I would love to tell you that I have a silver bullet to end your spam problem. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. Yes, there are hardware and software solutions that are getting pretty good, but they come at a cost.
Unfortunately, there is no easy and inexpensive remedy; once you’re on the spammers list, you fight it forever. They trade, barter, or sell their list to other spammers and you never get away. A change of address is the only sure way. The numerous anti-spam products certainly help, but you always have to wade through your spam folder to see if there’s a “false positive” you want; and learn how to “whitelist” the friends, colleagues and chat lists you want.
Some email providers are more prone to spam than others. This is due to a technique known as “Directory Harvesting”. Gmail is particularly prone to this and many people have found themselves receiving spam just from signing up without ever sending or receiving an email!
Spammers know about Gmail and its popularity. Directory gathering is the process of sending an email to every possible combination of letters followed by @domainname.
Again, it’s a matter of paying spammers. They know it’s popular, so they can write a program that sends emails to virtually any combination of common names with an @gmail suffix (I intentionally leave out the .com) and know that a large percentage are real email addresses.
When they hit common names, they move on to other combinations. Therefore, it may help if you create an email like j#smith@gmail instead of jsmith@gmail. Unfortunately, this may also confuse and perhaps even trigger the people you want to share the email with their spam filter mark your email as spam.
Why do you ask? Because spammers often change their “from” address daily and again use random characters to prevent the company from being “blacklisted”! (A better anti-spam program can block an entire domain, but many only block individual addresses.)
If you have a new email address and want to stay clean or at least prevent your problem from getting worse, I have some recommendations you can follow.
7 steps to prevent spam from finding you
Protect your email address from spam.
Don’t give it everywhere. Use free addresses (msn, gmail, yahoo) whenever possible. Maybe another email account specifically for online shopping or even free subscriptions. There are also sources of temporary email addresses that are valid for a few minutes or days.
These are just examples, there are many more such services. Always use SiteAdvisor, McAfee’s free service, when looking for such a service (or any search for that matter). Go to “green” sites only.
Only give your real email to trusted people or companies.
Beware of friends and family members
Beware of friends and family members who send emails to large groups without “bcc” or blind copy. Then these e-mails are forwarded on and on, and your e-mail address there is collected from all the computers that are infected. If you know someone is a problem, give them your gmail, yahoo or msn address instead of your good address.
EVER put your email address online in its normal form
NEVER put your email address online in its normal form. Use some kind of disguise, at least “firstname.lastname@example.org” and the note will remove abcxyz. Something. Be creative. This applies especially to newsgroups.
Be polite to other people’s email addresses
Be polite to other people’s email addresses. Learn to use BCC (blind carbon copy) and remove all extra information, especially email addresses, when sending emails. Then encourage them to do the same for you.
NEVER open an email you know is spam
NEVER open an email you know is spam. Many emails contain “phone home” programming that lets the spammer know that your address was valid when opened. This is in addition to the risk of viruses, spyware and even serious damage to your computer’s usability.
NEVER click the “unsubscribe me” button in a spam email
NEVER click the “unsubscribe me” button in a spam email. This will not remove you from the list either. Just confirm your address is correct so they can send you more.
Protect your computer
Protect your computer. Always use up-to-date antivirus software and check regularly for other types of spyware/malware. Some malware is designed to scan your address book and other areas of your computer for email addresses that can be added to their owners’ spam list.
Software and hardware spam filters
These filters, which can be expensive as hardware, can certainly reduce spam significantly. But no matter what you do, there’s always a chance that the filter will create a “false positive,” that is, mark a good email as spam.
This means you won’t see that email unless you’re looking for false positives in a specific folder or quarantine area.
For this reason, I definitely do not recommend an email or spam filtering service that does not allow you access to suspected spam – no filter is perfect.
And last but not least, try not to get too attached to your email address – just in case you need to do a “change of address”. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s the only option.
My site has more information about home computer security