Avoiding Spam Email – Defending Your Inbox

Isn’t it amazing how many people are concerned about you on the Internet?

You create a new email address and in no time at all, perfect strangers are suddenly very concerned about you having the best credit card, the best home loan, and especially the best “bedroom performance” possible. All of these “kind” people are sending you email every day in order to be sure you are up to date with the latest in electronics, the prettiest of Russian mail-order brides, and the most “exciting” websites you could ever want to visit.

We have all been a victim of it. This thing called “email spam.” Unsolicited emails that clog your inbasket and make it very hard for you to find the emails that you actually care about. Congress has finally made some attempt to control spam, but there are still far too many loopholes for the unscrupulous to dive through in order to assault your inbox with junk email.

There are various tools you can use to try to cut down on the amount of spam that reaches you. If your email software allows for it, you can use a spam filter as well as a black list or white list. Unfortunately, each of these tools has their own drawbacks.

One of the best ways to deal with spam email is to avoid the online behaviors that cause your email address to be picked up by spammers and added to their lists. What follows is a set of rules to help reduce the chances that your inbox will fall prey to a spammer’s unwanted attentions:

Rule #1: Never allow your email address to be displayed on a website. This means that if you are active in online forums, or if you maintain your own website, or are involved in any other online activity where you might possibly post your email address, it is best to use a modified email address that a human would understand but a computer program might not. For example, instead of posting “[email protected]”, you could post “[email protected]”. A human reader will know to remove the letters “DeleteThis” but a computer program designed to harvest email addresses from web pages would find it much more difficult. However, be warned that spammers are using other tricks these days that make even this technique not as safe as it used to be.

Rule #2: When you receive spam email, NEVER click on the line that says something like “click here to be removed from our list.” In some emails, clicking such a line will in fact remove you from their list. Unfortunately, in other emails clicking on that link tells the spammer that your email address is “valid” (because someone clicked on the link). The spammer may or may not take your name off of their list, but what they WILL do is turn around and sell your email address to other spammers. Because they now have verification that the email address is a good one (because you clicked on the link), your email address brings them more money when they sell it.

Rule #3: Set up a “junk email” account and use it when you make one-time purchases or any other time a website that you must use requires an email address. Most internet service providers give you the option of creating multiple email addresses. If yours does not, you can always create a “throw away” email address on Gmail, Yahoo, or any of a number of other free email services. Once you have this account set up, always use this email address when you need to supply an email address to a company or website that you do not expect to visit more than once. This goes doubly true for taking advantage of “free offers” online that first require you to enter your email address. Many of these “free” online offers are getting paid through the selling of your email address!

Rule #4: Avoid becoming part of those large chains of emails that get forwarded to tons of people. You know the kind. Someone gets a funny story, a spiritual thought, or some other interesting bit of news and then forwards it to everyone in their address book. The problem is that every time someone forwards such an email, all of the email addresses belonging to the other people “in the chain” also get transmitted with the message (unless the sender is savvy enough to remove them…which most people are not). All it then takes is for a spammer to get a hold of any ONE of these messages (which is now serving as a traveling email address collector) and suddenly you are on a spammer’s list again. If you ever have an email that you wish to send to lots of people in your address book, do them all a favor and do not expose their email address to the spammers as well. Address the email TO YOURSELF, and then include all of the desired recipients on the “bcc” line (the “blind carbon copy” line). Doing so will allow you to send a “mass email” without exposing anyone else’s email address (because “bcc” email addresses are not included as part of the message, which is not the case if you “cc” the recipients or put them on the “to” line).

Rule #5: Never give your email address to anyone who does not need it. I cannot count the number of times this has happened to me. You are in a “brick and mortar” store and a clerk casually asks for your email address as if it is required to complete the transaction. If it is a store I know and trust and I actually want to receive emails from them, I might give them my email address. More often, however, I tell them “you do not need that information to complete the transaction.” This rule leads to a very good rule to follow in all of your life’s dealings: NEVER GIVE PERSONAL INFORMATION OUT TO PEOPLE WHO DO NOT NEED IT!

These are just a few behaviors that can help you avoid getting your email address on a spammer’s list. The most important thing to remember is that your email address represents money to unscrupulous email spammers. Armed with this information, you will be able to go quite a long while before having to change your email address due to a clogged inbox.