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Fight Spam

  After about five years with the same e-mail address, I finally had to pull the plug on my easy-to-remember e-mail address in October of 2003 because of spam. I was receiving over 100 spam messages per day, and wading through them to find my important e-mail was taking more and more of my time. Because of the applications I must use for my e-mail, filtering is not a good option for me. Yes, it upsets me that spammers forced me into changing to a cryptic e-mail address, but now that I'm smarter about what not to do, hopefully my new address will last longer. If it starts getting high volumes of spam, you can bet that I'll change it again.

If you've forgotten my address, you can still send me e-mail.

Below I give my tips on how to avoid spam. I base these on a couple of articles: (1) The MIT Technology Review, July/August 2003, cover story, "Spam Wars," and (2) The Consumer Reports issue from August 2003 (also the cover story).

1. First and foremost, treat your and other people's e-mail addresses like the private information that they are. Don't publish e-mail addresses on any web site and don't e-mail them to strangers or people you are not sure you trust.

2. If you can get a second e-mail account for free (for example, on yahoo.com or hotmail.com), use that account for registering with services or businesses that you are not sure you trust to keep your e-mail address private.

3. Try to be judicious when sending e-mail to a large list of people. Putting a ton of e-mail addresses in your TO list "cross-pollenates" e-mail addresses, making all of these addresses available to the entire group you are sending to. Consider using the BCC field for your large list since it will not display the complete list of recipients to all recipients. One drawback to using BCC is that some people may filter out your e-mail if their address is not explicitly in the TO or CC field (as a measure against spam!).

4. Choose an e-mail address that is not easy to guess. Spammers can get your e-mail address even if it isn't published anywhere because they can guess at it, trying millions of combinations and keeping the ones that don't bounce.

5. Don't ever answer a spam mail or even read it. Don't unsubscribe. Just delete it. I don't even recommend that you bounce it, as the return address on most spam is forged (this happened to me).

6. Don't forward chain letters, petitions, warnings, etc. These could be ploys to collect addresses.

7. If you like, forward your spam to the FTC's spam collection address at uce@ftp.gov.

8. Filter your e-mail. Consumer Reports reviewed several filtering programs, including Stata Labs SAProxy, Mailshell's SpamCatcher, Blue Squirrel's Spam Sleuth, Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2003, MailFrontier's Matador, Sunbelt's iHateSpam, FireTrust's MailWasher Pro, McAfee's SpamKiller, and InterMute's Spam Subtract. I have listed them in the order that they were rated (best to worst), though all but InterMute were rated at least "good."

9. If you have a registered domain name, your e-mail address can be harvested from your registration information at the whois server from your registrar. You might consider using a service from domainsbyproxy.com which keeps your registration information private for $9/year. If you don't want to go that far, then use a registrar like wild west domains, which makes it difficult for automatic scripts to look up your information on their whois server.


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