junk_fax

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If you’re familiar with the concept of spam mail and fliers being shoved down your mailbox, you’re familiar with junk faxing as well, because it’s the very same concept.

What is Junk Faxing?

Junk faxing is sending of advertisement messages sent by the telemarketers, a practice that boomed along with the popularity of fax machines as a communication medium.

For the attacker, it’s one of the methods of reaching potential new buyers for their products, much like door-to-door junk mail and e-mails, but with one very distinct difference that makes junk faxing a punishable offense in USA and in some other countries – first of all, while you are in the process of receiving a junk fax, your line is busy for the other incoming calls, which may be important to you or your business, and, second, you are using your own paper and ink to print an advert someone else sent.

Avoiding Junk Faxing

If you are not printing out your received faxes but storing them on PC, or if you’re using online fax services, you don’t have any noticeable cost in receiving unsolicited junk fax, and you’ve done a lot already to cover yourself from this malicious form of fax messaging, but if you’re using a fax machine, you may find yourself spending a lot of money just because you’re getting junk mail sent your way.

You can call your service provider and ask to get unlisted from the public fax phone listings, that should reduce the number of junk faxes you receive somewhat, but companies that already have your number will not be affected.

You can also block the numbers you get junk faxes from, as these are usually company fax numbers, they don’t change all the time.

In USA it is possible to bring a private suit against the person sending you junk faxes, but each state regulates junk faxing differently, so you may want to consult a lawyer about that.

In canada there is no similar legal mechanism, but there are still regulations regarding faxes that need to be followed, which can protect you as an individual from junk faxes by a certain extent. And, of course, using fax modems and online fax services goes a long way towards making sure that you don’t suffer any significant cost due to being a target of junk faxing practice.

Broadcast Fax vs Junk Fax

There are legal variants of mass sending of messages, called broadcast faxes, and there are companies offering these services (or fax machines offering to queue up a large number of fax numbers that are going to receive the same message), so not every mass fax is a junk fax.

One of the examples for broadcast faxes that is not legally questionable is a fax a bank sends to all of the customers with a fax number to inform them of a policy change, or a reminder from a tax accountant to all of the individuals he is working with that the taxes are due. These (rather important) examples are why options of group faxing are not illegal altogether.

These (rather important) examples are why options of group faxing are not illegal altogether.

black fax warningThere is no communication technology that is immune to malicious attacks, and faxing, while severely limiting the would-be attackers, still has several vulnerabilities that can be exploited, and black fax is probably one of the most damaging of all of the fax scams and attacks.

What is a Black Fax?

Black fax is an attack method that disables a fax machine in two ways – the receiver has to print out a fully black page over and over again, until the fax machine runs out of ink, and the line is busy for acceptance of new fax messages through the whole process.

Sometimes it’s just several pages of black fax, but there were reports of a looped piece of black paper being used on the attacker’s end, which basically completely paralyzes the attacked fax machine until it runs out of ink, or paper, or until it’s mechanical components fail.

The most common black fax attacks are used as pranks, retribution and a crude sort of DoS attacks on fax machines.

Disgruntled ex-employees taking revenge, replies to annoying or spam fax messages and as general source of annoyance for the receiver – that’s when black faxes are most commonly sent.

Avoiding Black Fax Messages

Now that you’re aware of a potential vulnerability, you’re most likely wondering how can you protect yourself in case of a black fax attack.
The problem is, there are not that many methods of dealing with this issue if you are using a fax machine – there’s no method of prevention other than you noticing what’s going on and interrupting the printing process.

Enterprise level fax machines with a server in front of them usually have filter systems that block out black fax attacks, and if you are not printing your receiving faxes but are storing them in the computer, the attack power is greatly diminished, but you still have a fax line that is kept busy by the attack and you still get spam messages on your hard drive.

The best defense altogether would be to use an online fax service or a PC with a fax modem for sending and receiving fax messages, which would reduce black faxes to nothing more than junk mail to be filtered in your folder.

Disclaimer: We do not support or advise the use of black faxes for any reason, this and other malicious attacks using faxing technology are listed only as examples, so the owners of fax machines can understand what kinds of problems can they face and how can they defend from them.

Fax Scams

If there’s a method of business communication, there are people who want to exploit the method to do harm to another, whether it’s for monetary gain or just for their personal jollies. There are some fax scams that you need to be on the lookout for:

Black Fax scam

Fax machines, naturally, have the “reply” button designed to allow you to quickly and easily send messages back to the person contacting you.

Back Fax scams rely on you not paying enough attention while luring you in with an offer that looks too good to be true, or a limited time offer, or any of the other method that has you thinking more about the content of the message than about what you’re doing.

These messages are sent by premium 1-900 lines, and sending messages there incurs a very heavy cost.

How to defend yourself from this? Always pay attention to the sender’s number, and be wary of the context of the fax message, if they have costs or fees connected to the replying, don’t reply.

Black Fax scam

If you are using a fax modem or if your fax machine doesn’t automatically print but accepts documents to your computer, you won’t suffer too much financial damage from getting bombarded with a fully black page, but black fax attacks are rather costly if you are set on auto-receive.

This malicious attack can run you out of paper, ink, or, in the worst case, can cause your fax machine to malfunction.

