Spam and Spyware

In Australia, spam is 'unsolicited commercial electronic messaging' that offers or advertises the supply of goods or services, land, business or investment opportunities.

Spam is a simple and low cost method to reach large numbers of consumers. Spammers often buy mail lists from people who have harvested addresses from websites or news groups.

The Spam Act

Under the Spam Act 2003 it is illegal to send, or cause to be sent, 'unsolicited commercial electronic messages' that have an Australian link. A message has an 'Australian link' if it either:

  • Originates or was commissioned in Australia; or
  • Originates overseas but has been sent to an address accessed in Australia.

Australian legislation - the Spam Act 2003 - came into affect on 11 April 2004 and is enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority

Protect yourself:

  • Before you send an e-mail to a web site, check for the site's privacy policy,
  • You should be particularly suspicious if you can't identify the name of the person or company who has sent you the e-mail,
  • Look out for sites offering prizes in return for your filling in surveys or forms or providing personal information. It may simply be a ruse to get you to provide your e-mail address and your interests for use by online marketers,
  • Do not automatically assume that it is coming from where it seems to come from. There are various ways in which "spammers" can give false addresses, to make the source appear legitimate.
  • Use an alias e-mail address (other than your personal address) if you post to newsgroups or bulletin boards,
  • Avoid opening unsolicited e-mail. Spam can sometimes mean scam and the message may contain a virus that can damage your computer,
  • Reconsider buying products from or replying to a company that spams - it only encourages them to continue spamming,
  • Do not reply to or forward "chain-letter" e-mail,
  • Consider buying filtering software to block spam and junk e-mail,
  • Don't give out your e-mail address without checking the privacy policies of the trader,
  • Don't provide personal information to surveys or forms unless you are confident your information will be protected,
  • Always read the agreements placed upon sites, prior to proceeding to the next page,
  • Confirm that all boxes on a website are "checked" or "unchecked" as you want them.
  • Send a complaint to your Internet Service Provider - if enough people complain, the spammer will be refused access to the system. Some ISP's now offer filters to prevent spam being delivered to subscribers,
  • Report the spam to the Australian Communications Authority ACMA website.


Spyware is generally considered to be software that is secretly installed on a computer and takes things from it without the permission or knowledge of the user. Spyware may take personal information, business information, bandwidth; or processing capacity and secretly gives it to someone else.

More information about taking care of spyware is available from the Department of Communications website.

SUPPORT: For assistance and counselling services please go to ScamNet - Help for Victims. If you need to speak to someone urgently call Lifeline on 13 11 14.