- Prevention — This is at best only partially effective and requires a fresh and un-spammed email address. However, if you do start with a new address prevention can seem downright miraculous.
- Filtering — Also not perfect but a good spam filtering service should remove more then 99% of the messages you don’t want. The thing to watch out for in filtering is false positives. (False positives are messages that should have been delivered but were blocked instead.) Blocking spam is easy, the hard part is not blocking the good messages.
(Actually, there is a third way but we’re assuming you don’t want to give up email altogether.)
These approaches are not mutually exclusive. In fact the most effective spam filtering comes from a combination of both. This means that, even if you have a good spam filtering service, it still helps if you take preventative measures. Relying on your filtering service to take care of everything is like asking asking your doctor to keep you healthy when you have a lousy diet and fail to exercise.
Don’t Encourage Them
First and foremost, spam exists because it works. If a spammer sends out millions of emails enough people will respond to make it worthwhile. Don’t be one of them.
In many cases just opening spam alerts the spammer to the fact that somebody saw the message. This alone will put your address on high value, verified address lists and one of the ways spammers make money is by selling these lists to each other. So every time you open a spam message that’s tracked this way you can expect a lot of spammers to get your address.
And don’t even think about buying something from a spammer. The only way spammers will go away is if they are universally ignored. If you’re actually looking for any of the many interesting services offered by spammers, find them yourself and cut out the middleman.
To buy in response to receiving a spam email not only rewards the initial spammer, but more importantly, it makes your address even more highly valuable for sale to other spammers. Look at it this way: from a spammer’s perspective, no list of addresses is worth as much as those that are not only verified as active but also those belonging to users that have proven they will buy in response to spam email.
The only effective way to avoid spam email (without help) is to prevent it. If your address is already receiving large quantities of spam it’s too late for this approach. However, if you are starting with a new email address, the following tips will help:
- Never reply to spam emails. Replying lets them know the address is active which only makes your address more valuable. As hard as it is to avoid hitting the reply button and cussing them out it’s much better to just hit the delete button.
- Be very careful with “unsubscribe” links. As a rule of thumb, only unsubscribe if the sender has a reputation to protect. In other words if it’s Wallgreen’s pharmacy it’s probably safe, if it’s Wally’s Green Pharmacy don’t do it unless you know Wally.
- Don’t share your address on social networking sites, online forums, chat sites and so on. If an email address is required use a throw-away address.
- When publishing your address on your own web site (or any other web site for that matter) use obfuscation to hide it from address harvesters.
- Keep your anti-virus software up to date. This not only protects your email address, it also protects everyone in your address book (and, conversely, protects you from everyone that has you in their address book).
Spam Filtering Techniques
Unless you own and maintain your own mail server (and more than likely even if you do) spam filtering is best left up to professionals. However, if you want to give it a go on your own here are a few things you can try:
- Email rules – Most email clients support email rules that allow you to automatically delete certain messages. This is basically just a game of whack-a-mole though, so don’t try it unless you have nothing else to do.
- Whitelists can be practical if you correspond with a limited group of people and don’t expect to hear from new contacts. In this case you can use the email rules mentioned above to only accept email from a specific group of addresses. (This, unfortunately, doesn’t prevent spoofing.)
If you just want a cheap and easy way to get rid of spam we’ll be glad to help you and you’ll be glad you asked.
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