The bad news: You can't prevent this, short of never using your e-mail address for any reason, ever.
The good news: You can probably cut off the person/people who are spoofing your e-mail address at the knees by complaining to a few places I will list at the end of the answer.
More bad news: It's not a permanent solution, and until we find a way to completely eradicate spammers, we're kind of stuck with their antics.
More good news: You *can* fight back.
You're the victim of what's known as e-mail spoofing. Spoofing is when someone else forges their headers to make it appear that *you* are the person sending spam. This is a common trick used among spammers in an effort to cover their tracks:
"Email spoofing is the practice of changing your name in email so that it looks like the email came from somewhere or someone else.
Spoofing is generally used by spammers as a first defense against people finding out who they are. It's also used by general malcontents to practice mischievous and malicious behavior."
What is Email Spoofing? http://www.techtv.com/screensavers/answerstips/story/0,24330,2566233,00.html
Most people don't even realize they're being spoofed until they get an angry letter from someone demanding that they cease spamming, or they open their e-mail and find a dozen messages advertising Viagra or Super! Breast! Enlargement! Now! with their own e-mail address as the sender. Spammers count on the receipients of their mail to *not* pay attention to headers - but this is where you can track them down and stop them, at least for a little while. Hotmail can't help you unless the spam is being sent via their servers, but there are a number of other organizations that can. I'm going to explain spam reporting procedures for each.
First, how does one determine whether the spam is being sent through Hotmail?
Log into Hotmail, select OPTIONS, then, under ADDITIONAL OPTIONS, select MAIL DISPLAY SETTINGS. In MESSAGE HEADER, tick the FULL radio button, save the changes, and go to your Inbox. At the top of your messages, you'll see something that looks like this:
Received: from usanationalalcreditcardredctionallinaceassociation.net ([184.108.40.206]) by mc4-f25.law16.hotmail.com with Microsoft SMTPSVC(5.0.2195.5600); Mon, 2 Dec 2002 22:02:20 -0800 Return-Path: email@example.com Message-ID: <MC4-F25N7GYNxHiw3vm000c53c4@mc4-f25.law16.hotmail.com> X-OriginalArrivalTime: 03 Dec 2002 06:02:20.0248 (UTC) FILETIME=[8A631580:01C29A91]
Those are full headers, and you need them in order to report spam and find out where it's coming from. Check them carefully. If you find an X-originating-IP line in the message header, forward the entire message, including the full headers to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Additionally, you can report that you're being spoofed:
"To report impersonation
Forward the message that impersonates you, with full routing information, to email@example.com, along with a statement denying any involvement with the message. If you don't have a copy of an e-mail message impersonating you, send a detailed explanation of why you think you're being impersonated."
Report Harassment, Threats and Impersonation - Hotmail Help http://help.msn.com/!data/en_us/data/Hotmailv6.its51/$content$/ReprtHarass.htm
Hotmail will track down the originating sender and file a complaint with their ISP. ISPs typically shut down the accounts of spoofers upon receiving a complaint.
Additionally, if the spam is not coming from a Hotmail account, you can file a complaint with the originating ISP with the help of Julian Haight's SpamCop service. SpamCop offers free and paid accounts, both of which include header tracing and abuse reporting:
By pasting the entire e-mail, including the full headers, into SpamCop's reporting mechanism, the origin of each piece of spam is traced (you can view the full technical information when you do this) and a complaint is automatically sent to the spammer's ISP.
If you'd rather not register for a free SpamCop account, you can use UXN Spam Combat, which offers a step by step header tutorial and spam reporting service:
"TRACING SPAM - Who do I complain to?
Complain to the ISP the spam was sent from, the ISP whose server it passed through, the ISP of any web site advertized in the spam, and the ISP of any "dropbox" email address you find in the spam body that the spammer wants replies or 'removes' sent to."
UXN Spam Combat http://combat.uxn.com/tracing.html
For more information about how to fight back against spammers, I've assembled a list of anti-spam resources for you:
Mail Abuse Prevention Systems http://www.mail-abuse.org/rbl/notifyfaq.html
Fight Spam On The Internet http://spam.abuse.net/
The Email Abuse FAQ http://members.aol.com/emailfaq/emailfaq.html
Reading E-Mail Headers http://www.stopspam.org/email/headers/headers.html
...and one of the best places to go for help and information:
news.admin.net-abuse.email, populated by helpful e-mail admins from many ISPs. If you're stuck, they'll help, and you can access the group through regular Usenet means, or through Google Groups (warning: sometimes the spammers show up to taunt the admins. It gets fiery, but lurking is very educational):
NANAE, via Google Groups http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&group=news.admin.net-abuse.e-mail
I hope you find this information helpful. If you need further assistance, please don't hesitate to ask. I'll be glad to help.
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