If I asked how many of you are the regular recipients of junk e-mail (SPAM), I'm guessing I would receive a 100% unanimous response in the affirmative.
Unfortunately, SPAM is a problem that is unlikely to go away. Even if legislative action is taken, don't expect it to have any real impact upon the problem. That said, however, there are effective steps you can take to manage the SPAM that you receive.
Before I explain my technique, let me give you a quick marketing primer. If this seems patronizing to some, my apologies, but not everyone knows when they're being taken for a ride.
- You know those drawings that you see in the stores or on television – how can I put this – I won't say, scam, but let's be honest about what's actually happening. These giveaways are really all about you giving away your contact details for marketing purposes. You provide your name, e-mail address, and other contact details and the information is then used to send you junk mail. This information is not only used by the collector, but is oftentimes sold and used by others who buy the information for direct marketing purposes, which translates into more junk mail for you.
- Credit applications and other paper-work that request an e-mail address are also likely to use your information for direct marketing purposes.
- Buying something online usually requires that you create an account on the merchant's web-site. This registration process almost always requires a verifiable e-mail address which will usually opt you in to the merchants mailing list.
- Registration for free web services, likewise, requires that an account be created and usually requires a verifiable e-mail address which is then used for direct marketing purposes.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Anytime you are asked to provide personal information, just assume that it's going to some how, some way, be used for direct marketing. Unless you like receiving junk mail, look for options on the form or on the site to opt-out of marketing campaigns. These options are showing up more and more as consumers express their outrage over SPAM. If such an option isn't provided then, where possible, make a note that you do not whish to be placed on any mailing lists and are not providing your information for sale. In short, the less information you provide, the more you protect yourself from SPAM.
Ok – now on to the strategy. First and foremost, you MUST have multiple e-mail accounts to effectively deal with this problem. Most service providers give you this option by default, so having a handful of accounts shouldn't be an issue. So why multiple accounts; basically, you must divide to conquer. My strategy for managing e-mail involves three accounts.
- Account 1: This is my personal e-mail account and is the address that I give to family and friends ONLY. Never, EVER use this address on an application, drawing form, web registration, etc. If you do, I promise you'll eventually start receiving SPAM. I check this account every day and very rarely get any kind of SPAM at this address. When I do, it is usually because someone who had my address compromised it in some way (keep reading). A SPAM filter is very effective at dealing with the very small amount of SPAM that does make it through to this account.
- Account 2: This is an address I use for stuff that I might care about. When I buy something online or when I complete paper-work that requires an e-mail address, this is the one I use. If you're registering an account on a web-site that doesn't require some kind of payment, I rarely use this address. If it's a site that I really trust such as my church, my bank, etc, then I'm comfortable using this address. I don't check this account every day, but I do check it often. I get more SPAM at this address than my personal address, but as before, I use a SPAM filter which is very effective at identifying the unwanted messages.
- Account 3: This is for stuff I don't care about and is the address I use when I'm required to provide an e-mail address but don't want to. In my case, these are usually web-site registrations for some kind of free service. I never check this e-mail account in the sense that I check the others. The only time I ever read a message from this account is when a site requires that I click a verification link, otherwise I log into the account on a regular basis and delete everything in the inbox.
I've been using this strategy for years and find it to be very effective. I get very little SPAM on my first two accounts, and when I do, I can block the sender and, in some cases, ask the sender to stop sending me mail.
Now that you know the strategy, there are some other pieces of information you should know to help you with your SPAM control.
- If you have your own domain name such as geek-tips.com, be careful, when setting up your e-mail addresses, to not setup any catch-all accounts. I don't want to get too technical, but basically a catch-all account takes any message addressed to your domain (firstname.lastname@example.org), whether it's a legitimate address or not, and routes the message to this account. Knowing your e-mail address is what the marketers want. Making it so any address works means you loose.
- When posting to a forum or bulletin board never include your e-mail address (or any other personal information) in the posting. If you want to make yourself available, be creative and use something like blog (at) geek-tips.com, this will prevent software designed to harvest addresses from catching your address and adding you to its marketing list.
- ALWAYS respect your friends and family's contact details. When you send a wide e-mail distribution, use the BCC field instead of the TO or CC field. Not that you have any unscrupulous friends or family members but let's say someone on your mailing list runs an online business and sees that you just sent a message to 70 of your closest friends and family. All he has to do is copy the names and addresses out of your message and paste them into her database – believe me, this stuff happens all the time!
- Use a SPAM filter. If your service provider provides a filter – use it, you're paying for it anyway. If they don't, buy a package such as Norton Internet Security or McAfee Internet Security.
If you didn't catch it when I opened I said that this technique will help you "manage the SPAM that you receive". Anyone or any method that promises to make the SPAM stop isn't being truthful about what they can really do for you. Follow these basic steps and you'll definitely notice a difference in the amount of SPAM that makes it through to your primary account and you'll feel better about not having to wade through the junk every day.