Junk Fax

All of the e-mail and phone scams are more or less applicable to the medium of fax machines.

If you’ve got a fax from a nigerian prince looking for a way to hide his money somewhere, well, just file that in the “very unlikely” folder and never reply. If your credit card number is required or if the message requires you to send a lot of personal identification, you are most likely being targeted by a scam. The best defense from junk fax scams is to get yourself familiar with most widespread scams, just so you know what kind of methods scammers use to get to you.

 

Junk faxing in the era of virtual fax

If you’ve ever lived or breathed, you are probably familiar with the concept of junk mail.

Whether it’s in a written paper form or in a digital form, you are likely to have encountered junk mail.

Other than being a huge pain in the posterior, junk mail presents no significant threat for an average person. And no, your mailbox being overflown with worthless paper does not count as a threat.

junk faxing its a problem
However, some genius out there had to come up with the idea of sending junk faxes and that’s when things got tricky. This practice became popular with the raise of fax machine popularity and it’s been flagged as controversial ever since.

This practice became popular with the raise of fax machine popularity and it’s been flagged as controversial ever since.

On one hand, the person advertising their products can see an effective way of doing so via fax.

You can get the same effect as door-to-door junk mail or email, with just a margin of effort.

On the other hand, the person being attacked by this kind of marketing has to deal with the cost of providing the paper and ink for print an advert someone else sent.

On top of that, back in the day when you had to use a facsimile, the line was busy while receiving a fax, which meant that you could be missing on something much more important.

junk faxing receiver

 

Precisely because of this, junk faxing is punishable in some countries.

However, with the introduction of virtual faxing, the cost of receiving faxes is virtually nonexistent while the lines can’t get busy.

Also, you can specifically ask to be removed from the public fax phone listing by your faxing service provider.

However, this will not affect the companies that already have your number, but there is still an option of blocking a number that is bothering you in any way.

This will leave you reasonably protected from junk faxes, and if you still experience problems with them you can still file a lawsuit in consultation with a lawyer.

Fax Machines Troubleshooting – Paper Jam

From all the problems that you may encounter with your fax machine, one of the most common ones is your regular paper jam – it’s a fault that can never be properly designed out of the system due to the way paper moves through the fax machine, through a system of rollers and gears.

Most brand name fax machines have their quirks that can cause paper jams, which are described in detail in the user manual, but you can deal with the problem even without the user manual.

Prevention is better than cure, so it would be the best if you do everything you can do avoid paper jams in the first place.

There are things you can do to reduce the chances of experiencing a paper jam:

Use clean quality paper – do not try to print on ripped paper, a paper that’s already been printed on, or has been crumpled.

These things are most common causes of paper jams – a small tear or a crumple on the paper can shift the paper’s path slightly as it moves through the fax machine, resulting in a jam.

Use fax machine in normal temperature and humidity levels – fax machines have their optimal operational temperature range, and don’t do well with high humidity, two things to bear in mind if you use a fax machine.

Follow the maintenance and care guides from your fax machine’s user manual.

Using these will greatly reduce the chances of experiencing paper jams, but if you’re already there, then here are steps to take to try and get your fax machine running again:

 fax machine paper jam

Step 1: Analyze the paper jam

This is a good step to fixing a problem with any mechanical piece of equipment before you start trying to open the machine, try to get a good grip on what’s going on.

If there is smoke, or if there’s a smell of burning, the problem might not be just a regular jam, but a much bigger issue that needs to be addressed.

If the issue seems to be just the regular paper jam, check out all of the access ports and slots to the jammed parts before you get to work, and see if you can find that manual again, it would have the best descriptions of the fax machine’s interior.

You will also want to keep the fax machine running if there’s no immediate danger, as the fax machine’s memory is still loaded with the fax you were sending/receiving, you will experience no loss of data until you turn it off.

Step 2: Get access to the jammed area

Once you’ve figured out where the jam happened, try to get access to that area of the fax machine’s interior.

It shouldn’t take too much effort, as these machines were made to be opened up, if you feel like you have to use too much force to get it opened, there’s probably a clasp or some small trick to opening it up, or you’re just trying at the wrong spot.

If you hear the paper ripping, you may want to try to get access from some other point!

Step 3: Clear the paper path

Interior of the fax machine is a complicated path that the paper is supposed to roll along by easily, and most of the parts allow the paper to travel only one way, forcing it the other way would just cause damage to the fax machine.

You want to start by pulling the paper out down the path it was supposed to go, and then check if you got all of it out – if there are any leftover pieces of paper in the fax machine it may cause further jams.

If those pieces are in hard to reach spots, don’t try to force the device open to reach everything, but try using a pair of tweezers.

Step 4: Close the fax and run the test page

Now just close the machine in the opposite order of actions you opened it, and run a test page.

Every fax machine has some simple method of printing a test page, if you don’t know how to do it, just try to print out the last fax message you received – if a paper can run through the fax machine unimpeded, you’ve fixed your paper jam!

Resources:

eHow How To Fix A Paper Jam


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Matt Gerchow is an author, marketer, inventor, husband, father and yoga enthusiast. He enjoys travel to distant lands , fine wine, time with his family and dinner with friends.