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Tips for Fighting Junk E-mail

FreudianSlippersFreudianSlippers Member Posts: 1,302 ✭✭✭
edited September 2004 in General Discussion
Never, Ever Bite

You should never respond to spam. Why? Well, if you do, you're simply letting the advertiser know that you are a prime target for even more spam. Advertisers who send spam in text format have no way of knowing whether or not you open and read their messages unless you actually respond.

When you open a message that was sent in HTML format, however, the message pulls code from the spammer's server, indicating that your address is a live one. So if you're sure that certain messages (with giveaway subject lines like "Earn $10,000 Your First Week") are junk, delete them without opening them.

Unsubscribe with Caution

You'll often find details about how to remove your name from a mailing list in the body of an e-mail message. This can involve replying to the sender with "unsubscribe" in the subject line or going to a Web site. The genuine marketers will usually honor your request and take your name off their mailing lists. In that case, you'll be happy to see the end of some junk e-mail.

However, in the case of illicit spam, when you try to unsubscribe, you simply end up confirming your e-mail address. If anything, you're likely to wind up on more spammers' lists of valid accounts. Don't be surprised if you get pelted with more unsolicited mail after that. So use your judgment. Think twice before pursuing the "remove" option.

Multiple E-mail Accounts

If you can handle maintaining multiple e-mail accounts -- and remembering new passwords -- you might consider using extra addresses to keep spam out of your main in-box (more on this in Nom de Spam below). In general, most ISPs include five to seven free e-mail accounts with their basic service. Just sign up for extra addresses at your ISP's Web site, then tell your e-mail program to download the mail in all of your accounts at once.

Avoid Giving out Your E-mail Address

If you decide to use extra addresses, that means you can keep your main address -- the one you check several times each day and use for important correspondence -- almost completely spam-free. Keep it close to the vest, sharing it only with people you know, such as friends, business associates, and your family.

Avoid using your main e-mail address or screen name in a chat room or other public places. Offer alternate e-mail addresses on shopping sites and survey forms, for example. If you reserve your main address for personal and business correspondence, it's much less likely to fall into the hands of spammers.

Start from Scratch

If the spam in your in-box is out of control, and it's really getting you down, think about starting afresh with a brand new e-mail address. If you or your family members haven't used up your quota of extra AOL screen names, you can start there.

That might sound like a good plan to people who aren't particularly attached to their e-mail addresses or screen names. But other folks will have a harder time letting go. You may have used a really cool handle like IronLiver for the past eight years, and it would break your heart to stop using it. But if your e-mail address happens to be your AOL Primary Screen Name, it can't be deleted -- it can't belong to anyone else anyway.

Sure, it can be a hassle to start all over and inform everyone about your new address. But consider the benefits of a new e-mail address: if you give your new address only to the chosen few, your in-box might stay uncluttered -- as long as you keep your new address mum.

Names and Numbers

Whether you're setting up a new e-mail account to be your main address or just a repository for newsletters, you can sometimes reduce spam if your e-mail address has a combination of letters and numbers. Take, for example, "" Adding numbers to your address -- preferably between your first name and last name -- can sometimes foil spammers who use auto-generators to try to guess every combination of common names, like "Jim," "Jimmy," "James," "Jamie," "JimWelp101," "JimWelp102," and so on.

The drawback? Having an address that includes a string of numbers is more impersonal -- it may not be for everyone.

If You Can't Beat It, Eat It

Set up an address exclusively for spam. It sounds crazy at first, but there are some very fun and worthwhile activities online that are, unfortunately, total spam magnets -- give out that address -- instead of your main address -- any time you expect spam to follow.

Use it when you register at Web sites, enter a chat room, or post messages to discussion lists or newsgroups. If you faithfully keep this address just for junk mail, you'll only have to check the mail there occasionally, to delete all the spam (with glee).

Filter and Organize

Now that you've got your slew of addresses set up, you need a system to manage them.

You can also filter your incoming e-mail. Many ISPs or e-mail services offer "parental controls" that allow you to block mail from certain users or domains, allow mail from only certain users and domains, etc. Some e-mail services like Hotmail have separate boxes where spam automatically goes.

