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Spam is unlikely to go away. The new 2004 Can Spam legislation has not and will not control it, and technological 'solutions' are always being circumvented by new spamming techniques.

Perhaps the best we can hope for is to minimize the impact of spam in our lives, and to solemnly promise ourselves that we'll never 'reward bad behavior' by buying any product from a spammer.

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How to Stop - or at least reduce - Spam

Drowning in spam? Follow the three steps we suggest to get spam somewhat under control.



Spammers claim that their unwelcome emails cause minimal inconvenience - 'it only takes a second to delete an unwanted email'. Their protestations overlook the fact that it might take a minute or longer to download the spam in the first place, particularly if you're on a slow dial up connection while traveling.

Not only might you be wasting precious time, but you might be paying extra connection fees, too. This definitely 'adds insult to injury'!


The Extra Problem When Traveling

If you're lucky, at work your emails come quickly and effortlessly to your computer through a high speed corporate LAN. If you're very lucky, at home you get emails via a cable modem or DSL; and even if you don't, when you're using an unlimited type dialup connection, it doesn't really matter how long it takes your emails to download, because you can be doing other things during the downloads, and it costs you nothing more for the extra downloading time to get spam emails as well as real emails.

But when you're traveling, you are more likely to be using a slower type of dialup line, and you're also more likely to be paying a per minute fee - perhaps to a hotel for the use of their phone, or to an ISP, or in an internet cafe.

Plus, most people, while traveling, have very little spare time, and need to be as efficient as possible, minimizing the wasted time they spend on the internet so as to have more time for the business (or pleasure) purpose of their travels.

Kill Spam Before it Reaches Your Computer

There are many spam killing programs, but most of them are either for large corporations to add to their email server or else they are for individuals to add to their email client program.

You probably have no control over whatever anti-spam tools are used at your email server.

As for programs that help you detect and delete spam on your own computer, these are of course helpful, but they suffer from one big disadvantage - you have to download the spam from the server first. Your biggest challenge, while traveling, is the time and money cost of downloading unwanted spams.

The ideal solution is to intercept the spam before you download it. Here are two ways you can do this.

1. (now apparently defunct)

This is an ingenious new service. Your emails are redirected from your current email server, traveling on to the Cleanposts server, which then sorts them into spam and normal messages. This usually delays your email by less than a minute, so there is no noticeable impact on you at all.

You simply set up your email program to now collect your email from the Cleanposts email server, and only download the messages that it has identified as non-spam. The spams never come anywhere near your own computer. You don't waste any time or bandwidth or money fighting your way through spams.

I've redirected perhaps 10,000 of my own emails through this service to test it. The service seems to have about a 95% success rate in identifying spam. A few messages are sometimes (very rarely) incorrectly identified as spam, and when this happens, it is possible to tell the system not to do that in the future (by placing the email sender onto a 'whitelist').

The system doesn't just kill spam messages, but stores them in a special spam area that you can go and visit from time to time, just to check there aren't any 'real' emails in among the spam.

This service can be used with any existing email address if you can arrange for email from your present address to be automatically forwarded to the new Cleanposts email address you'll receive. You can have multiple email addresses all being sent to your new Cleanposts account.

Once you've set up your account, everything is essentially automatic, and there are no added complications or things to remember while sending and receiving email.

Cleanposts offer their spam intercepting service for $15-20 a year. If you enter the Promo Code 'Insider' (without the quotes) on the second part of the registration process, they will make their service available to you for only $12/year. This negligible fee allows you a virtually unlimited amount of email traffic, and also has 30MB of storage to hold your messages prior to you downloading them. It is a wonderful value for an excellent service.

One important thing about Cleanposts is that they don't generate any spam themselves. They don't send you any messages, and they don't sell your email details to anyone else.

The Cleanposts website is still in a very rudimentary form, and the business is new. But don't be mislead by a basic and unappealing website. The people that operate this service are 'techies' rather than designers, and while their website is unappealing and uninviting (currently - it is in the process of being professionally redone), the underlying anti-spam service they provide is rock-solid and excellent. Recommended.

2. Don't Download the Entire Spam Messages

If you choose not to (or can't) use the Cleanposts solution, here is an alternative strategy that is not as convenient, but still effective.

If the percentage of spam you're receiving is high, you'll find this technique helpful.

Don't automatically download all your email from the email server to your computer. Instead, first of all, view the message headers for the email, and choose which ones you want to download and read and which ones you want to delete and not download at all.

The extra time it takes to review your message headers will probably be more than compensated for by the saving in time by not having to download unwanted spam messages.

There are several ways you can do this. It may be possible in your email program to tell it to only download the message headers.

In Outlook 2002, you do this by going to Tools then to Send/Receive Settings then to Define Send/Receive Groups and then editing your group. Select each email account from the pane on the left, and then in the main pane, check the button for Download Item Description Only. Say OK and then Close and your settings will be remembered. Then the system will first download only message headers. You can then go offline, or, while you're still online, select which messages you want to download the message text for and which you simply want to delete and not see. Next time you're online and you do a Send/Receive, Outlook will delete the messages you don't want from the server and download the ones you do want.

