Posted by Roy Petersen on Feb-15-2007 12:16 PM
TECH TIP: Reducing Spam
Unfortunately, it appears that the problem of spam is here to stay. As if that thought's not bad enough, the volume and the offensive nature of this questionable practice seems to be increasing at an exponential rate. We receive a lot of questions about this problem and its solution. The short answer is that there probably is no 100% fool-proof solution, but implementing the suggestions that appear below can help to reduce it.
The primary way that spammers obtain your e-mail address is through the use of spambots (software spiders), that scour the web searching for the @ sign -- the telltale indicator of an e-mail address. These spiders search the source code of your page and harvest everything that looks like it might be an e-mail address. The only way to avoid having your address harvested in this way is not to publish it there in the first place.
Of course, you probably do want potential customers and other visitors to be able to contact you. At first glance, the suggestion not to publish your e-mail address might seem self-defeating, but there is an alternative ...
There are many easy-to-use mail form processors you can install free on any of our accounts. In addition to thwarting the spambots, mail form processors allow you to require certain information from your correspondents and it provides formatting options for incoming e-mail.
Most chain letters and virus warnings that you receive by e-mail are either hoaxes, or they are initiated by spam houses for the intent of getting every email address you know. Chain letters spread like wildfire and always tend to end up right back at the spam house, with the email address of everyone it was sent to. Before you take any action regarding an unsolicited virus warning, check the validity of the warning at http://www.sarc.com/. We've never received a virus warning by e-mail that didn't turn out to be a hoax; and many of these hoaxes advise you to delete key system files that will end up damaging your computer (and the computers of all your friends that you forwarded the bogus warning to.)
Another popular way of harvesting e-mail addresses is through your own correspondence. Every time you purchase something online or e-mail a company or organization, your e-mail address is available for addition to a mailing list. Don't put too much faith in the privacy statements of web sites that you don't have experience with. Spammers make their living by theft and deception -- they're certainly not beyond providing false information in their privacy statements.
All of our accounts come with free e-mail forwarding and free additional POP e-mail accounts. You can use these features to your advantage in your fight against spam:
First, create a new POP user just for the purpose of collecting spam. We named one of ours spambox@Woollybear.com, but you can call yours anything you want -- you're never going to use it for anything but collecting spam, anyway.
Now, take a look at the spam you're receiving and notice the address it's being sent to. In many cases, spammers grab your domain name and just make up addresses to attach to it. When you notice spam addressed to an e-mail address that you do not need for regular business or personal use, create an email forward that redirects mail sent to that address to the spam-catching POP account you created in the preceding step.
The spammers often harvest addresses from the domain name WHOIS system, grabbing your administrative, billing, and technical contact e-mail addresses to add to their lists. Use a unique e-mail forward for your contact information, and when the spam begins to arrive at that address, change your domain name record to reflect a new forwarded address, and redirect the old address to the spam-catcher POP.
Whenever you order a product or service online, create a unique e-mail forward for the company you're ordering from. For example, if you're ordering a CD from amazon.com, use firstname.lastname@example.org when you register with them (don't forget to replace yourdomainname.com with your actual domain name; and don't forget to create an e-mail forward to deliver mail to a valid POP account.) This approach provides two benefits: 1) it allows you to redirect that address to your spam-catcher if you start receiving spam; and 2) it will let you know who's selling your personal information to spammers -- you can then decide whether those companies are deserving of your trust and future business.
[NOTE: Eventually, your spam-catcher POP account will fill up and exceed its 10 MB quota. When this happens, e-mail that's sent to that POP account will begin "bouncing back" with an error message to the sender. Don't worry about that -- it won't hurt anything. If the spammers actually provide a valid return address (which almost none do), the bounce will serve as notice that you're not accepting their mail.]
Woollybear.com accounts include free Spam Filtering, which can be enabled or disabled through your web control panel. Our spam filters compare incoming mail against several "spam blacklists" (as well as intelligent checking of the contents and headers) and automatically deletes or marks as suspicious e-mail that fits certain criteria. Please note that blacklists and spam filters in general are not perfect -- there's not a filtering product available on the market that won't 1) occasionally let spam slip through and get delivered, and worse, 2) occasionally reject valid e-mail as spam. Note that any mail deleted as a result of server-side spam filtering is not recoverable. There are other spam filtering options available to you to install locally -- this gives you the choice of what to filter and what not to filter, and gives you the opportunity to recover valid e-mail that was mistakenly deleted by the filter.
There are many other spam-filtering solutions available on the market that you could install on your local computer. When making a choice, look for a product that allows you to modify and create your own filtering rules and provides you the chance to recover incorrectly-rejected e-mail. It's recommended that you, at least when first setting up your rules, filter messages suspected as spam to a folder in your mail program so you can recover them later. This way, if any get falsely marked, they aren't lost forever, and you can adjust your filtering.