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Download Your Free ChoiceMail One Trial When your mailbox gets crammed full of junk mail so quickly that you haven't got time to find the real mail, its time to do something. My own solution is ChoiceMail. This inexpensive program has solved all my problems.

COMBATING SPAM

I've been on the internet for some time, and had a website for several years, so it seems that lots of people have got my email address. When my email address got onto one of those "millions of email addresses" CDs which get sold to and used by spammers, my junk mail increased markedly. Then when the email harvesting programs arrived, more junk mail then ever started filling my inbox.

Before I discuss some solutions to the problem, let's start with some definitions.

What is spam?

Usually spam is considered to be junk email, or unsolicited commercial email. The problem is we actually might want to receive some commercial email. Just as most people do not put a "No Junk Mail" sign on their letterbox because they might wish to occasionally flick through a catalogue, you might be interested in getting some mail if only to gather their address to add to your database. You might find it worthwhile to network in this way within your local area. In fact you might want to hear about the services of your neighbours, or send your own unsolicited commercial email. The problem is that some people bombard you with unwelcome, unpleasant or extremely annoying emails which fuels the anti-spam debate.

Slightly more than 70% of the emails I receive every day is filtered out as SPAM. This includes sex aids, health aids, finance and mortgage offers and dubious investment reports and get rich quick schemes. About 20% of my emails is junk mail - they are offers or adverts or newsletters because of some of the subscription lists I belong to. I don't always read them - in fact I rarely read them but they get filtered into appropriate folders in my inbox ready for the day when I'm in the mood to browse through them. That leaves the 10% of genuine email which I do read and handle normally.

So you can see that I treat "junk" mail differently from "spam". For example, I belong to a business association where I freely give out my email address. I therefore expect to receive mail from other members of the association yet I may have little use of their services. Mail from these people may not interest me but I'd be mad to turn down the opportunity of networking with a local business because I might want to be able to sell something to them. So it is a mistake to regard ALL mail from someone who is not in your contacts list as spam.

What is a Spammer?

Typically a spammer will be using a "system" which they have paid a considerable amount for. They'll have received a get quick rich scheme, possibly including a replicating website, a wad of email addresses or an email harvester program, programs to send out their emails and all the instructions. Yes, you guessed it - the people who are making the money are the ones with the programs to sell to the spammers!

The jewel in the crown is the program which sends out the emails in such a way as to make it difficult for spam blockers. The "from" and "reply-to" addresses as well as the subject line are randomly changed at regular and quite short intervals making it difficult to identify as spam. Frequently the sending addresses are ficticious and quite often so is the "to" address. I regularly receive 10 or 12 emails with the same content, variable subject lines and totally ficticious "to" addresses within my domain. Because my domain uses a "catchall" address, these ficticious emails are actually received. I have no doubt at all in my own mind that the person who is making money in this case is the one selling the addresses or the "per email service".

Filtering Spam

Rather than just deleting all the offensive emails you receive, you want to be able to set up a system where the spam you receive is filtered out of your inbox preferably without you having to do anything. There are several ways to automate this task.

Method 1: Most email programs allow you to set filters or rules to handle your mail. You set a rule so that mail from a particular address or mail with a particular subject line gets transferred directly to trash. This will work quite well for minor problems such as a persistent emailer that you cannot unsubscribe, or persistent subject lines. For example, you could set up a filter to dump any email with "free Euro", "free money" or "free investing report" in the subject line into the Trash. There is no point in trying to block the sender for these emails because that is a constantly changing variable (and almost certainly fake), but the subject for this particular email is one of those three and does not appear to change.

Method 2: Many ISPs have an optional spam blocker service such as Spam Arrester and Spam Assassin. However, these do not necessary suit everybody. Some of these programs read the headers and if it appears to be spam, the subject line is edited and [SPAM] is inserted in front of the first word. You are then encouraged to create a filter so that "[SPAM]" in the subject line will be transferred to a different folder or automatically deleted. The difficulty is that these programs seem to be unable to distinguish between real spam and subscribed to newsletters.

SpamCop uses a similar algorithm to detect and block spam, however it holds emails it considers to be spam and sends a complaint to the sending ISP, who then threatens to disconnect you from your service. If you try to trace back through SpamCop to try to discover who doesn't want to receive your emails any more, you are likely to hit blank walls. While this attitude may give great satisfaction to people who are sick of being bombarded with spam, it is very frustrating for senders of legitimate newsletters or senders of Christmas greetings to their own customers!!! (Speaking from experience here).

It is becoming a regular complaint of people sending out their newsletters that many just do not get through because the spam filters used by ISPs are dumping all bulk mailings including some legitimate email messages.

Method 3:
Install your own spam blocker. There a a lot of programs to choose from, including -

1 ChoiceMail One
2 Spam Bully
3 Spamfire
4 Mailwasher
5 Spamnix

1 ChoiceMail One

   I use and recommend ChoiceMail. Here's why:

ChoiceMail sits between the ISP and my mail client. It checks all mail as it is received against my whitelist, my blacklist, and filter list. Any emails on my whitelist are automatically passed through to my email program. Emails on my blacklist are automatically deleted. My filters include the ability to search through the content of the email and if it finds "You are receiving this email because you subscribed to SitePro News" for example, then it passes it through to the SitePro folder in my email program. Any emails which don't fit into any category are held in a pending area for 4 days.

