Internet service providers may also bring lawsuits against egregious spammers). The recoverable damages are $250/message which violates the Act, up to $2 million total. There are treble damages available for willful violations of the Act.
There have been refinements to the rules over the years, such as how to evaluate an email with both commercial and noncommercial content. In addition, there are specific requirements on how to process opt-out requests. For a more thorough discussion of these rules, click below.
NAR Library & Archives has already done the research for you. References (formerly Field Guides) offer links to articles, eBooks, websites, statistics, and more to provide a comprehensive overview of perspectives. EBSCO articles (E) are available only to NAR members and require a password.
Tips for Fighting Spam
- Use separate email addresses for personal messages and chat rooms and newsgroups
- Choose a unique email address, such as jd5102oe@*whatever.com
- Use an email filter
- Forward unwanted/deceptive email to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Complain to the sender's Internet Service Provider
- Forward spam to your Internet Service Provider's abuse desk
Source: Scam Alerts (Federal Trade Commission)
REALTOR® Associations Hacked (REALTOR® AE Magazine, May 3, 2019)
How to Avoid Email Spam Filters and Folders (Remarkety, Feb. 21, 2019)
Spoof Emails: Recognizing Scams in Real Estate (National Association of REALTORS®, Feb. 20, 2019)
Avoiding Spam Filter: Email Marketing and Deliverability (Campaign Monitor, 2019)
Just When you Thought Spam was Dead, it’s Back and Worse than Ever (Digital Trends, Oct. 10, 2018)
Five Tips for Blocking Spam from Your Inbox (Popular Science, Mar. 14, 2018)
CAN-SPAM & the Do-Not-Email Registry
The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business (Federal Trade Commission, edited Mar. 2019)
The CAN-SPAM Act at 15: Staying Compliant in 2019 (UnsubCentral, Dec. 17, 2018)
Is Your Email Marketing Compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act? (Forbes, Jun. 6, 2018)
FTC issues CAN SPAM rules (National Association of REALTORS®)
Phishing vs. Spam: What You Need to Know
How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams (Federal Trade Commission, May 2019)
What is Phishing? (KnowBe4, Mar. 2019)
What is the Difference Between Phishing and Junk Mail? (HoukConsulting, Dec. 10, 2018)
About Spam & Phishing – Email: email@example.com
Forward unsolicited commercial email (spam), including phishing messages, directly to the FTC at firstname.lastname@example.org. These messages will be stored in a database law enforcement agencies use in their investigations.
OnGuardOnline: Spam—OnGuardOnline is the federal government’s website to help you be safe, secure and responsible online. The Federal Trade Commission manages OnGuardOnline.gov, in partnership with the federal agencies listed below. OnGuardOnline is a partner in the Stop Think Connect campaign, led by the Department of Homeland Security, and part of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
eBooks & Other Resources
Books, Videos, Research Reports & More
The resources below are available for loan through the NAR Library. Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call Information Services at 800-874-6500 for assistance.
The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:
Have an idea for a real estate topic? Send us your suggestions.
The inclusion of links on this page does not imply endorsement by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR makes no representations about whether the content of any external sites which may be linked in this page complies with state or federal laws or regulations or with applicable NAR policies. These links are provided for your convenience only and you rely on them at your own risk.