The following 10 steps offer a very common sense (though often overlooked) approach to avoiding spam. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll notice a drastic decrease in the number of annoying messages that make it into your inbox…
01. Give your primary email address to friends and family only. Give a different address to others on the Internet. Although this second address will be more likely to receive unwanted emails, it is more disposable and can allow you to better control the emails you receive. Your ISP almost certainly offers multiple email addresses, and Yahoo, Microsoft and Google all offer free web based email accounts. These are great to use as disposable addresses.
02. Make sure your email address is difficult to guess. Don’t use just a common name or common word(s). Spammers use software programs to generate random email addresses based on common names and words in the dictionary.
It is NOT uncommon for a brand new email address to start receiving spam almost immediately after it has been created. This happens because even though the address is new, spammers will take a previously used user name (eg. email@example.com) and apply it to a different domain (eg. jdoe@another_domain.com).
In addition, common email addresses may have been used previously and may still be on old mailing lists.
03. Do not post your primary email address in newsgroups, bulletin boards or chat rooms. Spammers use software programs, often referred to as spiders or bots, to search for and harvest email addresses from public forums. To prevent this, use a secondary email address or alter the primary address so that it is not deliverable in that format. For example, if your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, you could post it as jdoe@TAKE-THIS-OUT.whatever.com or “jdoe at whatever dot com”.
04. Do not post your primary email address on a Web site. Spiders also scan Web sites for email addresses. You can alter your email address to help protect it but remember that email harvesting software can read HTML code, so be sure to remove the “mailto:” tag.
05. Do not reply to unsolicited emails. If the email does not appear to be from a trustworthy or legitimate source, delete it without replying. A federal anti-spam law called The Can Spam Act, went into effect January 1, 2004, requiring a functioning “opt out” link or a legitimate “reply to unsubscribe” email address. Some unscrupulous spammers have ignored this law and continue to trick recipients into unwittingly responding to a fake “opt out” link, which actually verifies their email address as a valid one. Therefore, it is still strongly recommended that recipients of unsolicited email carefully consider whether an “opt out” or “reply to unsubscribe” seems legitimate and act accordingly.
07. When signing up for a mailing list, read the terms and policies. Signing up should result in wanted or solicited email, but the list provider should disclose whether signing up will result in the sale or trade of your email address to other parties.
08. Let friends and family know that you do not wish to have them share your email address.
09. Keep your PCs anti-virus software up-to-date and install a firewall. Unprotected high-speed Internet connections are vulnerable to infection by viruses that are programmed to open gateways, also known as proxies, to relay spam. By not keeping your PC secure, you may unwittingly be a courier for spam. There’s a good chance your ISP offers free or discounted security software – this article can help you figure out if yours does.
10. Check “sent mail” folders for suspicious messages. Take responsibility for your PC by checking your “sent mail” folder regularly to ensure that all sent mail is really being sent by you and not by a spammer using an open gateway (proxy) on your computer.