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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

1240. I get too much spam: How do I get less?

I keep getting spam.  I have spam filter software.  It doesn't seem to work. What can I do to make sure I get less spam?

First of all, I assume that by "spam" you're referring to unwanted emails, not highly processed, salty luncheon meat right? We'll just go with that assumption.

At this point, just about all the popular online email services have spam protection built in.  Some are better than others. (Ken swears by his Gmail spam protection--he never gets any unwanted emails in his Gmail accounts.) You may also find additional free and/or fee-based spam software to add to your base service.

Some popular spam protection products for consumer use include Spam Arrest and Spam Assassin. Corporate email providers might want to investigate Postini, by Google.  Both Office 365 and Google Mail have great spam filters built into them.

Almost all spam filters allow you to adjust the severity of the filtering. The more restrictive the setting, the more likely you are to get "false positives" -- that is, email that isn't spam sent to your spam folder. You can adjust the level of filtering, and it may take some trial and error to work out the best setting.

Most spam services allow you to set up "black lists" (email address and domains from which you will accept no email) and "white lists" (email address from which you will accept any email, which avoids the false positive problem). Make sure you check out these options in your own spam filtering software.

If things get too bad, you can usually set your spam filter to only allow email to be received from people in your contact list. This means, of course, that you'll never see email from strangers, but that can be a good thing!

In addition, consider that when you sign up for a web service using your email account, you will most likely and up receiving more spam--almost every free service requires you to "sign" an agreement that allows the site to share your email information. If at all possible, when you sign up for a service, attempt to limit the exposure of your email address by not agreeing to its free use.

Many people set up "throw-away" email addresses using a free email host (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and others) just for signing up for sites online. That way, if you find that you get too much spam at that address, you can simply close the account and set up a new one.

Finally, as a "last-ditch" drastic step, you can sign up for a new email address that will become your primary email address, alert all your contacts that you have changed your address, and then close the original address. You must ensure never to use this email address for anything except email--use a "throw-away" free email address for everything else. It will take some effort to set up, but this may be your best solution.

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