How to Protect Your Email Mailbox from Spam

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Spam is the electronic equivalent of junk mail. Sometimes it takes the relatively benign form of companies that send you unwanted advertisements for their products or websites, but at other times it can harm your computer by installing viruses, by mining your personal data from your hard drive or by taking your friends’ email addresses from your address book to spam them.

Here are some tips for eliminating spam from your mailbox:

  • Never type your email address on message boards or elsewhere on the internet. Spammers send bots - autonomous software robots – to travel through the internet and collect all email addresses they can find. 

  • Similarly, do not give your address to people and companies that you hardly know. Spammers are quite clever about pretending to offer legitimate services in order to get your email address from you. The best idea is to get a temporary or disposable email address that you can give new companies until you have verified that they are legitimate. Most disposable mailboxes are even free.

  • Use a complex email address that a bot will not be able to guess. For example, mailbox@xyz.com is likely to receive a lot of spam because a bot can guess that it might exist. So is john.smith@xyz.com. But bots are unlikely to try hemliwu8521@xyz.com, because “hemliwu” is not a word found in the dictionary.

  • If you want to be contacted by visitors to your website, use a contact form rather than placing your address on the site. Then you can still be contacted, but your email address remains private. 

  • If you absolutely have to put your email address on your website, then use a service that requires the solving of a captcha before the address become visible. For those unsure of what a  captcha is, it refers to when you’re asked to “type the characters in the image below”, and shown blurry squiggles in “the image.” The point of captcha is precisely that it can be read by humans but not by bots.

  • The most common way to combat email spam is to sign up to an email service provider that includes a spam protection service. The overwhelming majority of email providers provide this as a free part of their service. These include Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and almost all Canadian internet service providers.

  • Even if you do make use of such a provider, some spam might still slip through their filters. If this happens, the correct course of action is to report it to your email provider, without opening it, of course. The information which you give them will enable them to block that specific mail as spam, but might also allow them to locate the spammer and take action to remove her from the internet.

  • If your email service provider does not offer its own spam protection, or if its protection still lets through a lot of spam, your next step is to find your own software to do the blocking. Most typical antivirus packages include a spam protection component. As in the case of email providers, you can help the anti-virus providers by reporting spam that they fail to block.

 

Spam can really ‘bug’ up your inbox, but following these steps will help you to eliminate the spam that you are currently receiving.