These days when the word spam is mentioned, people tend to make a face. Not because of fond memories of the potted meat product, but because of the nuisance of unwanted email, which is the 21st century definition of spam.
Spam may come from someone you know in the form of chain letters or forwarded urban legends, or it may come from complete strangers. Some spam has viruses attached. But mostly spam is just a time-waster. Not only does spam waste your time but it also wastes valuable resources such as network bandwidth, space on email servers, and productivity costs in the time it takes you to delete the unwanted messages.
So here are some tips to combat spam:
- Never, ever give out your email address on a public Internet forum, such as a discussion group or a blog. There are billions of zombie-like computers that scour the Internet looking for email addresses to add to spam lists. I have a Yahoo account that I use specifically for Web sites that require an email address, so that I do not get as much spam to my work and personal email accounts.
- Or disguise your email address, joe at yahoo dot com, will allow people to understand your email address, but will prevent automated searches from finding your address. Remember that computers are looking for a standard email format, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Block images from your email. In Outlook, do not use the Preview Pane or Auto Preview. Most free, web-based email services will allow you to block images via the Options settings. Images can contain hidden messages that when viewed are sent back to spammers to let them know they have found a valid email address, resulting in…more spam.
- Do not click the link at the bottom of any email messages to Remove Me From List. This is an instant way to let spammers know they have found a valid email address. Remember spammers get big bucks for real or validated email addresses. Don’t let them know you exist. Cyberspace is the one place where you want to be unpopular.
- Delete, without opening, any messages that look suspicious. If it looks like spam, it probably is. If you do not know the sender, it is probably spam. If you receive email from the FBI or CIA it is probably spam.
See the October 2004 issue of InfoBytes for more details on reducing spam and instructions for using Outlook junk mail filters to reduce spam.
For more information on spam and efforts to combat it, check out the following sites: