What I did to stop getting spam

...at least for a while

by Michael Patrick Goad

I temporarily stopped the spam dead in its tracks, and, even now, six months later, it's only a couple messages a week, a very tiny fraction of what I used to have to deal with.

After over 6 years with the same e-mail address (the one we first went on the internet with), which I had carelessly used online in the early days, the daily spam load had become so overwhelming that I had to take action to reduce it. Sometimes it was as much as several hundred messages a day.

I tried to filter it in Outlook.

I tried an anti spam software program.

Both tactics worked to a degree, but the amount of time that I had to spend with the messages that got through was unreal.

The problem was that there were quite a few messages coming in that I wanted to see.  Since I still had quite a bit of spam making it through all of the filters, the time it took to look at what had made it through the filters was still excessive. 

It was time to take drastic action.

First of all, I stopped using a text based e-mail address on my site's web page.  The problem with those is that the people who harvest e-mail addresses off the internet have special little e-mail address search programs, sometimes called web crawlers, that search the web looking for addresses.  Text-based addresses are great food for the e-mail web crawlers.

If you'll look at the address below, you'll see that it's a graphic image.  The web crawlers can't read it.  The only way that the address can be found by searching the internet is for a person to find it and enter it into a database.  However, such a search is just too time intensive with for the tiny amount of extra addresses that you'll find.

The second thing I did was to establish a new e-mail address and contact all of the people I felt needed to know about it.  After waiting a few weeks for e-mail to come in from others who might not have gotten the message, I dumped the e-mail addresses that were receiving all of the spam. 

That's sounds like a lot of trouble to go to, doesn't it.

I guess it would to most folks.  However, if you'll notice, we have our own domain.  With it comes a limited number of e-mail addresses that we can use.  One of those had been in use for a little over a year and it was already getting a lot of spam.  I closed that one down

I also stopped responding to the one that we had had forever.  We had stopped paying for it over a year before and I'm not sure why it continued to work.  The account might have been lost after a couple of telecommunication company acquisitions and mergers.

I suppose that, with my experience with spam, I can make some suggestions:

First of all, never, never, never (ever) buy anything from a spammer.  I wouldn't even open the messages, other than to make sure that it is spam.

If you aren't totally overwhelmed by spam, one of the spam blockers might do the trick.  (Click on some my advertisers on the left, but don't forget to come back.) I'm not unhappy with the one I got.  It just wasn't up to the volume and variety of spam that I was getting.

If you are getting little to no spam, protect your e-mail address. 

bulletShare it only with individuals who share the same interests as you.
bulletCheck out any mailing lists or newsletters before you subscribe to them to ensure that there is some sort of protection for your address.  The genealogy mailing lists at RootsWeb.com are very safe.  As a result of a spam event several years ago that shut down another genealogy service permanently in 1997, their programmers have made the service almost spam-proof.
bulletDon't include the address on any web pages that you might create and if you have it on one already, get it off!
bulletGet a throw away e-mail address to use in situations that you are not absolutely sure of.  A lot of on-line services offer free e-mail.

If you are overwhelmed with spam, I'd suggest that you bite the bullet early and not struggle through it for months like I did.  Get a new e-mail address, even if it means going to a new service, and get rid of the old address.

Spam is something we will be living with for a while, but we don't have to be defenseless.

Take action if it's getting to you.

July 18, 2003



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