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What are some best practices when dealing with e-mail SPAM?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / June 13, 2014 9:51 AM PDT
Question:

What are some best practices when dealing with e-mail SPAM?

It seems that the longer I have an e-mail box, the more SPAM I get. So my question is,
What do the experts say about clicking on the unsubscribe links at the bottom of unwanted e-mail? Someone told me that doing that just adds you to more lists.

One observation is that the bulk sites that are sending the mail place an unsubscribe link, but when you click it, you get removed from that one topic, but continue to get mail from them en-force for a myriad of other junk.

When I've seen multiple different messages coming from one specific "marketing group" I look up their DNS registration and send a request to be removed from ALL future mailings. That doesn't work either. Looking for a best practices guide or suggestions. Best Regards.

--Submitted by: Pete B.
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2 email addresses
by capoderra / June 13, 2014 11:09 AM PDT

I have two email accounts. One that I use for personal correspondence and the other to sign up for various websites. However, browser-based email services like Gmail and yahoo are getting better at filtering junk mail for you. Unsubscribing usually works for me.

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NEVER unsuscribe!
by Alain Martel / June 15, 2014 2:08 AM PDT
In reply to: 2 email addresses

Well, unsuscribe will work if you want to unsuscribe from something to whitch you actualy, explicitely, suscribed to, but it NEVER work for SPAM messages for whitch you never suscribed to in the first place.
In this case, it will only get you MORE SPAM than ever.

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NEVER unsubscibe
by Wim_Damstra / June 15, 2014 3:19 AM PDT
In reply to: NEVER unsuscribe!

If you react it proofs that your email adress is an existing one so you will be thanked for your reaction by more unwanted mail. A good spamfilter helps of course to keep the inbox as clean as possible.
Spammers are payed by the number of sended and arrived emails!

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spam not so important
by monsieurms / June 20, 2014 8:09 PM PDT
In reply to: 2 email addresses

Truthfully, I've been enormously impressed with gmail's spam filters these days. I didn't used to be. These days, it handles 98% of the stuff perfectly and doesn't miss badly on most of the rest. I used to use a whitelist challenge-response program. I uninstalled it as a result.

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gmail and the other filters don't work well
by johninlongmont / June 21, 2014 3:46 AM PDT
In reply to: spam not so important

then you need to check your spam folder as well to see what they threw out that you needed to see Silly

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Agreed! Use Gmail to beat spam!
by President of the Firm / June 22, 2014 12:50 PM PDT
In reply to: spam not so important

I've been using Gmail for about two years or so and it does an excellent job of detecting and detouring spam....right into the SPAM mailbox.

Once in a while.........a LONG while...I'll have a look just to see if there's anything in there that I might have wanted....but 99.999% of the time.......it's JUNK!!

Way to go, Google!!!

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Get your own domain
by Jim Johnson / June 13, 2014 11:14 AM PDT

I pay for my own web domain. I don't do much with the web space, but mostly I make really good use of my ability to manage email.

You need a personal mailbox and a catch-all mailbox.

First and foremost - you give out your personal email address ONLY to family, friends and very trusted other entities.
Second - you DRILL it into family and friends that they are NOT free to give out your email address without your permission and that ESPECIALLY includes putting your address into cutesy sites or use it for sending e-cards, etc.

You'll be amazed at how little spam you get in this mailbox.

When you have your own domain you can create a mailbox that is a 'catch-all'. If a message comes in to your domain for an unlisted mailbox, the server puts it in the catch-all mailbox.

What this does is allow you make up email addresses on the fly. Need an email address to register for a service, or to purchase something from a new vendor? Make it up. I typically use <company nickname>@<my domain>.

I use Outlook but most clients will tell you the address a message was sent to. When I get spam in my catch-all, I look at the address the message was sent to. If it is one of my made-up addresses, it may be the last time I do business with that entity.

But to be honest, legit vendors are gettting much better at protecting customer email addresses. A lot of spam goes out to random addresses at a domain. So again, when I see a lot of messages coming into say - sexdrugs@<my domain>, I go out to my domain controls and setup a mailbox with just that address and have it auto-forwarded to oblivion. I never see it, and the sender never knows if it was delivered or not.

