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Tips to Avoid SPAM

Our State IT department tells us approximately 77 percent of ALL emails sent to the Montana State network are intercepted as SPAM. The SPAM filter catches around 86 MILLION SPAM emails a week! An unknown quantity makes it past the filter and makes it to the user's inbox. This is just an example of how prevalent SPAM is on the internet.

I have compiled the steps below to help you avoid being a target of SPAM at YOUR email address. Most of these steps can be used with your personal or work email.

1. Sign up for an email address at one of the free providers like HOTMAIL, MSN, YAHOO, etc. Use this email account wherever possible for doing online transactions (signing up for accounts, purchases, and organizational memberships). You will not be able to access this email from your work computer but it is a small price to pay to avoid potential SPAMMERS! This will have to be done from home but the email can be used when an address is requested when dealing with most web sites. Avoid using your main email address (work or home) at all costs!

2. Always say no, uncheck the box or otherwise decline offers to share your information with others. Some of the more reputable online businesses will not allow you to sign up using an email account from one of the free providers. They will usually have some areas where you can select how they deal with your account. Look for "PRIVACY". Many of them will have an option similar to "allow us to share your email address with businesses who we think would provide you with services you would like/use". DECLINE DECLINE DECLINE! You should be the one to decide what businesses you want to deal with. These other businesses may not be as reputable as the one you trust. Read carefully to make sure you are OPTING OUT not OPTING IN!!

3. Never open a SPAM email if it can be avoided. It is best to have your auto preview feature shut off in your Outlook/email client, especially if you have problems with SPAM. Many of these types of emails contain pictures. These pictures can be set to be downloaded from the spammer's server and can be used to verify the validity of your email address. If you have your preview option selected, just previewing the message will activate this capability. The preview can also get your computer infected when you receive emails containing virus. Set your email to go to the inbox instead of opening the next/previous message after you finish with the current message to prevent your email client from automatically opening unwanted emails. (In Outlook: Tools -> Options -> Preferences -> E-mail Options, set "After moving or deleting an open item:" to "return to the Inbox")

4. Don't use Outlook Out-of-Office Assistant or Auto Reply features from other email clients. DO NOT use it unless mandated. Depending on how this feature is configured, it may automatically respond to each message you get, SPAM or otherwise, which will validate your email address to the spammer community. If you MUST use it, try limiting the response by using the rule capability to adjust who it replies too (maybe just a reminder to your co-workers that you will be gone).

5. If you open a SPAM email, never EVER click UNSUBSCRIBE on a SPAM email. Most SPAM emails have just such a link and what it actually does is validate your email address so they can sell it to other spammers. So, instead of decreasing your SPAM this will actually INCREASE your SPAM.

6. If your account is being inundated by SPAM, particularly at home, change your email address or activate a filter. Having dealt with AOL for years, as I would get inundated with SPAM, I would disable that account for several months and use a different account or block all but specific addresses. Then when I came back to the original account, the SPAM would be gone because AOL would reject the emails and the spammers would remove my address from their list. Many email clients now include a junk mail filter. Make use of it! It takes a diligent and constant effort as spammers constantly change their tactics, but, it will help!

7. If you must post on a bulletin board as part of your job, or you use bulletin boards at home and want/need to leave an email address, try to use a human readable email address, HTML Encoded address, or use SPAMMER TRICKS to prevent being a target.

Instead of:

Human readable: lcope at mt dot gov

HTML Encoded:


(You can use the email encoder, here, to encode your email address and see how it looks. You will have to do some experimentation to see if your BBS of choice will allow emails of this type.)

SPAMMER TRICKS(adding spaces or doing character replacement):

l c 0 p 3 @ m t . g 0 v

Note: Using SPAMMER TRICKS may require a little comment explaining your "trick" such as; "please remove spaces/dashes and change these characters to obtain valid email address". Also, the character replacement technique will be more secure as spammer tools may become smart enough to remove the spaces. They MAY even become smart enough to try different letter replacement combinations but that remains to be seen...

Basically, you want to use anything that will allow a person to see your email address but will prevent the spammers from using an application to harvest the address since it looks for certain keys like the @ sign and .gov, .com, .net, etc. Changing these from the standard format will prevent the spammer's tools from recognizing and gathering your information.

8. Check with your ISP for anti-SPAM suggestions. Many Internet Service Providers offer reduced cost or even FREE applications to help you in your SPAM battles. Many of these allow you to block SPAM from certain IP addresses or other less scrupulous ISPs who are not so concerned with what their users do. If you can afford it, get some and implement it!

If you have made it this far and use these steps, your SPAM will be greatly reduced and you may even become a SPAM free SPAMURAI WARRIOR!!! Sorry... couldn't resist! :P