A reply is sent to pending emails asking the sender to confirm that they want to contact me (they fill in a permission form). In most cases spammers never see that email because they didn't use their real address, so those emails just get deleted after a few days. I can check to see what is sitting in my pending box at any time; I can preview it without transferring it; I can accept any mail I notice that I do want to receive; or I can block any sender, or I can wait for the sender to confirm that they are "real" by clicking on a link in my reply email.

ChoiceMail has saved me hours of time and frustration. I can't speak highly enough of it. Please go ahead and have a trial run. You can download the program for 14 days free trial. It's worth much more than A$70 (US$39.95) just in the time you save.

If you need help in setting it up, let me know. If you'd rather not pay US$ then contact me directly and I'll invoice you in Australian dollars (inc GST).

Download your free 30 day trial here

or Buy Now

PS The latest version has just been released (9 September) with advanced features not found in other spam blockers. The "Family Friendly" features will allow parents to filter mail through an approval process for their children even if they have different accounts and different email clients. There are now also Enterprise and Multi-User versions. This is great news for networked systems - particularly small home networks who've been poorly served in the past. If you need more information about these, please contact me.

For more information, click here: ChoiceMail One Product Information

 

2 Spam Bully

This is the ideal program for users of Outlook Express and Outlook who have a moderate to low problem with spam. There is no need to run the program before opening your mail - it is fully integrated with Outlook Express or Outlook and just gives you a few additional buttons so that you can train the program to recognise what you consider to be spam. All spam is transferred to a folder called Spam, so you never lose anything. It is fully customisable, including a white list (for friends) and a black list. You may also set up a challenge message to send email back to unknown users to confirm their need to contact you.

While it lacks the full controls of ChoiceMail, it is easy to use and is already configured from installation, and of course there is no need to run a separate program. Spam Bully is definitely worth the price of A$55 (US$29.95) and is particularly good for home users or families where simplicity is important.

Get a FREE 14 DAY TRIAL Click Here

If you need help in setting it up, let me know. If you'd rather not pay US$ then contact me directly and I'll invoice you in Australian dollars (inc GST).

3 Spamfire

This is one for MacIntosh users. I haven't been able to test it, and there are no Australian dealers for it, but this appears to have all the ingredients for a good spam blocking program. Give the free trial a go and see what you think.

4 Mailwasher

This program is regularly recommended by ISPs or free software sites partly because of that - it's free unless you decide to support the author (a Kiwi) with a donation (say, US$20). This is a very useful program if you get flooded by thousands of junk emails but it can also be used for average problems.

Mailwasher must be set to run before the email program. It downloads only the header information of each email and as it does so, it compares the sender with blacklist sites via a number of other programs or online services, such as Spam Assassin. You can mark emails to be deleted and/or bounced from the server. If you find yourself receiving loads of large attachments, this type of program is a godsend because you'll never need to waste time downloading huge unwanted files again. Because Mailwasher relies heavily on blacklists, it will not automatically pick up all your spam, however it is easy to block delete messages from the header list.

Once you've processed the mail (ie deleted and bounced the junk), you then open your email program to download as normal. Mailwasher can be used as your first line defence, then filter the remaining mail as you download it to your email program.

Download Mailwasher here

5 Spamnix

Lots of people avoid using Outlook and Outlook Express because these programs tend to allow viruses to spread more easily or because the address books or filters or other settings don't fit their needs. Eudora has long been the favourite alternative. Spamnix was created as an add-on to Eudora (both Windows and Macs) and works a bit like Spam Bully. A Spamnix folder is created where all spam gets dumped, and a number of additional buttons are loaded into the Eudora interface. You can add to the blacklist from your existing emails by sender, domain or subject so that, over time, you teach it how to treat your emails.

The price has just gone up unfortunately. I guess they figured they'd match the price of the others. Still, at US$29.95 it is still a very useful tool for Eudora users with moderate to low spam problems.

Get your free trial of Spamnix here and if you need a good email program get the latest Eudora.

PROTECT YOUR WEBSITE

How do spammers get your email address? Well there are many ways, but increasingly the use of email harvesters which scan web pages for email addresses are being used. An email harvester or similar to the search bots used by search engines to index your web pages for their directories. You want these search bots to index your pages, so you can't hide your pages. You need to hide your email address code from the email harvester but not from visitors to your site.

What are your choices?

Try one or all of these methods:

  • Use a graphic image - your visitors must write down your email address in order to contact you
  • Use a feedback form - the recipient address is not in hidden code but hard coded into the script or in a separate text file.
  • Use encryption - the email address is coded using a strong encryption method (not just ascii codes)
  • Use javascript to construct the email address - this is the most versatile and variable method

What you should NOT do:

  • Use a weblock type of program which theoretically "locks" the code so that you cannot right click, copy graphics, etc. Without using any complicated programs, I guarantee I can "unlock" any locked page within a few minutes. If I can, so can millions of other people.
  • Use html codes for symbols such as "@" - that is replace the symbol with & # 6 4 ; (without the spaces) as this automatically converted by the browser and all WYSIWYG editors and therefore unlikely to fool email harvesters.
  • Use your email address without a mailto link and with spaces scattered through the address. This will just make it difficult for your viewers.

Have your website evaluated now for spam proofing your contact details. It may save you hours of frustration in the future if you take this simple action now. Just click on the Get Quote link below.

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