By the way, if you have your own domain you are also no longer at the mercy of your ISP. You can change ISPs and keep all your email addresses. In fact, you can change your web host service and keep all your email addresses.

One more trick - when your friend does you a 'favor' and give out your personal email address - you can immediately create a new personal email address, temporarily auto-forward your old personal email address to it, and notify your close contacts (maybe not that 'friend') that they have say 30 days to change to the new address before you disable it. Cut the auto-forward and watch your spam immediately fall again.

Having your own domain need not cost you more than $100 a year and gives you a LOT of freedom from spam.

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Way too much effort
by netsiu / June 20, 2014 2:20 PM PDT
In reply to: Get your own domain

and the cost. Time and money.

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Agree!!!
by DickMay / June 21, 2014 12:18 AM PDT
In reply to: Get your own domain

Been doing it that way for 10-12 years. Never once regretted going that route.

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the answer is buy a domain?
by johninlongmont / June 21, 2014 3:51 AM PDT
In reply to: Get your own domain

if you have to buy a domain to get rid of spam "Houston, we have a problem" Shocked

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Spam mail
by robinboy2 / June 21, 2014 10:55 AM PDT
In reply to: Get your own domain
I had four email accounts with my IP provider, and never got even one (1) spam. When FB came along, with live and Hotmail the spam somehow worked itself back into my life. Spam mail is disgusting; however, of course, one has to unsubscribe to get rid of it, otherwise, it will continue to creep in. Somehow my one yahoo email has gotten spam, and happened only a week of an yahoo account-I say account, but free. Anyway, sticking with your IP provider only, one should know how to keep spam out, it's not hard. People will register to pch.com, and you will have 100's of spam coming in every week. This is why some people believe spam can't be stopped, but yes it can. I shop online and if the stores , like jcp.com, or heartlandamerica.com, their not going to give out your information to third parties; and too, good privacy policy and terms. They want your business. There are a lot of stores I buy from online, and sometimes I have to login to uncheck some of my privacy in my profile because their sending me email daily, and I don't like pushiness for business like Bling.com for example. Everyday!
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Too much work
by Straydog1st / June 22, 2014 1:35 AM PDT
In reply to: Get your own domain

I have had a domain for quite a few years, but do not use that system to avoid spam because that can work, but consumes a lot of time.

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Congratulations on having children that do what you ask!
by Cadillac84 / June 22, 2014 4:37 AM PDT
In reply to: Get your own domain

You are part of a vanishing breed.

In truth, NOBODY has children or parents that listen to stuff like "don't give out my email address" and why should I bother to write to you at all if you are going to change your email address every three months.

Puh-leeeze!

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Good luck on point #2
by President of the Firm / June 22, 2014 12:52 PM PDT
In reply to: Get your own domain

As the old saying goes......I know YOU can keep a secret, it's the people you're gonna tell that I'm worried about!

Good luck giving your "private" email to every friend and family member you have......and expecting it to stay private!!

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Agree with the domain thing
by mrslimpy / June 23, 2014 1:31 AM PDT
In reply to: Get your own domain

I use a well known hosting company for domains and email. The best method I have found is to simply set the SPAM setting to only allow email messages from those on a contact list or who have been approved. Every email I receive goes into spam. Once a day or a few times a week I simply check to see if there are non-spam messages. If there are, they are then "approved" and everything else is deleted. It's cumbersome, but I don't get spam.

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There was a surge by the spammers, recently

If you look at Spamcop's submission record, you'll see that from early January through mid-April the spam rate surged by 3 to 4 times the normal rate. So, some of what you had been noticing may have been a few months of spammers finding a new route to send spam, that has since been closed.

I have my own domain, and I've been using the same emails address since 1997. I don't get a ton of spam. Usually 5-15 a day, the last year or so. Annoying, but not overwhelming.

