How to stop spam emails

March 3, 2008

If you are running a small business or work as a freelancer, you will most probably have already received spam emails at some point. Apart from clogging up your inbox, spam emails can also carry viruses and spyware so it is very important to know how to protect yourself.

We have been receiving some emails from users worried about receiving spam so we have decided to write a short article to provider some information on this topic, as well as some practical tips on how to protect yourself and your business from spam emails. We hope you find it useful.

What exactly is spam?

Spam email is simply unwanted, unsolicited email; it is sometimes also known as junk email.

Some examples of spam email:

  1. Online pharmacies
  2. Adverts for gambling sites
  3. Promotion emails for ridiculously cheap, pirated software
  4. Adverts for pornographic material
  5. Advertisements for ‘Herbal Viagra’ and other non-existent products.

How do spammers get your email address?

The most important step towards stopping spam is to understand the techniques spammers use to get hold of your email address. Unfortunately spammers use many different ways to collect email addresses – the most common methods used are:

  1. Website harvesting – spammers use special programmes called spiders (similar to search engines spiders) to collect any email addresses found embedded in web pages.
  2. Guessing – spammers use automated software to generate probable email addresses
  3. Dodgy websites – if someone registers on a dodgy website, the site owner can sell the email addresses collected to spammers
  4. Bogus spam block services – these fake services ask the user to enter their email address and offer to block spam but in reality they actually do exactly the opposite: collect email addresses that are then sold to spammers.
  5. Spyware/viruses – these are malicious pieces of software installed against a users will on his/her computer and amongst other things, can be used to collect email addresses or send spam emails

How to spot spam

Filtering your emails manually for spam can be a time-consuming process so if you are getting a large number of spam emails, it is recommended to use a mail filter to block the majority of spam automatically. Here are some common spam characteristics to help you detect spam manually:

  1. Emails from people/email addresses you don’t know
  2. Offer products for sale and contain urgent calls to action ‘Buy V1agra online today and get 70% off’
  3. Subject line of the email does not match the contents – this is designed to get around the filters that only check the subject line of the emails.
  4. Contain strange misspellings e.g. ‘V1agra’ (designed to fool junk mail filters)

Tips for dealing with spam

  1. Use Junk Email filters – most of the web mail providers today (e.g. hotmail, yahoo, gmail), as well as Microsoft 2003 and 2007, offer junk mail protection. Ensure that this is switched on.
  2. Do no click on any links in spam emails or download images that might be embedded in the emails. Doing so will only confirm to spammers that your email address is active and valid and will result in more spam.
  3. Do not click on ‘remote’ or ‘unsubscribe’ or reply to spam email
  4. Do not list your main email address on internet directories or any other sites where your information can be publicly available. If you do need an email to register on such sites, it is best to create a 2nd email address using a free web mail service and use this for these sites instead of your main email address
  5. Do not open attachments in spam mail
  6. If you use a spam filter, always report/flag junk mail that gets through so that the filter can stop these emails next time
  7. If you can, pick a longer email address that is more difficult to guess
  8. If you are receiving a big amount of spam even after using filters, the simplest solution might be to change your email address. Before deciding to change your email address, ensure that your filter preferences is set to ‘high junk mail protection’ or you might want to try a ‘spam blocking’ service (see below).
  9. Using a ‘spam blocking’ service (like spam arrest). These services can help reduce spam by asking everyone who emails you to verify themselves by entering a numerical code on a web page; unless the sender verifies themselves the email will not be delivered to you (each sender only has to be done once). While this can be an effective method for reducing spam, it’s worth bearing that such methods might be inconvenient for genuine senders and hence might result in you not receiving some genuine emails.
  10. Do no post your email on your website – it is better to either use an online form for people to contact you. If you need to post your email address for some reason, either post it without using the @ sign (e.g. example_email [at] exampledomain [dot] com) or, even better, use an image to display your email address (i.e. do not post your email as plain text).
  11. When registering online even on legitimate sites, look out for any option along the lines of ‘Share my contact information with selected 3rd parties’ and ensure that you do NOT opt-in for such schemes. Although this is technically not spam in itself (since you are giving your consent), in practice you will have no control of which companies your email is passed/sold to and what their email practices are and could lead to your email address eventually falling into the wrong hands.
  12. Always have an updated anti-virus and firewall installed on your computer and conduct frequent spyware checks to detect and remove any suspicious/malicious programs.
  13. Do no install software if you are unsure of its legitimacy/source. A lot of the less well-known browser toolbars these days (or other freeware) also install software on your computer that will result in a spam mail. In general, be particularly cautious about 100% free software (if it’s free there is probably some other way for the author to make money, which is possibly related with advertising/collecting data).

2 Responses to “How to stop spam emails”

  1. Help Says:

    Thanks this is good info

  2. Au Pair Says:

    very nice web site. My English is not so good, so I do not understandt it well, but it seems very good. Thanks

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