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Fighting Spam

The Fight Against Spam is a good fight!

However, it’s a loosing battle….

Unfortunately, if you think spam just “magically appears” you are completely wrong. The spammer has to get your e-mail somehow, and if you are making it easy for them to do so, then there is nothing we can do to help you. Just how do they get your e-mail address? Well, here’s a few of the most popular ways (though not all).

1. Forwarding jokes. You are thinking, “but I only send them to my friends”. Let’s say, you send a joke, say 10 friends, each of them forward to 10 of their friends. That’s 100 more. Now there are a total of 111 email addresses in the TO block. Easily read by anyone who receives the e-mail. Now you can easily see that you don’t know all 111 people, but they have your e-mail address. Well what if one of them IS a spammer? Or worse, what if they sell e-mail addresses to a spammer. For say $5 per e-mail address. That $555.00!! Easy money. You have no idea how tempting this is when I get such joke e-mails sent to me from a bunch of folks.

2. Signing up with websites with memberships, such as a community website, shopping site or auction site. Many of these sites will either have some sort of privacy clause that states they will send you advertising or sometime publish your info on their site for others to view (bad idea).

3. Signing up for mailing lists. Read the fine print, a lot of times they will state that you are not only going to be getting their newsletter, but info from other sites as well. Whether you like it or not.

4. Having your e-mail address listed on a website (personal or otherwise). You want folks to e-mail you for your services or help, yet you are advertising it to the world. Even if you encrypt it, web bots and spiders are getting wise to these encryption methods. Hundreds of thousands of these bots and spiders crawl webpages vigorously 24/7. Harvesting your e-mail addresses and sending the info back to their home server for the spammer to use.

5. Having an easy to guess e-mail address. Such as john@myisp.net,etc…. If you make it easy for the spammer to simply guess or use a name generator, you are certainly doomed to get spam. Sure it’s nice when you own your own domain and have the nice ability to have whatever e-mail address you want. But it’s better to not make it so easy.

6. Auto-Responders / Vacation Responders – Sure it’s nice that when you go out of town or on vacation to have any one who sends you an email to get an auto-reply from you saying you’ll be out of town and will return on a set date. However, this has very bad repercussions. Sure, your friends, family, co-workers or customers will be notifed that you are not at your desk, but any spam that slips in, will also get a validation to your email address. Then when the spammer realizes this, they’ll sell your email address to other lists and by the time you get back to your desk, you’ll have a virtually unusable email address packed with spam!

7. The all time no-no of spam. Once you start getting spam, people make the greatest mistake of clicking the link in the spam that states “Opt Out” or “remove me” links. THIS IS A HUGE NO-NO!!! DO NOT CLICK THAT! By clicking that link, you’ve just told the spammer they have a good e-mail address. Even IF they do take you off of their list, they will sell your e-mail to hundreds of others and you’ll see a sudden increase in spam e-mails. The ONLY exception to this rule is if the e-mail message came from a legitamate company with whom you have a pre-existing business relationship.

Anti-Spam tools:

There are a number of anti-spam tools available. Example being software such as “MailWasher” http://www.mailwasher.net You can use this to preview your e-mail first then mark the spam and delete it before downloading the rest of your e-mail. Nice tool, but there are drawbacks. First of all, most of these tools rely on a main list that is hosted on a different server. Thus it has to call home to update itself, and if you don’t it will get out of date and spammers will find way to get spam to you anyway. Secondly, most of these so called anti-spam tools cause other folks spam. Using a feature they call “bounce”. This rejects the spam, but sends it back to the originating e-mail address. Most of the time, this is a false e-mail address not belonging to the spammer. Otherwise known as a spoofed e-mail address. Now you are spamming some innocent person, or worst of all your ISP’s server, and most likely violating the terms of service with your own ISP. This could get your internet account suspended and/or terminated with your ISP. Bad idea. If you use such a tool, you should disable the bounce feature.

