How to Stop Spam

In the Internet age, not only are you fighting junk mail in your mailbox, but you’ve also got exorbitant amounts of spam in your virtual inbox. In addition to being annoying, these e-mails can introduce viruses and spyware into your computer. While there are several different ways to combat spam, here’s a start.

Steps

  1. Stop posting your e-mail address on a public forum or website. It is estimated that 95% of all junk e-mail is caused by a person publicly disclosing his or her e-mail address. There are many robots and scripts that automatically scan websites for e-mail addresses. Also, sometimes humans actually grab e-mails off websites to use them for sign-up offers in order to get free stuff (iPods, Ringtones,Televisions, etc.). If you must provide contact information, try writing it out in creative ways such as Me ~at~ yahoo ~dotcom~. There are alternative ways of displaying your email address while making it hard for spambots to harvest it. Such methods include using image picture of your email address or using Javascript to dynamic construct the display of your email.
  2. Avoid:
    • Popular newsgroups – robots often scour these lists for addresses
    • Software like BonzaiBuddy or similar programs – if these companies don’t immediately sell your information to a spam company, they are subsidiaries of spam companies themselves and the software is spyware
    • Chat rooms like Yahoo Chat or IRC – spammers or spambots are actively mining in popular chat rooms like AOL and Yahoo chats, where e-mail addresses can be correctly guessed just by adding the proper@whatever.com to the username of a chat room visitor.
  3. Use spam blocking tools. Most webmail providers offer them, or you can download one.
    • Use the “This is spam” 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 have a Yahoo! account you can use their discardable addresses method
    • Use Spam Gourmet, or others like it, with any email account
    • If you are using MS Outlook, try installing a spam filtering plugin, for exampleSpamAid or SpamReader
    • Use the ‘Block’ list and add the spammer’s domain name only. (However, this may not be that effective, since spammers normally only use temporary addresses.)
    • 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.
  4. Report spam. Before you delete your spam, forward your spam to: spam@uce.gov 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.
  5. Be crafty when filling out forms that ask for your e-mail address. Many web forms ask only for your name and email address. Put in a series of letters such as Swseqw for your name. Then set up a filter so e-mails from that newsletter or form will arrive in a separate folder if the e-mail contains that fake name. If that e-mail turns out to be spam, set your mail program to delete all e-mails that come in with the fake name.
  6. Use disposable addresses to identify and shake off sources of spam. Have one main account, and never, ever give this address to anyone, even your friends, who all they need to do is send you an innocent e-card to get you on a spam mailing list.
    • Make a separate account for different purposes (one for friends, one for entertainment sites, one for your financial websites, etc.) If you use a lot, write down which is which so you don’t forget.
    • Set all those addresses to forward the mail to your main account so that you don’t have to check multiple accounts.
    • 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.
  7. Wikispam is common too. A current spam attack involves “essay spammers”, where spammers insert random links to sites related to essay-writing services. Another spam attack is spambots creating random pages related to subjects like UGG Boots. These pages also include random links to other subjects, whether or not they’re related to the subject or even placed in a grammatically coherent way.

Tips

  • Consider using a unique domain name for your e-mail address. You may be able to turn on a wildcard(*@yourdomain.com) address so that any email sent to that domain, no matter what’s before the @ symbol, will arrive at your personal inbox (check your site provider’s FAQ for instructions). This gives a lot of flexibility because you can tell them anything as your email address, as long as the domain after the @ symbol is yours. If you get spammed to a certain address, just set that account up (generally in SMTP settings) and have all that email automatically deleted(“bit-bucket”).
  • Consider creating a Gmail account. In addition to having lots of storage space and being nicely organized, Gmail has a fairly good spam filter. Almost all of the spam goes into your spam box where it get automatically deleted after 30 days so you never even have to look at it. You can also give out different versions of your address and have them still go to the same inbox, while showing up with the different “to” fields, allowing you to know which place gave out the address (see Sources for links to exact directions and details).
  • If you need to provide an email address to verify an online account and you don’t want them to have your real address, you can use name@mailinator.com. You do not need to set up an account at mailinator.com; you just check the inbox for whatever name you chose. For more information, just visit mailinator.com.
  • It is estimated that 63% of e-mail is spam. There are 3 simple ways to try to tell if an email program is spam, though you can never be sure:
    • Look at the ‘person’s’ name. When looking at your mail, look closely at the person or robot’s ‘name’. Most spam is named with a first name and a last name i.e. Morgan Freeman, Taylor McJessie. Do you recognize the name? If not, it’s probably spam. Remember that most message users use nicknames.
    • Look at the time it was sent. Most spam is sent at 12am(midnight) – 4am. When you go to check your mail, and you receive an email at 2:41 am, it’s probably spam. Why would any of your friends send you mail at 2 in the morning?
    • Look at the file size, if your e-mail provides this option. Almost all spam will be 3KB. Most spam will contain a small sentence i.e. Hey, I’m Victoria, wanna date? Check out these pictures of Rihanna getting drunk!’, and a link to some webpage. At the end of the link will be a mix of random letters. Do not click the link.
  • If you’ve done the above three things and still aren’t sure, click on the message; clicking on the message will not harm anything, but if there’s a link, don’t click it! Clicking on a link will let the spammers know that someone saw the site they are advertising. They in turn get paid for your views of this site. If you click on the link you could show them that their methods work and they will continue.
  • Before registering for a site, check their privacy policy. If they say they don’t give out email addresses, they probably don’t. If they don’t say anything like that, register a new email and use it only for this site. If you get spam on this email, you will know it was from that site giving out email addresses.
  • If you fancy joining a directory, BBS or social site, you might like to google the site (or use the site’s own search) for anything looking like email addresses first. If you find loads of addresses then the site IS insecure, in which case DON’T give them yours!
  • There are two things you can do to find out if you have a harvesting problem at your website and others you use. Doing these two things won’t cure a spam headache overnight, but it will result in the spam gradually tailing-off as the harvesters refresh their databases, and find that your address is no longer visible on the Web:
    • If you have a website, open your Contacts page in a browser such as Firefox, and then examine the page source. This is usually found under View>Page Source. On the source window, Press Control-F (find) and enter an @ symbol. Press enter. Keep pressing F3 (search again) until you’ve found all @’s in the code. Some may be programming code which you can disregard, but others may be recognizable addresses, perhaps yours. Make a note of any which look like email addresses. Repeat for any other pages likely to have ‘mail us’ links. If any are found, contact your website maintainer, and ask WHY these addresses haven’t been properly protected against spam-harvesting. Insist that protection IS applied.
    • Search for your email address in Google, or any major search engine. Because of the way search engines work not all hits will actually contain your address, but you should open and examine at least the first ten hits or so. You might want to look-at the page source (as above) of any hits which look like they contain unprotected addresses. If you find that the source of a listed page HAS got your address on it, then the spammers can also find it in a very similar way, but using automated software, so it’s vulnerable to spamming. You need to contact the owners of all such pages and get them to remove or protect your address.

Warnings

  • Never respond to spam (not even to “remove” your e-mail address from the list). They will only send you more because they know you exist. Responding only promotes their cause, to sell you something you didn’t order. They live off 6% of responders. Also, the reply address is probably fake. It is very easy to fake it and you would probably be complaining to an innocent user.
  • Be aware that anybody can see the email sent to mailinator.com if they can guess what ‘name’ you used. Also, mailinator.com only keeps emails for a few hours, and automatically strips any attachments.

Tags: ,

Related posts

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 at 4:32 pm and is filed under Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.