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Spam: prevention is better than cure

February 27th, 2006

Nowadays almost everyone who heard about the internet knows what spam is. And it is no longer surprise to receive a letter from God-knows-who advertising God-knows-what. Spam has become an annoying part of everyday life for an email user.

So, is it possible to get rid of spam? The answer is apparently negative because there will always exist people who read spam and react on it (you must have heard stories about ´Nigerian letters´). However, what you can do is protect your personal mailbox from the flow of spam. Spam is like rain – you cannot stop it but you can take an umbrella to stay dry and enjoy your walk.

There are two main ways to resist spam: filtering out the incoming spam and taking care not to receive it at all. The first method requires using various client and server spam filters while the second is just a matter of being careful with your personal email address. Let´s talk about the second one.

First of all you need to realize that you receive spam because somehow spammers managed to find out your email address. Very often spammers use special programs that send queries to search systems like Google, Yahoo or MSN in order to find web pages containing email addresses. Then the addresses are saved to a database and here it comes – spam. This simply means that if your address is published somewhere in the internet then sooner or later you will get spam.

As you are unlikely to be happy about this you should find the web pages with your email address using different search systems. If your address is unimportant in the context of the web page you should better delete it. Otherwise it is sensible to write the address in a different way: ´name(@)domain.com´ or ´name(nospam)domain.com´, for example. When a person reads such an address, they can easily understand what this means but to a program this will not be a valid email address.

Another source of email addresses are the various internet messengers like ICQ, Yahoo messenger and so on, where during the registration the user is usually asked to enter their email address. After that the address becomes available to every user of the messenger service. So spammers use fake user names to get access to other users´ personal information, particularly email addresses. Fortunately, in more recent messenger versions users personal information is not available for everyone but it is sometimes still possible to trick the system – and many users still use older unprotected versions. If you are using a messenger and your email address is in your personal information then your steps should be as above – delete your address or write it in a way inappropriate for automatic recognition.

Finally, probably the most common way for an email address to get to spammers databases is when people carelessly enter their emails on some websites. Often during the registration process for a product/service on the internet the company asks the client for their email address. And then it all depends on the company whether the address is used only to contact the client. If the company is reliable and cares about its image then your email address will be kept in secret. In this case the only thing you need worry about is that you will be automatically subscribed to the company news-list. If you are not interested in the newsletters you can always unsubscribe from the list. Unfortunately, there exist companies that do not really care about their clients and the safety of their personal data. If you are unlucky enough to deal with such a company then quite soon your email address will be in various spammers databases.

A few times I myself have been in the situation where I started receiving spam on one of my email addresses. Remarkably, the address was new and known only to the company – one that seemed to be trustworthy at the beginning.

Common rules to prevent receiving spam

It seems impossible to completely avoid such situations but it is possible to decrease the risks by following the below recommendations:

Try to avoid writing your e-mail address unless this is really necessary. Quite often it is enough to enter some fake address like aaaaa@yahoo.com. It doesn´t look nice, but does the prospect of receiving tons of junk look nicer? NB: When you enter a fake address be sure that in the future you are not going to receive on it some important information otherwise use ONLY your real address.

Be sure that the company you are going to deal with is trustworthy. If this is a serious well-known company like Microsoft, Google or another reliable company known to you then you can probably trust it. If you are not 100 pre cent sure of the company then think twice before giving them your personal data.

These simple recommendations willl help you in protecting your mailbox from spam. But is there going to be less spam in general in the nearest future? Let´s hope together. Good luck!

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