Stop - or at least reduce - Spam
Drowning in spam?
Follow the three steps we suggest to get spam somewhat under
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
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
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. Cleanposts.com (now
This is an ingenious new
service. Your emails are redirected from your current email
server, traveling on to the
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
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
Once you've set up your
account, everything is essentially automatic, and there are no
added complications or things to remember while sending and
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
2. Don't Download the Entire
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 -
www.mail2web.com . 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
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
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 (www.spammotel.com).
Here, you generate a variety of disposable e-mail addresses that
get forwarded to your real address. It looks something like
FEd42sg3@spammotel.com. 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
The second one that I use is
Spam Gourmet (www.spamgourmet.com).
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@example.com. (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.
Related Articles, etc
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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.