9.15.2010

Spreading Spam Email - We've all been there, but how can we stop it?

Let me know if this looks familiar:

A colleague recently came in and mentioned that all of her contacts received a virus email with inappropriate content. Most likely, you can relate, and an increasing number of us have been the "sender" of malicious mail. So I thought I'd put together a short to-do list to ensure that this doesn't happen to you. Of course, there are no guarantees, and spamming seems to be an unnecessary part of the digital life, but here are a few things I've done to minimize the pain.


Give Gmail a try: it's pretty tough on spam
I currently have or have had email accounts through Hotmail, Yahoo, and RCN among others. However, I've been very impressed with how Gmail does with filtering Spam. It's not that I'm not getting Spam by having a Gmail address, but rather the program collects nearly all of it and moves into a Spam folder (or label in Gmail speak). Few messages ever get sent accidentally to Spam, and even fewer bad emails make it through into my Inbox. This is not to say that Gmail is the guarantee for no Spam. In fact, I was the victim of an email hoax when many of my friends inquired as to why I was trying to sell them a laptop. I promptly changed my password and also became more cognizant of where I used my Gmail address.

Create a second email address
An email address is quickly becoming one of the most common asked for pieces of information when completing forms, signing up for new accounts, or registering for a contest. Thus, it has become just as easy to arrange for a second email address dedicated solely for these opportunities. I use my old RCN address for Spam and actually forward the emails to my Gmail address, so I don't have to check both accounts. If you haven't already done so, I'd definitely recommend using a second email. You can even give it a catchy name like "spamemail@gmail", "donotemailme@yahoo", or "iwillnotreadthis@hotmail" if they're still available.

Get off lists and stay off of them.
One of my goals is to maintain an Inbox Zero where I have as few emails to read and manage as possible. Thus, I try to minimize the number of lists that I sign for and often promptly unsubscribe myself from as many unwanted lists as possible. Take this tip with some caution, as in the past, many "unsubscribe" links actually caused more harm than good. However, I've noticed an increase in "Safe Unsubscribe" options, and generally, if you recognize the sender and you remember signing up for a list in the first place, you are probably safe in requesting to leave the list as well.
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