What can I do to prevent being spammed?

Filters are something of a reactionary approach to spam. There are actually many things you can do to prevent being spammed in the first place. While they probably won't rid you of spam completely, they can help. Here is a list:

  • Never buy anything from a spam offer!. Spammers send spam to make money. Although it seems that they are spamming us in order to annoy us, they are really doing it to pay the rent. Thus if we all make sure that there is no money to be made by spamming, spammers will be out of business and there won't be any spam messages in our mailboxes anymore. So don't buy spamvertized products! Tell your colleagues, friends, family members, etc. that buying spamvertized products is antisocial behavior and that the only reason for spam is the fact that some moron will always click and then buy. So make a personal vow never to support advertisers who use spam.
  • Only give out your email to friends and trusted web sites. Most web sites will have a detailed privacy statement that tells you how they will use your contact information.
  • Do not post your personal email address across web pages, forums, newsgroups, or chat systems. Many spammers have developed tools that automatically scrounge the Internet to harvest email addresses from these sources to add to their mailing list. Instead, get a free email address from a service like Yahoo or HotMail that you can give out to people that are likely to send you junkmail. You can easily log into that account a few times a month to see if anyone has sent you anything worth reading, and dump the rest of it. If you must use your real email address, you can try to mask it in such a way that it is still readable to a person, but not as easily to a harvesting application. For example, your email address is [email protected] use something like bob at bobco dot com. Most people will understand how to use that address.
  • Additionally, many companies run contests or raffles that ask you to give out your email address. Use your junkmail account instead of your personal address. It should also be noted that many “Gift Card” sites than send virtual flowers or get well cards harvest email addresses, and not just yours, but the person you are sending that card to as well. Be careful about using these services.
  • Do not reply to spam messages. Most of the time the message headers (the routing information) have been faked, so your email won't get to them anyway. However, on the off occasion when the headers aren't forged, it tells the spammer that you are reading your email, which may generate more spam. Also, only ever attempt to unsubscribe from lists of legitimate organizations (they too usually have detailed privacy statements).
  • If you are in a corporate environment that has group email list addresses (say for departments), be very careful to not give out those lists, as they are gold to a spammer.
  • Use the new quarantine function of POPFile. While it has other uses, it can be used on your spam account to limit the display of web bugs embedded in email that can tell a spammer that you are reading their message.
  • There are other things that can give away information about you. For instance, your ISP may be running a daemon called Ident, commonly used for IRC chat systems, that can be used to guess your email address for spam harvesting.
  • If you use an online service that offers a member directory, opt out of it if possible.
  • Your ISP may have a policy where they collect spam to try to go after the originator of the messages. Check with them on their policies, as they may be able to assist you. Depending on where you live, there might also be laws that can help you. For instance, if the spam involves fraudulent or deception practices, you can forward it to [email protected] for the Federal Trade Commission to add to their database.
  • If you have the time and the knowledge to decipher email headers, you might try to find out what server was used to send the message and who is hosting the spamvertized website. It is often quite effective to politely complain to those people as many ISPs have a no-spam policy and are often even likely to shut down offending websites or close spammy email accounts.
  • If you have your own domain name don't enable the “catch all” mode where anything sent to your domain will be forwarded to you. Spammers use lists of names to try and randomly guess addresses, accepting anything at your domain name will mean you will get tens of the same message sent to bob@yourdomain, jane@yourdomain etc. You will also probably get less spam if your address is john.smith@yourdomain than just plain john@yourdomain, since spammers don't seem to be guessing first and last names at the moment.
faq/preventspam.txt · Last modified: 2008/02/08 19:49 by

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