Author Topic: Spam Solutions  (Read 3101 times)

Offline scuzzy

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Spam Solutions
« on: May 04, 2007, 02:41 PM »
This advice isn't about anti-spam software, so much as about things that you can do to control the spam.

To begin with, you have to be careful about who gets your email address, and I'm not just talking about friends or casual contacts. Of course, if you have friends that like to send chain emails to "everyone in their address book", then the spam will likely never see a permanent end. But it can still be controlled by taking the following measures:

1. Get your own domain name.

It's never been cheaper to purchase a domain name, with some places charging as little as $5.99 per year. If you want to setup your own website, there are plenty of hosts that will include at least one free domain name with your hosting purchase. What's nice about having your own domain name is that you'll be able to use whatever email user name that you want. For example, since we own poasters.com, we can create any name with that domain, such as: "scsi" @ poasters.com, or "admin" @ poasters.com, etc.

This is also a much better solution than going with a public email service. Spammers use software to bombard the servers of popular email providers, such as hotmail and yahoo, with any possible combination of names that might exist. For example, "prettygirl" @ hotmail.com. For this reason, you're much better off with cryptic names such as "prttygrl1973" @ hotmail.com, but then you have a ridiculous email address.

2. Use your new domain name and match it up with a web-based email provider.

A hosting plan will include some sort of online email client. The web-based software can range from mediocre to some fairly nice solutions. Unless you plan on mostly using Outlook, Eudora, Thunderbird, etc., expect possible limitations and difficulties when checking your email online. If accessing your email online is important, then a dedicated email provider is your best bet.

My favorite online email provider is Fastmail.fm, but its advanced features and user interface may turn some people off. If your understanding of how email works is limited, then Fastmail may not be your best option. But if you want the very best, then you'll be hard pressed to find a better solution. Fastmail offers 4 plans, including a free version that will suit many people. However, you'll have to get the "enhanced" plan if you want to use your own domain name. Fastmail is geared toward the professional user who demands fast, dependable email. If you can't resist inserting "smilies" into your emails, then keep looking. Also, Fastmail does not include a calendar.

I previously used GoDaddy's email client, and it is a good solution for most people. However, their servers can be on the slow side and I've heard many complaints of GoDaddy silently blacklisting emails from valid sites; leaving the user with no idea that some valid emails were trashed. GoDaddy also has the tendency to shut down its servers for maintenance, leaving the user having to wait before they can use their email. On the positive side, GoDaddy has a nice, user friendly email interface and includes a calendar. Their account maintenance can be a pain, though.

3. Using your domain name, create different email accounts and control who gets which. The following names are just examples, and you can name them whatever you like:

"main" @ poasters.com

  • This is your primary email account and you'll want to protect this as much as possible. Be very selective about who you give this out to. Never give this out to friends who like to send out chain emails.

"other" @ poasters.com

  • Use this for valid correspondence. You'll also want to protect this account, but you can be more flexible about who gets it. I mostly use my secondary account for online purchases, forums and subscriptions, but only with businesses and sites that I implicitly trust.

"friends" @ poasters.com

  • I use this mostly for people who want to email everything under the sun to me. I check this account once every 5 years and automatically delete everything in sight. No, not really. But that's what I think of email chain letters. I created filters that automatically delete emails that contain key phrases such as "do not delete this!", "send this to everyone in your address book!", "this is a true story!", etc.

"trash" @ poasters.com

  • I use this strictly as a throw away account. The moment the spammers get it, I delete the account and replace it with something else. I use this account for sites that I don't yet trust, but where I must provide a valid email account.

  • Some providers will allow you to create a "black hole", which is a valid email address where nothing is ever saved. All email that goes to that address is automatically trashed and forever lost. This is great for pesky sites that demand a valid email address, but don't require authentication.

Some providers allow you to create an "alias" email address. Email addressed to the alias is automatically forwarded to a valid email account. This is a very useful way of controlling spam. You simply provide the alias email address to untrusted sources. The nice thing about an alias is that the account never really exists... it strictly forwards email to a valid email account. This makes deleting or changing the alias very easy when you start getting spam.

Some providers allow you to create a "catch all" for your domain name so that you can create any email address that you please on a whim. This is a perfect tool for identifying who's selling off your email address. If you have to use an email address at a site called "JoeBozo.com", you can enter "JoeBozo" @ poasters.com as your email address. The "catch all" will automatically forward email addressed to that name to your email account. When you start getting spam that's addressed to "JoeBozo", then you'll know who was responsible. You can then filter out all email addressed to "JoeBozo".

You can also use a "catch all" to identify the people who are causing you the spam headache by giving them an offbeat email address, such as "knucklehead" @ poasters.com. What's funny is that they'll think that you're referring to yourself as a knucklehead, not realizing that it's your pet name for them. Funnier still would be if they got together and shared the different email addresses that you gave them: knucklehead, bonehead, idiot, etc.

The setback of using a "catch all" is if the spammers figure out that you're using one. Spammers can then unload on your domain name, as well as use your domain to spoof their return address, which makes it look as if you're the one sending out the spam. For this reason, we don't use that feature at Poasters. The next best solution is to use the alias trick. Although not as convenient as a "catch all", it is still very effective when properly used.

Hopefully this will give you a good start in taming the spam beast. Of course, anti-spam software has its merits. When used with the above ideas, you'll be way ahead of the game.

Scuzzy; I'm still working on an email filter that automatically replies to the spammer with 50,000 volts of electricity.
« Last Edit: Apr 17, 2011, 06:19 PM by scuzzy »
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