So for the past several weeks, we’ve been talking at a very non-technical level about the various aspects of spam – what it is, why you should care, whether to report or not, whether to unsubscribe or not, etc. We’ve tried to keep our conversations free of geek-speak and at a level 100 to 200 because these posts haven’t been for email admins – they’ve been for email users.
But you’ve stuck with us for the whole series, and you’ve picked up a thing or two along the way, and your technical level has improved significantly. First, thanks for sticking with us. Second, congratulations on your progress. Now, we’re going to get a little more technical. In this post, we’re going to talk about the ways you can help to protect yourself against spam. Some will be software-based, others will be behavioral, but all will help keep spam out of your inbox.
Not all email services are created equally, and some do a much better job of blocking spam than others. Don’t assume that you have to pay (much) for a quality email service. Many of the major free services lead the industry in spam suppression. Some do supplement the free services with advertising, but that is a small price to pay for a mailbox relatively free of spam. If you prefer to use your ISP’s email service, ask them about what they do to help combat spam and see how they respond.
Many of the free email services expect you will use nothing more than a web browser to access your email, but they still provide you with ways to connect using POP3 or IMAP. Good email clients include strong spam filtering, and can add another level of protection to your inbox.
Take a close look at your antivirus software. The free service many vendors offer includes basic antivirus capabilities, but paying a small amount can buy you much more, including protection for your inbox. Not only will the antivirus software scan for malware in attachments, most also perform antispam and antimalware actions too.
Keep a throwaway account
Maintain an extra email account that you can use for “throw away” purposes, in case you have to provide an email address to register for something but you don’t want to subscribe to something. You can also use it for all those stores that ask for your email address, but that you really don’t care whether or not you really get their mailings.
Be careful who you give your email address to
See our previous post on this. You don’t have to give your email address to a clerk just because they ask for it. The fewer people you give it to, the less spam you will receive.
Use mailing lists
Whether you have a church group, a parents’ carpool list for your kids’ sporting teams, the PTA, or the HOA, make sure they use a mailing list instead of just putting everyone’s email address on the CC line. Ask, and if they don’t know what you mean, give them your throwaway address. Then, use one of the free distribution list services from Microsoft, Yahoo, or Google to set up a mailing list and volunteer it to your group. You’ll be doing everyone a favour.
Never, ever forward
You’ve probably received tons of those joke, funny story, sad story, etc. emails that start out with a “ha ha” and then are followed by hundreds and hundreds of email addresses that represent every single person who has also been forwarded that email. Eventually one or the other of two things is going to happen to all of those email addresses. Someone will use them to send out their own spam, or their computer will be infected by malware that harvests all the email addresses on that chain, including yours, and starts spewing spam out to all of them. If you must forward that story, delete all the email addresses between the “Hi” and the real content, and only BCC it to your friends and family. Point out what you did, and maybe they will do the same for you!
None of these are foolproof ways to avoid spam. The only way to do that is to give up on email entirely. But all of them will help you keep the amount of spam you receive to a minimum.