One anti-spam technique that worked very well for me on a previous host for my domain was greylisting. My spam at the time went from 30/day to less than 1/day. My current host for my personal site doesn't offer greylisting. But, where my work email is hosted, they do offer greylisting. Our order desk went from over 200 spam over the weekends to about 2 to 5.

Unfortunately, few people have their own domains, and few webhosts offer this feature. So, that's something that few people will be able to take advantage of to fight spam.

From what I hear from friends and family, Yahoo and Google are particularly good at screening spam.

As for unsubscribe links, your friends are correct. Those only work with legitimate companies. For example, often when registering new software, or going to their download page to get the program or updates, they'll ask for your emails address. Most of these, the unsubscribe will work.

But, if it's just random spam, trying to sell you collapsible hoses, or knee protection, or magic diabetes cures (among the ones I've seen a lot of lately) the unsubscribe just verifies to the spammer that your email address is an active address. So, definitely do NOT click on those links

Drake

(Ack. Just got a couple of those spam as I was typing this.)

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Never unsubscribe from someone you've never heard of...
by SD_DS / June 13, 2014 7:01 PM PDT

they are just trying to see if they hit a live address. Only unsubscribe from places you've actually done business with. Let's say you ordered something from Amazon and then got the usual "suggestions" from them. Clicking on the unsubscribe will get you off the Amazon mail list -- just as you want. Most reputable companies today understand the spam frustration we all have and are much more sensitive to customer needs than in the past.

However, if you get an e-mail from some company you've never heard of before and are presented with an unsubscribe option, you'll get more mail from their "friends", even if the original company actually follows through and deletes you from their list. I also look at who it was sent to. My ISP sends stuff along that isn't my exact address (I don't know why), so if it isn't really addressed to me, I dump it. I also dump it if I see a list of recipients that I don't recognize -- if I don't know them from business or friend connections, why would I be on a mail list with them? Same for no one (not even me) listed in the recipients -- that's just a mail hack to hide the massive number of people it's going to. Most ISP and web-based mail programs offer spam reduction and that also keeps down a lot of junk. They look for things like From addresses that don't match the server addresses, e.g From: ibm.com but the server is in Bosnia instead of NY. Or hops that don't make sense - like server in NY (faked) but next hop is in Bosnia instead of North America. Off to the Spam folder with that one -- or even deleted automatically. If someone you know is really trying to get a hold of you, they'll try again, probably with a more specific title that you might recognize -- "This is Buffy from 3rd period algebra with Mrs. Wallace", instead of the "Hi! Long time, no see" that you blew away. I have even waited for a spam (like a new one from an "Unsubscribe" family spammer) to come in and then mark it as spam using the spam reduction program from the mail service. That puts the rest of their e-mails on the mail system's spam list and it stops more of it at the server instead of my inbox. Sometimes it takes a while, but the spam killers usually get it right fairly quickly and it stops for good.

If you'd like to help, you can try this: sometimes, when I have a few minutes and I happen to get a spam, I look up the site that was spoofed or hacked on the return links. You'll see something like www.abc.com/53lkj45232kj5256 instead of a normal page name. I'll go to the real site -- www.abc.com -- and find the e-mail link to their website team for comments. Then I turn on all the message header info (so the IT folks can figure out what's going on), forward the spam, and tell them that they may have been hacked by spammers in the title and the first sentence. I try to be brief, especially if their first language isn't English; most in the IT world know "hacked" and "spammers" and can figure it out. Those few minutes have shut down several spam operations (probably not huge) over the years (I know it's whack-a-mole, but every whack helps). It probably lets the IT folks get the added security their bosses vetoed, too, because they thought they'd never have a problem.

I have several addresses: one for only my finances, one for friends/family, one for business, and one for questionable companies/websites (it's web-based, so I can blast it away if things get too bad and it won't cause my ISP to do something to my other accounts). I have almost no spam growth, after the mail service filtering and my tossing of questionable mail for years.

Best of luck to you!

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Heck of a response!
by jakenewbie / June 21, 2014 5:12 PM PDT

This is one of the best replies to a topic that I've ever seen. I know most of this stuff, follow a lot of the directions myself and still learned quite a few things - especially the way of your notifying the person/company that they may have been hacked. No scare tactics and no panic involved in getting spammed, and staying calm and approaching it methodically is the best way to minimize it.

