I would love to tell you that I have a silver bullet to stop your spam problem. Unfortunately, one does not exist. Yes, there are hardware and software solutions that are getting pretty good, but there is a cost there.
Unfortunately, there is no easy, inexpensive remedy; once on a spammers list, you’ll be fighting it forever. They trade, barter or sell their list to other spammers and you can never get off. A change of address is the only sure way. A host of anti spam products will certainly help, but you will always have to wade through the junk folder to see if there is a “false positive” in there that you want; and learn to “whitelist” friends, colleagues and discussion lists that you do want.
Some email providers are more prone to spam than others. This is because of a technique known as “Directory Harvesting”. Gmail is especially prone to this and many people have found they are getting spam just from signing up, without ever having sent or received an email!
Spammers know about Gmail and its popularity. Directory Harvesting is the process of sending email to every possible combination of letters with the @domainname after it.
Again it’s a matter of payoff for the spammers. They know it’s popular so they can write a program to send emails to practically every combination of common names with the @gmail suffix (I’m deliberately leaving off the .com) and know that a high percentage will be real email addresses.
After they hit the common names, they will go after other combinations. Therefore, it might help if you create an email like j#smith@gmail instead of jsmith@gmail. Unfortunately, this might also confuse the people you want to share email with and maybe even trigger their spam filter into labeling your email as spam.
Why, you ask? Because spammers many times change their “from” address daily, again using random characters, so as to foil your attempt to “blacklist” them! (Better anti spam software will allow you to block an entire domain, but many block just individual addresses.)
If you have a new email address and want to stay clean or at least want to prevent your problem from getting any worse, I have some recommendations for you to follow.
7 Steps to Prevent Spam from finding you
1. Guard your email address. Don’t give it out everywhere. Use throw away free addresses (msn, gmail, yahoo) whenever possible. Perhaps a second email account specifically for online shopping or even free subscriptions. There are also sources of temporary email addresses good for a few minutes or days.
These are just a sample, many more such services are out there. Always use SiteAdvisor, a free service from McAfee, when searching for a service like this (or any searching for that matter). Go to “green” sites only. (See http://www.freecomputerconsultant.com/siteadvisor.html for details on SiteAdvisor.)
Give out your real email only to trusted people or companies.
2. Beware of friends and family members that send out emails to large groups without using “BCC” or blind carbon copy. Those emails then get forwarded on and on, with YOUR email address there to be harvested from any of those computers that happen to be infected. If you know someone is a problem, give them your gmail, yahoo, or msn address instead of your good one.
3. NEVER put your email address on the web in it’s normal format. Use some kind of camouflage, at minimum “[email protected]” with a note to remove the abcxyz. Something. Be creative. This goes for newsgroups especially.
4. Be courteous of other peoples email address. Learn to use BCC (blind carbon copy) and when forwarding emails, strip out all extraneous information, especially email addresses. Then encourage them to do the same for you.
5. NEVER open an email you know is spam. Many emails include “phone home” programming that lets the spammer know that yours was a valid address when opened. That’s in addition to the risk of virus, spyware and even serious damage to your computer’s usability.
6. NEVER click on the “remove me from your list” in a spam email. Again, that won’t get you off the list, just confirm that yours is a real address so they can send you more.
7. Protect your computer. Always use up to date anti virus software and scan regularly for other types of spyware/malware. Some malicious software programs are designed to scan your address book and other areas of your PC looking for email addresses to add to their owners spam list.
Software and Hardware Spam Filters
These filters, which can be expensive if hardware based, can certainly reduce spam significantly. But no matter what you do, there is always the chance that a filter will create a “false positive”, that is, mark a good email as spam.
What that means is that you won’t see that email unless you go looking for false positives in some kind of special folder or quarantine area.
For this reason, I absolutely do not recommend any email or spam filtering service that does not give you access to suspected spam – no filter is perfect.
And last but not least, try not to get too attached to your email address – just in case you need to do a “change of address”. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s the only option.
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