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“How To” Avoid Spam

This article was updated from the one I published on xrdsportal.com…

Spam is a never-ending nuisance that requires everyone involved to help out. The main way to prevent Spam is to not let your e-mail address reach the spammers in the first place. Now, while this is easier said than done, I will provide a few tips here that will greatly help you avoid spam in the future.

“Where did they get my address from?”

Spammers don’t really even need your address. They can mount what is called a dictionary attack, this attack sends millions of emails to random addresses at the mail server. The vast majority of the email addresses won’t be valid, but some will. By automatically logging the addresses that don’t bounce back as “undeliverable”, the spammer can build up a database of real addresses over time.

“Why did I receive it when it was addressed to somebody else?”

Junk e-mail will often have an address other than your own in the To: field. Sometimes this will be the name of a list on a remote server and sometimes this will be the address of somebody else altogether. This can cause confusion and give the impression that the e-mail has been delivered to the wrong address, this is not so. The To: field does not have to reflect the real delivery address at all because of features that have been developed for legit bulk email programs. In the case of email lists, the use of this feature is legitimate, but junk mailers will sometimes exploit this feature of e-mail for purposes of confusion and anonymity. The situation is very similar for From: fields also.

Why am I getting emails returned to me that I didn’t even send?

SMTP e-mail is trivially easy to forge. This is the root cause of the Spam problem in general and will be exploited by spammers and virus writers for years to come. You are probably receiving this e-mail because either a spammer has deliberately forged the “From” address of emails they sent to attempt to hide their true identity and used your e-mail address instead in order to deflect complaints elsewhere… OR, the original sender of the e-mail is a victim of a virus – many e-mail viruses are known to forge ‘From’ addresses – All these emails should be treated like every other piece of junk mail and simply deleted.

“This sounds hopeless, is there anything I can actually do about it?”

Create multiple email addresses! I personally use three… one for work, one for family & friends, one for use on the internet to “unknown” websites. I only check the last one if I am expecting an “email verification” or something to that effect. Other than that, I do not even look at the email account since it gets filled with spam.

While it is true that practically anyone who makes significant use of the Internet can become a potential target for junk mail and Spam. One thing you can do is to be more conservative about how you give out your private e-mail address(s). Below is a list of several things that you should be cautious of because they are the main source of a significant amount of Spam.

  1. Submitting your address to any websites, mailing lists, or newsletters. Many untrustworthy websites out there will share your e-mail address and demographic information with advertising companies with or without your knowledge.
  2. Do not forward virus alerts, AOL/Intel mergers, petitions, pyramid schemes, or any e-mail that promises to make wishes come true… These chain letters become a huge list of people susceptible to impulsive clicking and always end up in the spammers inbox at one point or another. Now they have your e-mail address on file, along with all your friends and family that you forwarded to…
  3. Do not EVER click on ANY links inside of a Spam e-mail. This includes any type of links claiming to “remove” you from the list. Do NOT click the links, they are lying. By clicking on any of the links, you are simply telling the spammer that your e-mail address is valid and they will continue to send you more Spam.
  4. When purchasing online products, services, or literature; be sure to actually READ the website’s “privacy policy”. If you can not find this policy, do not order anything from them with a private email address.

Read my other article: Virus, and Spam, and Phishing, OH MY! for more information on Spam.


About the author

RJ Ponzio

RJ founded Shore Web Tech LLC in 2011. The mission of Shore Web Tech (SWT) is to help small and medium local businesses take advantage of today's affordable technology solutions. RJ currently holds Google's "AdWords Qualified Individual" certification.

2 comments

  1. Ray Hohman - Wall

    RJ – First, a compliment on a fine job with some bona-fide pearls of future consideration.

    Second, a question – Do you know how some of these spammers are able to morph what appears to be an email into a Drug or Stock spam email, when the recipient first views the email?

    Finally, it is time for Crossroads to carve out another web site to send all company Open Houses and Flyers to a separate web site. Further, I am surprised to get Diane Turton and other REALTOR flyers on our web site as emails. I assume that is the reverse marketing from List-It – correct?

  2. RJ Ponzio

    The drug and stock spam emails are some of the most popular, I think what you are talking about is when the email apears to be normal but then a graphic, probably a progressive JPEG, is slowly downloaded displaying the stock or drug ad.

    As for carving out another website, could you explain that one a little more first?

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