This option is not available in Outlook Express.

If you can't do this through your email program, you can use a wonderful free service - . Simply go to their website, put in your email details, and it will then list your email messages (perhaps select the option to list all messages at once rather than 20 per page) on a web page. Then simply check the messages you don't want, delete them, then close down mail2web and then start up your mail program and download the remaining messages.

Although I have Outlook, I prefer to use mail2web's service for filtering out spam when I'm traveling.

There is another advantage to this tactic. Many spam messages have hidden 'tracking bugs' in them. When you open a spam message (if you're online), the tracking bug alerts the spammer that you've received and read the message, and so they know that your email address is a 'good' address to send more spam to. Avoiding the need to open emails will reduce your future spam.

Barracuda Spam Firewall

This is another way of intercepting spam before it reaches your computer.  It is designed for people who operate their own mail servers, it does not work for individuals, unless you too have a mail server of your own.

We review the Barracuda Spam Firewall here.  Bottom line - an expensive disappointment.  Not recommended.

Killing Spam On Your Computer

This is not as effective as killing spam before it gets to your computer. However, if you rarely or never travel, it isn't quite as important that you stamp out the spam before you download it. Here is an effective solution for killing spam automatically after it is downloaded to your computer.

There are many different 'spam killing' programs available; and ironically, some of them are promoted through spam themselves! Of course, you should never buy anything from a spam email, especially an anti-spam program. It is only if spam stops 'working' for spammers that they will stop.

The best of such programs is Cloudmark's Spamnet product. This works only with Outlook 2000 and 2002/XP, but will soon work with Outlook Express as well. The unique feature that distinguishes Spamnet from other spam-killing programs is that you can report spam messages back to it by simply clicking on a new button that appears in Outlook. Spamnet then uses this information to pass on to other users so that the spam is intercepted elsewhere. And, in turn, messages other users report to Spamnet are then flagged as spam when they get to your computer.

This collaborative process works very well, and no matter how tricky spammers are, reports from fellow Spamnet members invariably end up catching the spam. It too seems to have about a 95% accuracy rate, and when it detects a spam, it shifts the message from your Inbox to a separate Spam folder.

I've been using Spamnet since its earliest Beta release, and it has been a wonderful help to me. I use Spamnet on my main office computer, and supplement it with Cleanposts to help me when I'm traveling.

The service is sold on a monthly subscription basis. You can download the product from them and try it for free for a month; if you like it, you then need to sign up for ongoing service. Normal price is about $5 a month, and they have given us a special discount code - 5A15HL - which will entitle you to a reduced rate of only $1.99 a month. Recommended.

Disposable Email Addresses

Here's an interesting twist on spam fighting.  Use multiple disposable email addresses when you need to give your email out to commercial websites.  That way, not only will you find out where the spam is coming from, but any time you start to get too much spam from a disposable email address, you can simply cancel it, while still leaving your mail email address intact.

For a helpful explanation of two of these services, here are comments about two such free services from reader Rich :

The first is Spam Motel ( Here, you generate a variety of disposable e-mail addresses that get forwarded to your real address. It looks something like [email protected]. This is great for automated services, but I found that it is quite a hindrance now that many services actually ask for the e-mail address over the phone, etc, or for login verification.

The second one that I use is Spam Gourmet ( The documentation is quite poor, but the service works well. Basically, you pick a username and password, and then a forwarding mail address. Now you're ready to create e-mail addresses on the fly. This is great for those one-time contests, warranties, etc, where you need a valid e-mail but don't want to be on lists forever.

Let's use the example, login=luggage. You now can create on-the-fly e-mail addresses like [email protected]. (they have different domain names, which aren't as obvious as spamgourmet). This allows you to input anything into "x", the number signifies how many e-mails you want allowed through, and the "luggage" is your userid. If you actually like the person, you can add their name to the whitelist so that it will be valid until you say so. You can always increase or decrease the number through the website manually, or just wait until it expires.

If you decide to reply, it will look like you sent it from the disposable e-mail address. You can even send e-mail from a disposable e-mail address through the website. And best of all, it's free! Even if someone insists that I need an e-mail address to download something, I have no qualms now of making up something and then letting it expire. In a few instances, I have been able to figure out which address was used for spam and have discontinued it (and not signed up again with the company who abused my email address). And it's easy to remember if you use an easy naming system, like part of the company name.


The best solution is never to download spams from your email server. Cleanposts (now apparently defunct - May 2008) provides a clever and convenient way of intercepting the spam before you ever have to download it.

If you do download spam, then you should try and avoid opening them, so as not to trigger signals back to the spammer advising them that your email address works and that you open (= read) their spams. Cloudmark's Spamnet is the best way of managing spam once it arrives on your computer.

If you do accidentally open a spam, never click on the 'remove me' option that is sometimes offered. Most of the time, the spammers will not remove you, but instead will send you even more spam because they now know that you read and respond to emails.

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Originally published 11 July 2003, last update 20 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.



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