Snitch Therapy

For most people, spam is mildly annoying, but to ISPs and network administrators, it's a major problem. All that spam hogs a tremendous amount of bandwidth, hardware resources, and labor hours. If you'd like to help stop spam at its source, you can take action in various ways. Before you do anything else, report spammers to your ISP.

Second, report the spammers to the ISP that generated the spam. To do this, you need to examine the junk mail's header information to determine the ISP domain name from which the spam originated. Then you should contact the postmaster and ask the ISP to restrict the spammer's access to the servers. This can be a complicated process, because some spammers use programs that hide their ISP.

Last, you can get in touch with organizations like the Mail Abuse Prevention System and SpamCop to reduce your spam.


"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants and the creed of slaves." -- William Pitt (1783)


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    RosieRosie Member Posts: 14,525 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    My ISP is fantastic! very seldom does anything get through without my approval. However I loaded Norton corporate on one of my computers and believe it or not A whole lot of junk came in when I updated it. Mostly AOL junk pop ups. Don't know why but it did. Deleted Norton and and got rid of most of the problem.
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    nunnnunn Forums Admins, Member, Moderator Posts: 36,026 ******
    edited November -1
    I use Mailwasher. Once a message is blacklisted, the sender receives a bounce message stating that the mail could not be delivered to this address.

    SIG pistol armorer/FFL Dealer/Full time Peace Officer, Moderator of General Discussion Board on Gunbroker. Visit the best gun auction site on the Net! Email
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    IconoclastIconoclast Member Posts: 10,515 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I've been using MailWasher since David suggested it back along. Great program, but I still have one series of spammers which persists in sending 3-4 messages a day even though each one is rejected and bounced. Their nominal address changes for each message, and I've blacklisted each iteration, but they are a continuing annoyance. Fortunately, with this app, it is a simple process to delete them quickly without allowing them to download.

    I would add that this app allows you to read & reply to any incoming message without opening an email client, although this capability is not as fully featured as using the regular email app.

    "There is nothing lower than the human race - except the french." (Mark Twain) ". . . And liberals / demoMAGGOTS" (me)
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    kaliforniankalifornian Member Posts: 475 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Good post, FreudianSlippers:
    I'd like to add a couple of additional tips:

    If you must post your email address on the web, such as in a forum, web site, etc, there are a couple of things you can do to slow down spammers:

    Post a Graphic showing your email address rather than post it in plain text or html. Bots that harvest email addresses won't be able to read the image but they can easily read html
    Encrypt the email address with a tool such as this one: (I don't know if this particular site harvests the email addresses that they encrypt for you, but there are lots of sites like this on the web). This lets you post something on the web that looks normal to a person viewing it but usually throws off harvester bots.
    Break up or slightly change your address when you post it so it is easily understood by others, but not bots. Examples: yourname @ yournameATdomainDOTcom

    I've used both the free and pro version of Mailwasher and it's a good program. If you like the concept, but want to integrate it with MS Outlook rather than having to use one program for spam and one for sending/receiving email, try the free SpamBayes program at: (It doesn't work with Outlook Express, only the full fledged Outlook.)

    You also might want to rethink your use of the bounce option on your spam filters. Nearly all spammers make up fake return email addresses, or use some innocent person's email address. When you bounce the spam, often it goes to an innocent person's inbox, who never heard of the spammer until suddenly they can't use their email account because it is filled with thousands of bounced pieces of spam. If you get lots of spam, the bounce process will make it much slower to check your email too as it has to attempt to send the email back, often to an address that doesn't even exist. My wife uses mailwasher and gets over 1,100 pieces of spam a week. She does business with her email address and doesn't want to change it, so she uses filters to clean up the mess. If she turns the bounce option on in Mailwasher, it takes FOREVER to process her mail with the tool.
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    cletus85cletus85 Member Posts: 2,104 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I've used a hotmail account for 5 years and don't get much Spam, and so far have kept my main account free!

    What I've learned on another note is that MOST UPDATES...AREN'T[:D]
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