Thursday, February 28, 2008

How to stop or reduce Spam Emails

One can be as happy as he wants. But the same statement may not apply to Internet users, thanks to spam emails. Although there is no foolproof way to stop spams, we can reduce the amount of spams by being a bit careful.

The first thing before attacking is to understand the enemy and its strength. What is spam? We may call it junk mail, spam or whatever else you fancy, its property remains to be the same: it's unsolicited and it's useless. Most often than not, spams get generated from bots, viruses and automated mailing lists. In the rare cases, they are also caused my human users which, quite often, happen to be the most irritating kind of spam generators. It is observed that around 80% of the email messages exchanged are spams!. How disgusting!!

Take, for example, an incident which happened recently. One of my friends sent a mail to a large number of recepients. But one of those recepients was not an intended person. That person used Reply All and asked my friend to remove him from his mailing list. Well, you can guess what happened. All of us got the reply email which was intended only for my friend. Thankfully the chapter ended there itself. To get a hint of what can happen in such cases, see how to look stupid.

What is the solution for this? It's simple: We have to be in the right mind and know when to use Reply and when to use Reply All. As a rule of thumb, we should NEVER use Reply All unless we are 100% sure about what we are doing.

Instead of relying on others, another way to prevent such incidents is to be cautious enough not to disclose the email addresses to the recepients at all. It can be easily done by adding the addresses to BCC (Blind Courtesy Copy or Blind Carbon Copy) field instead of TO or CC fields. Unfortunately BCC field ranks top among the most obscure and unused standard feature of email!

The features discussed above are only for mails generated by humans. What about those spam emails which get generated by malwares and bots? Such spam emails are mainly the means for advertising products. More the number of recepients, more the number of customers. But how do they get the email ids? It's directly or indirectly by ourselves. We may have inadverently given our email ids to some website or it might have gone there by one of our friends. We need to be extra careful if we want to be at a distance from spams.

Also it is a good idea to remove the sender's information while forwarding an email to others. It not only protects your privacy, but also prevents any potential spammer to use the email addresses in the body of the mail to be used for unsolicited mailings.

Virtually there is no way to stop such emails if you are already receiving them. Precaution is better than cure is the mantra to be followed here. When we give out our email ids to some third party web sites, we need to be extra careful. Never give your email id to any unknown public mailing lists. You never know who shares your email id with spammers!

Another way to detect and filtering out spams is to give plus or minus addressing. You can use different tags for different mailing lists and if you start receiving spams, you can come to know who shared your email address with the spammers. Read more about spam control by plus addressing technique here.

Is that all? Not quite. One of the most common mistakes done by many people is to use their email addresses in their signatures. You may think that is going to make you more famous in the online world. But remember, for one genuine email you get by displaying your email id there, you start receiving hundreds of spams. Never ever make the mistake of putting email id in web pages, forums or social networking sites. Also, remember never to give away your friends' email ids to sites which ask you to invite them to join it. You may think you are being courteous to your friends by giving their email ids but, in reality, you are making them victims of spam emails.

Last but not the least, as a rule of thumb, don't forward any email message if it explicitly asks you to do so! Stopping spams may not be in our hands, but reducing them really is!