Geek Smarts: Reducing and Avoiding Spam

Geek Smarts: Reducing and Avoiding Spam

If you use Email, I’m sure you are acutely aware of the nuisance of spam. There are two varieties of spam: pseudo-spam – emails received due to sign-ups on various websites that typically include opt-out methods; true spam – unsolicited emails that don’t always offer opt-out options. There are some simple techniques that can be exercised to reduce exposure to spam and keep it from affecting your online experience.
Email without Spam

Despite the above title, completely avoiding spam is nearly impossible. But it can be significantly reduced by following some basic email rules.

Start fresh

I’m sure that if you have an email address, you are already getting spam. To get rid of this spam is beyond difficult. Your best bet is to start anew with a fresh email address. I recommend using one of the online email providers such as Google’s Gmail, MSN’s Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, or even AOL. These are all free and most of them try not to be excessively annoying with ads and emails of their own.

Keep it to yourself

Once you’ve established a new spam-free mailbox, keep your email address private. In other words, only give your email address to personal and business acquaintances that you can trust not to sell you out.

Live a double life

Eventually you are going to visit sites that will require an email address (e.g., for registration confirmation). I would recommend having a secondary email address to use in these cases. For instance, if you use Gmail for your personal mail, create a Yahoo or Hotmail account for site registrations. That way you can check it when you need to for confirmation emails, but otherwise ignore the garbage email that will inevitably come as a result.

Watch you step

Many online registrations and site profiles come by default with mailing list options checked or opt-ins turned on. Be sure to always read terms of use whenever using your email address on the internet and read every checkbox option carefully. Some sites may even hide opt-in/out options on initial sign-up pages and you may have to review your profile after sign-up is completed to be sure you are not included on any mailing lists you would rather not be on.

Fighting the good fight

If you would rather keep your current email address or you still manage to get spam in your new address, there are some steps that can be taken to get rid of the spam you receive. First, take advantage of the spam filters that are available with the email service you use. Many of the online email services have some level of automatic spam protection and options to mark messages in your inbox as spam. Others will allow you to setup your inbox such that you will only receive emails from trusted recipients. For the spam that still gets through, comb through it and find opt-out methods when available. Be careful, though, as some of the shadier spammers out there will use such links as bait to get you to opt-in to more communications or even to install spyware.