How to stop spam and yet get the email you want: Internet ScamBusters #66
Today’s issue is about one of the most irritating and time-consuming problems that we all deal with day in and day out: ‘spam.’
We’ll show you 10 ways to reduce the amount of spam you get, while still getting the email you want to receive (which has become an almost bigger problem to many subscribers)!
But first, if you like Internet ScamBusters, we’d like to ask for your support in three ways:
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OK. On to this month’s very timely issue…
10 Ways to Reduce spam and Still Get the Email You Want
spam has become such a large problem for so many people that they just want any kind of relief.
It’s not uncommon for many of us to get thousands of spam messages a day!
Unfortunately, many of us now spend so much time filtering and deleting spam that our biggest concern has become that we’ll lose messages we really want.
The email sorting ritual has become quite stressful as the risk of losing important messages grows.
The cure can be as bad as the disease. This is especially true of some filtering solutions with over-zealous criteria.
It May Be Time for a Change of Priority
Until now, the focus has been on avoiding the spam. For example, taking steps to not having your email address harvested, not replying to ‘spammers,’ and filtering for potential spam keywords and phrases so that you don’t receive unwanted messages.
These are all still very important techniques, and we discuss them below.
There’s a growing trend toward a different approach: one that focuses on the email messages we want to receive instead of the ones we don’t.
Now that the pendulum has swung so far toward the “undesirable” extreme, it may be time to concentrate on ensuring we get the messages we want.
There are two main ways to achieve this:
1. Qualifying the MESSAGES you receive.
Uses filters to separate the messages you want into dedicated mailboxes that automatically act as a filing system.
Everything left in your main in-box (or a special email box that may be called ‘Bulk’ or ‘Suspect,’ etc.) becomes suspect and can be skimmed in case any wanted messages have been missed. Then the rest can be trashed.
2. Qualifying the SENDERS of messages.
These often use the so-called “challenge/response” system.
(We have a number of problems with “challenge/response” systems that we’ll describe below. Please do consider these issues before you implement such a system.)
Qualifying can be done in several ways. One is the now familiar white list, which only allows mail from senders you’ve listed to reach you.
Another is the use of verification codes — such as PureMail’s “stamps,” which combine a key and a time stamp for added security — which you issue to approved senders.
Balance is the Key.
There’s no perfect system for any of these approaches. Like most things in life, it’s really a question of balance… achieving the best possible result for the least possible time, effort, cost or risk.
Here’s a list of 10 ways you can reduce spam and still get the mail you want:
1. Remove your email address from your website
If you list or link to your email address, you can expect to be spammed. Address-harvesting robots will spider your site and extract them. So remove them wherever possible and use web-based forms instead.
2. Conceal your email address on your websites.
There are several free online services that will hide your email address by turning it into HTML code that only your browser can make sense of. (This may only be a temporary advantage as spammer software becomes more sophisticated.)
For more on a free email address cloaking script, visit:
3. Consider subscribing to a spam Prevention Service
These range from the good to the bad to the downright ugly, and from free to fee-based.
As we mentioned above, many of these services are “challenge response” services. This means they require that people who send you email to respond by clicking, visiting a website, and/or typing in a code that only a human (not a spam bot) could do correctly.
Unfortunately, many people — and most newsletter publishers — simply refuse to participate. That’s because it requires people who are sending you legitimate email to take THEIR time to ensure YOU get email.
In fact, many of us consider it rude for you to even ask.
Imagine a newsletter publisher with 100,000 subscribers. If even 20% installed this kind of system, that would mean the publisher would have 20,000 challenge/response requests. If each took only half a minute, that would be 167 hours — or more than four weeks to reply!
Not very likely…
Many people get hundreds (or thousands) of personal and business emails each day. So, we simply cannot take the time to respond to these types of requests.
There are also systems that don’t require the sender to do anything. If you’re interested in a prevention service, we recommend you look into these systems rather than the challenge/response systems.
Shop around for the features that best suit your needs and budget.
Check with your ISP and web host to see if they use anti-spam software or services already.
Tip: Make sure that any software or system you select gives YOU control of which email you get (and doesn’t automatically erase messages).
On a related note, safeguard your newsletter and discussion list subscriptions. If you, your ISP or web host use spam filters or white lists, be sure to let them know that you want to receive messages from any newsletters or discussion lists that you subscribe to.
Do it as soon as you sign up… otherwise, it’s very easy not to notice that you’re not receiving them.
For anti-spam software reviews for Windows, visit: http://email.about.com/cs/winspamreviews/tp/anti-spam.htm
For more on anti-spam software reviews, visit: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,78945,00.asp
4. Use email filters intelligently
Some email software, such as Eudora Pro, allows you to create multiple filters, mailboxes and personalities for sorting, filtering and filing incoming and outgoing messages.
The advantage of this is that you can set filters based on senders’ names, email addresses, subject lines, body text, headers and more.
You can even automate reply messages, forwarding, redirection and more.
(Eudora’s personalities function works best with multiple email addresses — see below.)
Using filters is key to managing your email effectively. It may take a short time to figure out how to do this, but it’s definitely worthwhile.
For more on negative spam filtering, visit:
For more anti-spam filtering information, visit:
5. Download free filter sets
You can download free, updateable filter sets for Eudora and other popular email clients from several sources online. Most are easy to install and well written. You can create and add your own filters, too.
For more on Eudora filtering instructions and free filter sets, visit:
6. Avoid filter conflicts
As time passes and your filter system expands to match the growing number of key words and phrases used by spammers, be careful that you don’t unwittingly create conflicts between individual filters.
It’s possible for messages with conflicting or multiple keywords or phrases to end up in the trash if your email client can’t resolve the conflict.
Keep filters as uncomplicated as you can. Simplicity works best.
7. Use Positive Filtering
Set up filters and mailboxes for each person or organization you want to receive email from, so that incoming mail from them is automatically sorted into their mailboxes ready for you to read, process and file.
What’s left in your in-box can then be checked for any missed mail that you want to keep — and the rest can be trashed or sorted manually.
This helps to keep your in-box from building up to unmanageable levels.
8. Multiple email addresses
Consider acquiring multiple email addresses for different purposes. This helps you to identify different sources and senders.
For instance, you may have one for personal use only by friends, family or colleagues that is never used to request information or to subscribe to newsletters, discussion lists, newsgroups, etc.
Another might be used just for sales inquiries or orders, or for making online purchases.
This can be arranged through your ISP, web host or through any number of online email service providers.
Even free mail services like Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail can be used for this purpose.
9. Disposable email addresses
You can subscribe to services online that provide you with disposable addresses that can be deleted if they begin to attract spam messages.
For information on what you need to know about disposable addresses, visit:
For reviews of disposable address services, visit:
Our favorite company that has a free version is:
10. Webmail accounts with unlimited aliases
One of the best ways to manage incoming mail is through a webmail account that provides you with unlimited aliases.
Aliases are “phantoms” that redirect messages to another address. The aliases can be filtered to identify mail from specific senders, or to see who is sharing or selling your email address without your knowledge or consent.
You can create unlimited email addresses on your domain to suit any purpose.
For example, each newsletter or discussion list you subscribe to could be identified with a unique subscription address like
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Many of our subscribers already do this.)
If one of these addresses appears on mail from other sources, you have a starting point for tracing how they happen to have that address on their mailing list.
Using these ten techniques can make a huge difference in the amount of time you waste dealing with spam.
That’s it for now. Wishing you a spam-reduced email box.