DIY Tips for a Spam-Free Inbox

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted January 26, 2007

Most spam is recognizable without even opening it. Typically, the unwanted e-mail comes from someone you don't know and is about something you're not expecting, such as offers for fake degrees, prescription drugs or a moneymaking program, for example.

Once you are on a spammer's mailing list, the volume of junk mail you receive will undoubtedly increase over time. Below is a nine-point guide on steps you can take to prevent spam from overwhelming your inbox.

  1. Never respond to spam. If you reply, even to request removing your e-mail address from the mailing list, you are confirming that your e-mail address is valid, and that the spam has been successfully delivered to your inbox. Lists of confirmed e-mail addresses are more valuable to spammers than unconfirmed lists and are frequently bought and sold by spammers.

  2. Check to see if your e-mail address is visible to spammers by typing it into a Web search engine. If your e-mail address is posted to any Web sites or newsgroups, remove it if possible to help reduce how much spam you receive.

  3. Disable in-line images, or do not open spam messages. Frequently spam messages include "Web beacons" enabling the spammer to determine how many, or which e-mail addresses have received and opened the message. Most current e-mail programs disable in-line images by default to prevent this from occurring.

  4. Do not click on the links in spam messages, including unsubscribe links. These frequently contain a code that identifies the e-mail address of the recipient and can confirm the spam has been delivered and that you responded.

  5. When unsubscribing from e-mail, the main rule to follow is: if you didn't originally opt-in to receive it, or if you don't recognize the sender, then don't unsubscribe.

    Trying to unsubscribe from one e-mail can start a flood of mail from other sources, so if you are unsure, it is best not to unsubscribe and block the mail another way. When unsubscribing from e-mail, always check that the links go to the correct company Web site and not to a phishing site.

  6. When filling out Web forms, check the site's privacy policy to ensure it will not be sold or passed on to other companies. There may be a checkbox to opt out of third party mailings.

  7. Do not respond to e-mail requests to validate or confirm any of your account details. Your bank, credit card company and the like already have your account details and would not need you to validate them.

    If you are unsure if a request for personal information from a company is legitimate, contact the company directly or type the Web site URL directly into your browser. Do not click on the links in the e-mail, as they may be fake links that will direct you to phishing Web sites.

  8. If you have an e-mail address that receives a large amount of spam, consider replacing it with a new address and informing your contacts of the new address. Once your e-mail address is on a spammer's mailing lists, it is likely that you will receive increasing amounts of spam.

  9. Set up two e-mail addresses, one for personal e-mail to friends and colleagues, and use the other for subscribing to newsletters or posting on forums and other public locations. The more complex your e-mail address is, the less likely you are to receive spam.

Guy Roberts serves as an anti-spam research manager for IT security provider McAfee, Inc.

Adapted from esecurityplanet.com.

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