Top 5 Things You Can Do To Stop Spam

Top 5 Things You Can Do To Stop Spam

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Spam hardly needs an introduction. Anyone with an e-mail account knows the frustration of being inundated with offers for discount pills and financial propositions from Nigerian princes. Prior to the 1980’s Spam (Shoulder Pork and hAM) was a budget canned meat product made by Hormel. Today, just as its namesake in the popular Monty Python sketch was in every dish on the menu, spam is an unwelcome ingredient in everyone’s inbox. So how does one best go about preventing and filtering out unwanted junk? Here are the 5 most effective ways to accomplish that.

Don’t make your email address(es) public.
It is estimated that 95% of all junk e-mail is caused when you either post your address to a public forum or you make it available on your website. Programs called robots are continually and automatically scanning websites for e-mail addresses to send junk to. If you own a website the best way to deal with this is to provide your clients with a contact form rather than a direct email link. If you must provide an email address consider asking your developer to either use a graphic to display it or generate the text dynamically using a script.

Use Spam blocking tools.
Most webmail providers offer them, or you can download one:

  • Use the "This is spam" or equivalent button if your email provider has one. This submits the email to their spam-control people who can take care of business and improve their anti-spam filters.
  • If you are using MS Outlook, try installing a spam filtering plugin, such as SpamAid or SpamReader.
  • Use the 'Block List’ and add the spammer's domain name to it.
  • Limit incoming e-mails to those in your address book and have all others put into a "Junk" folder, which you can skim through quickly and clear regularly.

Report Spam.
Before you delete your spam, forward it to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it as this is the Spam box for FTC (Federal Trade Commission). Mail sent to this box is investigated. If it is indeed spam, the original sender can be charge $500 per email. The more mail they get from different users but same spammer, the more it's likely to be investigated– don’t just delete it.

Be clever when filling out forms or creating new accounts.
Many web forms ask only for your name and email address. Put in a series of letters such as ‘qwerty’ either in place of or as a part of your name. Then set up a filter for e-mails that contain that version of your name so that they will be placed in a separate folder. If those e-mails turn out to be spam, then set your mail program to delete all e-mails that come in with that name.

Use different addresses for different purposes.
Have one main account, and never, ever give this address to anyone, even your friends, who would only have to send you an innocent e-card to get you on a spam mailing list.

Then:

  • Make a separate account for different purposes (one for friends, one for entertainment sites, one for your financial websites, etc.) Make sure you keep track of which address you use for each account.
  • Set all those addresses to forward the mail to your main account (so that you don't have to check multiple accounts). This won’t eliminate any spam but it will allow you to identify which of your accounts has generated it.
  • If you start receiving spam through one of your alternates, you can trace it to one of your disposable addresses and simply delete that account.
  • Track which groups of recipients return the most spam and be more selective.

As anti-spam filters become more sophisticated so do the spammers, so even though we may not see spam eliminated in our lifetime, implementing these five basic strategies can go a long way to help keep it at bay.

~Steven Barnes