If you use a mainstream email provider, it likely catches most of the obviously useless and potentially malicious spam you receive, like scammy prescription drug offers and unsolicited sex tips. But when it comes to the endless promo emails from retailers and newsletters you don’t remember signing up for, you’re mostly on your own. Now a new tool from DoNotPay, a suite of consumer advocacy services, offers a lifeline that will make it easier to unsubscribe from email lists in a privacy-conscious way. It’ll also try to earn you some cash along the way.
To use most subscription management tools, like Unroll.me, you have to grant the service access to your email account, so it can crawl through your messages and embed in your inbox. DoNotPay’s new anti-spam service works differently. All you have to do is forward your spam emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and a bot will automatically jump through the hoops to unsubscribe you from the mailing list. That way, the service doesn’t need any account access and only sees the emails you want it to deal with.
DoNotPay also takes things a step further. When you forward a piece of spam, its software will check if there is currently a class action settlement against the company or organization that sent you the email—like the Macy’s data breach settlement or Yahoo settlement. If so, you’ll see a flag in the Spam Collector tab of your DoNotPay dashboard. With one click you can instruct DoNotPay to automatically submit to the settlement and claim any compensation you’re eligible for on your behalf. If the claim is successful you’ll get a check or other payment as normal, DoNotPay isn’t involved other than completing your submission for you. Less spam, more money.
“When I looked at other spam solutions, either they were selling your data or you still had to give cart blanche access to your email and it was very expensive,” says DoNotPay founder and CEO Joshua Browder. “These companies are meant to protect your emails and protect your privacy and it’s so ironic that they do the exact opposite. So we set out to build a service that doesn’t sell your data and also has this added component of getting compensation by matching you to class action settlements.”
To use the anti-spam tool you simply have to subscribe to DoNotPay for $3 per month. That fee also grants you access to all of DoNotPay’s services, including its signature parking ticket-fighting tool and Robo Revenge, which helps you track and automatically sue robocallers in small claims court. DoNotPay also offers a tool that will let you sign up for free trials with special credit card information DoNotPay provides. If you haven’t cancelled the free trial by the time it ends (who among us ever has?) the DoNotPay credit card will decline the charge, so you don’t have to eat the cost. Browder says that the $3 a month subscription price won’t go up no matter how many tools DoNotPay adds. The company announced a $12 million series A funding round at the end of June.
If you forward a message to the anti-spam tool and then keep getting emails from the same entity, the service will take the hallmark DoNotPay approach and automatically help you sue the spammer in small claims court for up to $500 under the CAN-SPAM Act. It’s a small way to try to take on the spamming industrial complex, but with DoNotPay on your side it’s less daunting to assert your rights.
“If a spammer is really criminal or egregious you can actually sue them in small claims court,” Browder says. “So there’s two ways you can get compensation, really. But the main way is still the class action thing. A lot of consumers don’t know that they’re owed $12 here and there, and the reason for that is that it’s just not worth it to spend hours every day making sure that you’re given all the money that you’re owed.”
In order to submit for class action compensation on your behalf or sue a spammer in small claims court automatically, DoNotPay needs some of your personal data to slot into the appropriate files and forms. Browder says, though, that DoNotPay doesn’t want to see or even hold your data. It contracts with a secure data manager, Very Good Security, whose only job is to assume the liability of holding your information without looking at it, selling it, or letting it get breached.
DoNotPay isn’t claiming that its anti-spam tool will be a magic panacea for your inbox hellscape. But if you forward a few batches of spam emails along to it, you’ll get some relief without a lot of work—and maybe some cash to boot.
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