Nicely done; thanks for sharing!

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SPAM
by robinboy2 / July 8, 2014 8:15 AM PDT

TO SD_DS, I have blocked a lot of spam by way of 'block this domain, or block this sender; however, it never stops them. By choosing the option to unsubscribe has worked for me more so than as mentioned. If this unsubscribe fails then I will change my email; but so far it has stopped by unsubscribing. The first thing I do when I turn on my computer is go cook my breakfast, take a shower, do some house cleaning etc. Happy Then I go to my computer and 1st thing is check my email. I get approximately 5 -10 emails a day; however, DS_SD, it only takes me 2-5 minutes to read emails sent to me. it's usually something I've ordered online, JCP having a sale, you know, just regular stuff. I see that 27 people like your post but, I had to "Thumb Down" on this one. Good luck to you, Boy2

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Use your email features
by dsttexas / June 13, 2014 11:31 PM PDT

Yahoo, Gmail and others have pretty good SPAM filters that dump most junk into your Spam folder. These will get about 99.9% of the cheap drugs, male enhancers, and other obvious junk. But don't ignore that folder, either. I scan it frequently just looking at subject and sender (not opening) for anything legitimate that I then tell Yahoo is "not spam" by marking it as such and it moves it back to inbox for handling. After scanning this folder I then delete all the spam mail in it - usually a single click on the trash can icon - to clean it out for the next scan through.

For suspicious Spam emails that do get into your inbox, mark them as "spam", preferably without opening them. These actions help your mail service fine tune their filters.

A lot of what does get through is spurious advertising based on capturing your email address from internet purchases and other online activities. First of all, be religious when ordering online about looking for those little checkboxes (already checked for you) that say you want to receive various notices from them or their partners and uncheck them. Legitimate product sites will honor your requests. Not so legitimate ones probably won't even ask you. If you do get what you consider to be unwanted email from these legitimate folks, then doing an "unsubscribe" is pretty safe and will work. You can also mark them as "spam" with your provider.

The problem is when spam blasters as I call them get your email address, sometimes from one the above shared lists, and then unsubscribing just tells them that they have a "good" address and will let all their other spam blaster friends know that as well.

Of course, you have to be the one deciding whether the sender is legitimate or not, whether to unsubscribe or not. But every little bet helps if you are right. Always look at the senders actual email address, not just the text name that shows up as the sender. If it's from a site or domain that doesn't look right, then do not unsubscribe but just mark as spam.

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Spam elimination
by cdhanks / June 20, 2014 3:32 PM PDT
Yahoo does a good job catching spam. It allows up to 500 blocked addresses, however I noticed much of the spam has a strange address, like: onlya88abd766a@00000100.0352.0176.0xf8 it appears that each email has a distinct address even though it looks like it came from same sender. There doesn't seem to be easy to stop this kind of spam. Any useful tips would be appreciated.
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telemarketing
by monsieurms / June 20, 2014 8:12 PM PDT

email spam has largely been defeated IMHO. It's not 100%. But it's really good these days with gmail's filters.

This, I suspect, is why we have ever increasing amounts of illegal telephone calls as spam. "Hello. I'm Rachel from CardServices calling to reduce your credit card rate...."

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Card Services
by JonathanPDX / June 21, 2014 3:03 AM PDT
In reply to: telemarketing

When they call, I add their number to a contact called "DO NOT ANSWER". My phone allows multiple numbers for each contact, and so far it's worked well. They still call, but with a custom silent ringtone, at least they're not quite so annoying.

Now if someone could find out where they're located and direct a drone strike against such domestic terrorists... LOL! Wink

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card services
by AlAmoling / June 21, 2014 6:12 AM PDT
In reply to: Card Services

Card services spoofs a local number and then goes into their rant. We were getting local calls from someone we didn't know so let the answering machine take care of it. but one day I answered to ask why they kept calling and the Card Services spiel came on.

