View Full Version : FAQ #20 - How do I get rid of SPAM?

24-08-2004, 05:58 PM
FAQ #20 - How do I get rid of SPAM?

Originally written by Susan B

SPAM is simply unwanted emails that you have not authorised the sender to deliver to you, mostly advertising.It ranges from "Get Rich Quick", "Low Interest Home Loans", "Free Car" and "Free Scratch and Win" to links to pornography sites. It is a nuisance but fortunately there is a range of artillery to use against it, depending of the severity.

1. Preventing spam - guard your email address

If you don't want to receive unauthorised emails, and who does?, the best way to avoid it is to be careful where you leave your email address. If you want to join a geneology newsgroup or log in to websites that request an address before accessing you can open a Hotmail or similar account for this purpose.

Posting your email address on forums such as Press F1 is leaving it wide open to collection by web bots whose specific purpose is to gather as many email addresses as possible for on-selling to spam marketers. Most decent forums provide for listing your address in your Settings information.

It also pays to be careful not to give a valued address to friends who will forward jokes and other interesting email to everyone in their address book without using the BCC option. Your personal email address will be distributed and most likely harvested and sold by spam address collectors.

Keeping your personal email address private for personal use amongst friends and family will usually be sufficient but choosing an unusual email address will also help enormously. john_smith@xtra.co.nz will automatically be bombarded with junk mail simply by having such a common name but jaybesm@xtra.co.nz is less common and less likely to be picked up by a computer spam address generator.

More information on how emails are harvested is here: www.private.org.il/harvest.html (http://www.private.org.il/harvest.html).

2. Preventing spam - do not reply

If spam does find its way into your Inbox the worst thing you can do is reply to it. This only confirms that your email address is valid and you will probably end up getting more. Replying to spam confirms that you have read the message and confirms that your email address is valid, which will result in you winning even more "free cars", "free money" and "free trips"........

3. Spam filtering software

Spam that has become a big problem can be dealt with in several ways. The first is to consider changing your email address. Some ISPs allow more than one email address per account.

Changing your address can produce a big headache when it comes to informing everybody or you may simply not want to so it may suit you better to use spam filtering software. One that has been recommended a few times on this forum is MailWasher (http://www.mailwasher.net/) a freeware program made in New Zealand. This program allows you to check your emails at your ISP without firstly downloading them. This also offers protection from viruses as you can delete them instead of downloading onto your computer.

A second recommended program is Spam Buster. This can be used for a while on manual to give you time to let it know what is spam and what is not and then put on auto. It is available from ZDnet.com.

4. A note about bouncing spam

One option available in MailWasher is the ability to set it to bounce back unwanted spam so that your address looks like it doesn't exist to the sender. In theory they will soon remove you from their list.

The following was submitted by Graham Lees:

Again, this suggestion of bouncing spam.

The senders of spam don't get these bounces. Innocent third-parties get them. The spam senders give a false 'From:' address.

ISP postmasters waste huge amounts of time handling such bounces, mostly from such 'automatic' filters setup in revenge mode.

This just wastes bandwidth (slows networks down for everyone), wastes people time (wouldn't you like people at your ISP making it better), and has NO effect on the culprits.


IF you have not got enough time (or the skills) to track and identify the actual source of this stuff, just dump it. Don't set up filter software to 'get revenge'. That does not work. Just use it to filter the input and send the rejects to the bit bucket.

The following was submitted by whiskeytangofoxtrot:

If a spammer sends to a non existent address it will bounce back with an unknown user from the destination mail server. The bounce feature in Mailwasher tries to emulate this by sending back basically a forged unknown user bounce to the sender of the spam. If you know what you are doing it is very easy to determine what is a mailwasher bounce versus an actual mail server bounce.

That said, if an e-mail sent by a spammer is not bounced back then theoretically the spammer could use that as a way of validating an active address by assumng if it didn't bounce then it must've gone somewhere legitimate (just like they use unsubscribe links, embedded images etc to do this). However, the addresses spammers use are rarely valid - more often than not they are made up, or worse still a valid address of some other poor unsuspecting sap. It would be a rarity for a spammer to monitor the return address for bounces as a method of checking the validity of their list.

Hence bouncing is really a waste of time, all it does is increase the amount of dead mail being sent around, and usually results in a flood of messages coming back to the bouncer.

It costs nothing to send out a few million e-mails, if 80 - 90% of them don't hit a target no one cares. A spammer only needs to get a rate of return of less than 1% to break even.

5. Setting up Mail Rules -- submitted by Gordon

Another method to control spam is to set up mail rules in your email client and can be done as follows:

If you are using Outlook Express one rule is Delete from Server. Select the offending message in your Inbox, click on Message > Create Rule From Message. A dialogue box will open containing three windows: the first window "Where the From line contains people" is ticked by default.

In the second window, "Select the Actions for your rule", put a tick beside the option "Delete it from server".

In the third window, "Rule Description" where the senders address is, is where the fun begins. If the address is yahoo, xtra, mailcity, or any other common web based mail, then just OK the rule.

If the address ends in something such as grouplotto.com or adultmail.com, then you can create a additional rule to further block mail from that site even if they change the first part of the address from freecar to freemoney, as is usually the case.

Place your mouse over the address, single left click the address; that will bring up a Select People dialogue box. In the first line type in the from address including the @, so for example type in @grouplotto.com and that will block other messages from that site as well. Note that if you were to apply this to addresses for sites ending in yahoo, for example, then you would also block all good senders from yahoo as well.

For example if the header address in your offending message, as listed in the third window of the New Mail Rule dialogue box, was ytempel@netvision.net.il you would click that address and in the Select People dialogue box you would insert @netvision.net.il in the first line and click OK to confirm the rule.

Another point to note is that you may find some spammers inserting random letters/digits after the @. Using the previous example ytempel@bm999.netvision.net.il once again, click on the address to bring up the Select People dialogue box and this time insert @bm999.netvision.net.il then repeat that step again and also put in just netvision.net.il This way you are covering multiple bases at a time.

In conjunction with blocking the senders you are also able to create rules to delete any emails with specific words in the subject line or message body, such as sex, teen, enhance size, lose weight, free, etc etc. The process is similar to that described above.

6. Email junk & unsubscribing

If an option to unsubscribe to email junk goes through a website (eg the click takes you to a website and you click on an unsubscribe button) most of the time the unsubscribe works, but generally a reply email to a hotmail or such address does not work.

If the target of the link is some strange, obscure-sounding address or URL it is probably not genuine but if it takes you back to the website you have subscribed to it will probably work but there are no guarantees, of course.

7. ISP spam filtering

Many internet service providers (ISPs) now have spam filtering services whereby all incoming emails are assessed by software on their mail servers and if it has lots of spam features (so many that it can't be anything but spam) it will automatically be deleted or placed in a special folder for your inspection depending on what option you choose.

Have a look on your ISP's homepages to see if your provider offers this service and to check the options available.

8. Spam in Hotmail

Hotmail provides a junk mail filter that will send offending emails into the "trash". It is activated through the junk mail options setup and you may choose to have the junk mail deleted immediately or sent to the trashbin for 14 days. This option allows you to periodically check that non-junk mail is not being filtered out accidentally.

There are other options available and it is a matter of exploring and experimenting to see which suits you.

Original FAQ available from here (http://pressf1.pcworld.co.nz/thread.jsp?forum=1&thread=21706).