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Spam Prevention: Don't Let Spammers Find You!

So, your inbox is full of spam - and you want to receive less of it in the future. There are many things you can do that will decrease the amount of spam in your inbox, including using a spam filter or a spam blocker. But there are also common sense ways to prevent spam in your inbox and increase your email address's security. Here are just a few:

  • Never reply to or click on any links in a spam message - Don't buy any products or services advertised in spam, don't reply to the email, don't click any links provided, and don't click the "Unsubscribe" link unless it includes mention of the CAN-SPAM Act. These actions only serve to confirm to spammers that you exist and you are receiving their emails. This may even increase the amount of email these spammers are sending you.

  • Read your messages as text - Turn off the ability to view pictures, HTML, movies, and formatted text for emails you don't know. This prevents you from accidentally clicking a link or downloading adware, spyware, or viruses without knowing it. Some email providers like Google and Hotmail automatically block these things from appearing in emails from senders not familiar to you. Don't change these settings.

  • Preview your messages - If you use Outlook you can preview messages in the preview screen before actually opening them. Like reading your messages as text, this prevents you from downloading spyware, adware, and viruses without knowing it.

  • View message headers - You can usually do this by clicking a button or link called something along the lines of "View full header." When analyzing header information, pay special attention to the "From" and "Reply To" addresses. Are they the same? Is the "Reply To" address the same as the organization the email claims to be from? If not, this is a warning sign of spam.

  • Don't participate in forwards and ask your friends not to send you them - Forwarded emails tend to list the email addresses of everyone who has forwarded the message, along with the email addresses of everyone they forwarded the message to. This is an easy target for spammers to find long lists of email addresses to target. Be especially wary of signing any sort of petition too, since these can be created by spammers for the list of names and email addresses.

  • Use a complicated email address - The more complicated your email address is, the less likely it is to be generated for targeting by a spammer's software. Spammers' software normally looks for easy and obvious addresses first.

  • Create alias email addresses - Certain services (like those of Sneakemail.com) allow you to generate multiple, anonymous email addresses that forward to your real email account. You can even reply to forwarded messages through your email account and have it appear as though you are replying through the generated one. This puts a level of anonymity between you and potential spammers. A good idea is to create a new email address for every website that you disclose your address to. If you start to get spam through that address, you know where the spam is coming from and you can delete the address and eliminate the spam.

  • Read privacy policies before disclosing your email address - Don't register your email address on a website unless you know for sure that you can later opt-out from any emails they send you. Read their privacy policy to find this out and also to find out if they may sell or show your email address to a third party, who could very well be a spammer.

  • Keep your home or business address confidential - Don’t give out your home or business address on registration webpages. Instead, use a service like Sneakemail.com or create an address you use specifically for registration purposes. You should also do this when joining a listserv, message board, internet group, or when posting your email address on an online contact page, resume, etc.

  • Don't give your real address for registration - If you can get away with it when registering on a website, newsgroup etc., use a fake email address. This will not work if you need to reply to a confirmation address though. In this case, use a service like Sneakemail.com or an email address you create specifically for those purposes.

  • Don't use your email address as your screen name - If you participate in chat/message boards or anything similar where you register a username, don't use the section of your email address before the @ sign as your screen name. This confirms a questionable email address to spammers, and they will often try to add "@hotmail.com," "@yahoo.com," etc. to create an email address (yours) to target.

  • Disguise your email address - If you need to publish your email address on a website, even if it's an address that you have for that specific purpose (which you should always use when publishing your email address), disguise it so that spammer's software can't find it. You can do this by leaving out periods and @ signs, and instead making it look something like this: "yourname AT yourdomain DOTcom." You can also make the "@" an image or use JavaScript to make your address a clickable link.

  • Don't use a major national free email provider as your primary address - Spammers will often target common usernames on widely-used email domains like Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, etc.

  • Use a spam filer or blocker - Read more about spam blockers and spam filers on our site.

  • Adjust your privacy settings - Make sure the spam filters included in your email service are on their highest setting.
  • And when you do find spam in your inbox, don't forget to report it. This ensures that appropriate steps are taken to persecute the spammers and stop spam at its source.

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