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robot calls
by LoraHerring / August 9, 2014 4:28 PM PDT
In reply to: telemarketing

is there any way to get rid of the calls from Rachel to lower my interest rates? Sometimes I just go ahead and push 1 to talk to someone and then mess with them - offer to sell them Amway or have them wait for me to get my credit card and I don't come back... these calls are driving me nuts!

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SPAM
by geator / June 20, 2014 9:00 PM PDT

I've been marking all my spam e-mail as such for around 6 years
and it doesn't help at all. I am getting more spam in my inbox.

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Various Aspects
by Hforman / June 14, 2014 3:03 AM PDT

Long before the invention of the World Wide Web (WWW), the Internet was a nice place to be. Very quiet. Unfortunately, there were very few people to talk to and connecting was a nightmare. It is all about making or stealing money now.

Here is an experiment that any of you can try right now: Open an email account on a "FREE" email service like Yahoo or Gmail (any of them, I guess). Do not use that account for ANY reason! Never send even a single email from the account. Wait a few weeks and chack your inbox. It will be full of SPAM! That means, even without sending anyone your email address, your inbox will wind up with lots of spam. So, somehow, the mail service itself is making your new email address available to others. On the other hand, there are so many ways that you get on lists. Once you get on a list, the owners of the list (or unscupulous employees) can make lots of money selling those email addresses and more with names attached to them. Once sold, they can be re-sold. If you click on anything in an email, the sender now knows that the email is REAL and they can sell your name, other information and address for even MORE money.

Suggestions:

As some have pointed out, have multiple email addresses for different purposes.

Never give out your email address because someone or a store wants it. Do you want junk mail from them or the people they sell it to?

In filling out anything, avoid giving out your email address if at all posible. Don't always believe that they won't sell your information even if they say they won't. Employees can make a fast buck that way.

Get a good spam filter. I'm using Symantec.

Use re-mailers. They cost money and you have to monitor them in case they get hacked, but you can have multiple email addresses that point to your "real" address and then "drop" those addresses on the fly if it gets too messy. I use pobox.com for that. They also have spam filtering that works well.

BE VERY CAREFUL WITH WHAT MAIL YOU OPEN.

Don't automatically send read or any other kind of receipts in your mail program.

Avoid PHISHING at all costs. Got an email from 'your bank'? They want you to click on a link to login to your account? DON'T!!!!! Always go outside the email to get to your account if you really must look unless you are expecting an instant reset-your-password email. I've done this once. Had an email that looked pretty official from my credit card. Decided to click on the link to login to my account. Used "phony" credentials and noted that it claimed successful login. Be really careful here.

Remember that there are two types of spam. One is trying to sell you something and is 'legit'. The other is trying to ROB you. I'd avoid both.

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Not my experience
by Spenser / June 20, 2014 12:22 PM PDT
In reply to: Various Aspects

I'm sorry but my experience -at least my Gmail experience- has been totally different. I have two Gmail acconts, use them every day and the number of spams at my Inbox is very, very low. Of course I'm careful and I don't give those addresses if I'm not reasonably sure about who I'm dealing with. Actually I have another addresses that I use in cases in the grey zone. But I'm very sure Gmail is not giving my addresses to anyone.

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Dealing with Email Spam
by ronalds173 / June 21, 2014 2:09 AM PDT
In reply to: Various Aspects

If you belong to Facebook and/or Google+, I would change your settings to NOT ALLOW either of these networks access to your address book. I am not a big fan of either of these networks, but I at least have my Facebook, ( which I rarely or never use), settings set to the max security. Evidently I slipped with Google+, which I joined after being invited to look at a friends pictures. Just yesterday I found that Google+ got my entire address book and was asking me to add everybody to various circles.

Before I changed the security settings on my Facebook account I found my address book being stolen and phony emails with nothing but a web link being sent to my contacts from me. Since then, I tightened the security settings, and stopped using it.

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Not at all
by Straydog1st / June 22, 2014 4:01 AM PDT
In reply to: Various Aspects

I have "sleeping" accounts for years both on Yahoo and Gmail that never received a single spam message.

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