Tips for Avoiding Spam List Placement

In this month's column, there's simply no room for provocative, awe-inspiring words with which to entice you to read the rest of my column. Nope, today, we have to get right to the point.

And the point is, spam (junk e-mail) is wasting our time and money, and we need to take steps to combat it. In my last column we tackled how spammers get your e-mail address and how you can combat their abuse of it. In this column, we'll tackle how to avoid getting onto the spammers' lists to begin with.

Avoiding spam:
1. If you're using a "freebie" e-mail account such as an AOL or hotmail account, avoid using common names in your e-mail address. Instead of MaryC@aol.com, choose MryCa@aol.com.

2. When asked for your e-mail address by a company you don't want to receive e-mail from, give a fake e-mail address. Or, use a "disposable" e-mail address, which is an address you can sign up for and then "turn off" when you start receiving too much junk e-mail. Disposable e-mailboxes forward e-mail to your permanent e-mail address. It's just a way to avoid giving out your permanent e-mail address. To sign up for one of these, check out one of the e-mail filtering companies mentioned later in this column.

3. If it's a company you think you'd like to receive e-mail from, but you're not completely sure that they won't sell your e-mail address or give it to someone else who might, then use a special account. Go to hotmail.com or one of the many other dotcom e-mail services and get a free account for just this purpose. That way you can check your e-mail when you have time and you won't have to worry about it clogging up your regular e-mail address.

4. If you ever go into online chatrooms, use an e-mail address that you never check e-mail for. For example, if I was on AOL, I would have two e-mail addresses. Let's say the primary e-mail address that I gave out for business was Kitchencom@AOL.com. If I wanted to venture into one of their many chat rooms, I would go in using KK1234@AOL.com , a secondary e-mail address. Why? According to Brian Huseman, a staff attorney with the Federal Trade Commis-sion the government agency tackling the spam problem the FTC recently published a study called "Spam Harvest," which concluded that 100% of the e-mail addresses the FTC put out there via chatrooms were used by spammers to send junk e-mail.
One statistic that from that study that I found particularly frightening one e-mail address was harvested and sent junk e-mail within nine minutes of going into a chatroom! The same study showed that 86% of e-mail addresses were harvested from news groups by spammers.

5. Mask your e-mail address when it appears on Web site pages. For example, instead of posting Karla@Kitchens.com on my Web site page, I would instead post on my Web site Karla@GreatWebsites.Kitchens.com. I would then include "instructions" on my Web site on how to use my e-mail address. It would say, "To send me an e-mail, please remove the 'GreatWebsites.' from the above e-mail address. This has been done to avoid spammers."

Filtering Services
The good news is that there are services you can sign up for that do a pretty good job of filtering out the junk e-mail. Of course, there's a charge for these, but you can normally get a free trial before you commit. Note that these spam fighting companies will only work if you are using certain Internet Service Providers.

  • Brightmail.com: Cost varies depending on your ISP. This is not available "directly" to you; it is sold through ISPs. To find out if your ISP offers Brightmail.com, visit the "Home Users" section of the map and click on North America. This company sends suspect e-mail over to a separate e-mail box that you're also able to access, just in case legitimate e-mail ends up there. This company's services works with six out of the top 10 ISPs.
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  • SpamCop.com: Cost is $19.95. According to its Web site, "SPAM INSPECTOR (Cop) scans all of your incoming e-mail messages for 'spam indicators' and assigns each message a numeric probability of being an unsolicited e-mail. The software then organizes the quarantined e-mails into the AOL deleted messages folder. SPAM INSPECTOR hunts down and eradicates 99 percent of all unwanted e-mails."
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  • MailShell.com: Cost is $34.95/year. This company claims to get rid of 99% of all junk e-mail. The company's Web site has an entire section dedicated to features/benefits, as well as a com-parison section of what it offers as compared to e-mail spam services offered by Hotmail, Yahoo! and some others.
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  • SpamEx.com: Cost is $9.95/year. The firm's Web site notes, "Other companies use filters or rules as a way to block spam. However, it's easy to get around this by changing the address that's being used to send from. SpamEx is never fooled. Why?

Because each disposable e-mail address that is created is completely traceable and can be shut off instantly, thus stopping any e-mail from getting through."

A word to the wisebefore working with a company besides one of the ones above, make sure the company you are signing up with is reputable. There are a couple of spammers who put up a fa'ade saying they are one of these services just to gather more e-mail addresses to send spam to!

After hearing all of this, do you wonder if it's even possible to avoid an e-mailbox full of this stuff? Well, it is and it isn't. The bad news is that it's truly doubtful that one day you'll open your e-mailbox and not find at least a couple of pieces of junk e-mail.The good news is, even the government has gotten involved in the "Battle of the Spam," and is taking the matter very seriously. If someone is spamming you, help us all out and forward the spam to Federal Trade Commission at uce@ftc.gov.

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