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How To Avoid Being A Spam Target

Jun 1, 2008
In the last few years the amount of spam mail has risen extraordinarily. Today the majority of mail messages that are tried to be delivered is spam. Nevertheless the amount of spam that is seen by end users is lower than some time ago because spam filters have evolved and improved their quality. Of course spam filters have disadvantages also. There is always a small risk that you lose messages that are not spam (false positives) and spam filters can be a considerable resource drag.

If there would be a way to avoid handling all these spam messages (or at least most of them) on the mail server, your mail server would require less CPU power, less disk space for log files, less traffic and the chances for false positives would be much lower if you could adjust your spam filter to be less aggressive or even completely avoid the need to use it. There are a number of things you can do to achieve this. These tips only work for a new email address or a new domain. If you already receive lots of spam it is nearly impossible to get out of all the spam databases.

Hide your email address. Spammers only will be able to send you spam if they know your email address. If you don't need to make your email address public, just give it to your friends and business partners but don't put it on a web site.

Make it hard to guess your email address. Address brokers and spammers (or their software) often try to guess email addresses to be able to sell them or send spam to them. Make your address hard to guess. If you own the domain example.com don't use simple addresses like bob@example.com. Use a combination of your first name and your surname or add a number. You might also consider to use a subdomain for mail. Your new address might be something like bobr@mail.example.com.

Use a contact form on your web site. To avoid publishing your email address on your web site you can use a contact form. That way your visitors are still able to send you inquiries via your web site but spammers will not be able to harvest your email address. To avoid getting spam via the contact form you can use some form of captcha.

If you have to publish your email address make it hard to read for machines. In some countries companies are required to publish their email address on their web site. If you have to do this make it in a way that is hard to read for machines. If you put your email address into a gif image and show that image on your site, customers will be able to see your address but harvesting robots will not. Your visitors will not be able to send you mail by clicking on your email address but will have to write your address into their email client manually.

Don't put a bunch of addresses in the Cc field. If you send the same mail to a big number of receivers, don't put all their email addresses in the To or Cc field (especially if some of the receivers don't know some of the others). That way you would give all of the addresses to all of the receivers. It is better to either use the Bcc field or mailing list software. Instruct your mail partners to do the same.

Use a different email address for newsletters and shopping sites. Of course sometimes you have to give your email address to people you don't know. You might want to subscribe to a newsletter or order something from an online shop. It is advisable to use a second address for these cases so you don't have to use your good address. If you have your own domain you might even consider to use a new email address for every shop or newsletter. If one of these email addresses starts receiving spam you can deactivate it without affecting your other mail contacts.

Last but not least - Never buy anything from a spammer. Spamming is done because it is profitable. That's the only reason. If nobody would buy the products advertised in spam mails, spammers would not earn anything and would stop spamming. So the most important individual measure against spam is still and will be forever: Never buy anything from a spammer!
About the Author
Andreas Stiasny runs a small ISP business and has more than 10 years of experience in configuring mail and web servers. For more information about spam reduction please visit reduce-spam.com.
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