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How to Avoid Spam

March 27th, 2008

spam.jpgSpam, not to be confused with the shoulder pork and ham product made by Hormel, denotes junk mail, an important aspect of life on the Internet. It has become highly notorious word that is regarded as synonymous with annoying advertisements and unwanted bulk email marketing messages. This article by Sarath Kumar provides some tips for preventing and avoiding the dreaded inedible forms of Spam.

Companies and individuals, perhaps including some of our friends bombard our mailboxes with junk mail on a regular basis. There are veterans of spamming – the ‘art’ of sending junk mails - like Sanford Wallace who earned the nickname ‘Spamford Wallace.’

The spammers use several intrusive methods to send junk mail. The Internet allows them to store our email addresses in databases that cross reference each other, so that they can build our profiles that tell them details including what sites we visit, how often we visit those sites, how often we click banner ads, and what kind of products we purchase. Companies and individuals will happily sell this information they collect to other companies and individuals, so that once our email address is on one list, they’ll eventually be on ALL the lists.

Here are some proven steps to avoid junk mail:

1. Don’t click on suspicious links or banner ads

Email harvesting companies can track our habits on the Web extensively by using banner ads or links designed to trick you into downloading adware, Trojan viruses, or other privacy-invading critters.

2. Don’t give out your email address

This may seem obvious, but don’t give out the email address to marketing companies. For example, any surveys we may fill out, or any form to fill out when purchasing something over the Internet. Some companies require our email address before we can download software. In these cases, always enter a bogus address.

Also, don’t include the email address in the Web browser settings. Use a fake one, or leave the field blank. Web sites we visit can grab this information without us ever knowing about it.

In cases where we absolutely need to enter a valid email in a form (for example when we need the company to send us a receipt or a product key), we should have a second email address, preferably at a free email service on the Web. We shouldn’t bother if we get Spam at that account, as it is meant to be a ‘garbage bin’ account. However, clean it periodically, and block unsolicited mails as required. The blocking and Spam reporting facilities are part of many free email services including Hotmail and Yahoo.

3. Don’t list the email address on a web site or newsgroups

Instead of listing the private email address on a personal Web site, use the second ‘garbage bin’ account, or a separate ‘Web feedback’ account. Do the same with posts made on newsgroups. There are automated programs that scour the Web and news groups to harvest emails. Another trick that usually works is to write the email address in a slightly different format that harvesting bots will not detect as a spam target but is still readable to human visitors. For example, you can use (at) or (dot) in place of the appropriate punctuation.

4. Don’t reply to Spam

Never reply to junk mail asking them to stop. A lot of junk emails provide a bogus ‘unsubscribe’ link, or ask to reply with ‘remove’ in the subject. This is a trick. The spammers don’t actually know if our email addresses are active. They purchase thousands of emails from other companies and sometimes even guess at email names. As soon as we reply to junk mail, they will know that our email is active. And we continue to get the junk emails on a ‘priority basis’.

5. Filter out the Spam

Filtering the junk emails that we receive prevents them from reaching our inbox or places them in a separate Spam folder where they can be easily scanned (just in case any legitimate mails slip through) and deleted. Most email programs have built-in filters to do this.

Additional Resources:

http://www.howtofightspam.com/ - more information and resource links on how to deal with Spam
http://www.templetons.com/brad/spamterm.html - article on the history of how the word “Spam” came to be associated with junk emails

5 Responses to “How to Avoid Spam”

  1. comment number 1 by: Wade Balsdon

    Good information, thanks.

  2. comment number 2 by: Adam Hyman

    Thanks for the tips!

    Spam is certainly a problem for me. I’ve been thinking of getting a new e-mail address and will probably switch to gmail.

  3. comment number 3 by: Mrs. Mecomber

    Outstanding post. Thanks for the info. Yeahhhh, I’ve given my email to some of those surveys, and have I regretted it later. *sigh*

  4. comment number 4 by: Shari

    Well said, and thanks for the traffic, amigo!

  5. comment number 5 by: Example of Comment Spam

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