How to prevent spam


“Spam,” another name for unsolicited e-mail, is illegal to send. Spam is often used by companies offering questionable products, get-rich-quick schemes or illegal services. Keeping it out of your inbox is easier than you think.

Identify the culprit

Prevent spam: identify the culprit

The first step in combating spam is to know it when you see it. If the subject line is offering a lower mortgage, a date with Trixie or free $$$, you know it’s spam. But be careful, because spam is often disguised by intriguing or mysterious subject lines, such as “FWD: great punch line” or “Information you requested.” So, even if the subject looks harmless, your best bet is to delete the e-mail if you don’t recognize the sender’s address.

Many spammers fake the identity of the sender by using a common name such as “Bob.” Is this an e-mail from Uncle Bob? Or maybe from your co-worker? You can't know for sure and the spammer counts on your curiosity. But don’t open it. Some spammers even use the names of trusted institutions, such as a bank or well-known online retailer. It’s up to you to exercise appropriate caution.

Handling the evidence

Prevent spam: handling the evidence

E-mail providers including America Online (AOL), Microsoft® (MSN/Hotmail), and Yahoo! stop a significant amount of spam with e-mail filters, so make sure your filter is on. Check your provider’s “Preferences” or “Tools” menu for more filter information. Once it’s activated, it will funnel unwanted messages into a Bulk Mail or Junk Mail folder. From here you can quickly scan e-mails for any wanted messages and bulk delete the rest.

Never, ever, open the attachment of a suspicious e-mail. It may contain a virus that could destroy the data on your PC, duplicate itself and attack the PCs of everyone in your e-mail address book. And don’t forward unknown e-mail.

Resist the temptation to unsubscribe. Sometimes clicking a link that promises to unsubscribe you lets the spammer know your e-mail address is valid, which means you might be spammed even more.

Handy prevention tips

Prevent spam: prevention tips

The best way to fight spam is to keep it from arriving in your inbox in the first place. Here are some tips for preventing unwanted e-mail.

  • Don't post your e-mail address on unsecure websites. Spammers scan newsgroups, websites and web forums looking for e-mail addresses.
  • Don’t give out your e-mail address unless you know how it will be used. Check a site’s privacy policy (such as HP's Online Privacy Statement). If a company doesn’t have a privacy statement, you probably shouldn’t trust them with your e-mail address.
  • Never buy anything advertised in spam. Chances are the services advertised are bogus.
  • Update your address book. Make sure the people you want contact with are in your address book—your friends, family, business associates and companies you do business with. Many e-mail systems filter our messages from e-mail addresses not included in the recipient’s address book.
  • Activate image blocking through the settings on your e-mail account to avoid potentially offensive pictures in your e-mail.
  • Use the filters built into your e-mail programs. If your ISP doesn’t provide filtering, you may want to use a product such as SpamSubtract from InterMute, which allows you to filter and block e-mail.

Remember to report spam to your Internet service provider so they can track key offenders. If we all work together, spam may again become just a canned meat product.