A Better option, though not fool proof, is if your ISP has their own spam filter system. This will block “blacklisted” e-mails from coming at all. Click here to setup spam filtering rules for your email program that takes advantage of Widomaker’s SpamAssasin configuration. Other e-mails that “may be considered spam” are simply marked with a SPAM in the subject line. Because even though you consider ads from someone spam, there are others out there who want that type of e-mail. So, it can only be marked. This will allow you to use an e-mail program, such as Eudora, Outlook Express, Netscape or Mozilla and be able to setup spam filtering based on the subject line containing the word SPAM. It’s best to set this up so that it moves the spam to a folder for the spam you get. This way you can check it out and make sure they didn’t accidentally mark an e-mail from your friend as SPAM. This can be done just when your friend titles their e-mail to you with words like “great deal” or “finance help”. So you don’t just want to have it automatically deleted or you may miss some of your legitimate e-mails.

There are good e-mail programs available now that can help you fight spam as well. The best on the market at this time, is Mozilla and Mozilla Thunderbird. These products are essentially the same, save the fact that Mozilla is an entire suite (Browser, e-mail, html editor and chat medium), whereas Thunderbird is a stand alone e-mail client. But the features are unbeatable. They have built in spam controls that actually you can teach. Most spam will come in and immediately be moved to the “junk” folder. Others you can tag as junk and the program learns from your marking these e-mails. I highly recommend Mozilla or Thunderbird for your Spam protection.

Though the all time best way to not get spam is to prevent it from the start.

These are time tested and true ways to avoid spam. No measure is fool proof, but this is the best suggested way to go if you do not want spam.

1. Get a new e-mail address. Don’t make it super easy to guess. If your name is brian, make your e-mail briankw (middle and last initial) or bkwilliams (first and middle intials) or brian11243 (add a number of sorts to the end). This will make it harder to guess or use a name generator to find you.

2. Only give your e-mail address out to trusted friends, family and co-workers. If you are smart, you’ll have them follow these same practices and this will really help cut down on the spam factor.

3. Do not forward jokes or stupid stuff. Though if you are addicted to this sort of e-mail fun, then at least do yourself a favor. Use the BCC field and not the TO field to send it out to your friends. This will hide the other e-mail addresses and make it so the recipients can’t see the e-mails you want to protect. This will not show the other e-mail addresses and comes as “Undisclosed Recipient”.

4. If you want to sign up for a newsletter or do some sort of online shopping or join an online community….. Use a free webmail for this. Such as Yahoo, Hotmail or Google Mail (Gmail). There are a lot of free webmails you can sign up for. Find one and use it for all your online activities that involve a 3rd party website like This will allow you to login periodically and remove the spam. And still allow you to get the content you seek. If it’s important, you can forward that to your real e-mail address for safe keeping. But keep your family safe from all those advertisement and spam e-mails.

5. If you do own your own website or want to accept e-mail from a website, DO NOT PROVIDE A LINK. Such as mailto:fred1454@whateverdomain.com or fred1454 at whateverdomain dot com. Bots and spiders will get you for sure. Instead, use a form. This will allow you to hide and encrypt your e-mail address from the bots. I suggest either formmail.pl or better yet, if you know PHP, then you can have your e-mail address called from database well away from the bots reach. And always encrypt your e-mail address. Use of UNICODE is helpful and there are online generators out there that can aide you in doing this.

6. If you are in fact, going to be away for an extended period of time, do not use an auto-reply or vacation response system. Instead, use your address book to find your important contacts, gather them up in your BCC field (as stated in rule 3), and send them a blanket message letting them know you’ll be away and that their emails will have to wait for your return. This way, you aren’t letting spammers fill up your inbox, or selling your email address to other spammers.

If you keep true to these practices, you will be good. Granted, no system is fool proof. But this will keep your spam intake down to a minimum if at all. Our team has used this practice for years and has worked very well. Just remember, if you do start getting spam, move it to a new folder using rules and DO NOT CLICK the “opt out” or you will be certainly doomed to have to start all over.

Now you know….

Denver
Widomaker Technical Support Staff

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