Tips Against Spam
by Oon Yeoh
Home-based businesses and teleworkers should make full use of the Internet to increase their productivity and to communicate effectively and efficiently at a low cost. E-mail is a wonderful tool that allows this.
Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad. In the case of e-mail, it’s the dreaded spam mail that’s proving to be a nuisance to anyone and everyone who uses e-mail. It can be particularly bothersome for homebased businesses who rely on e-mail for their communication purposes.
Spam is what we call, in the offline world, ‘junk mail’. If you’ve used e-mail, surely you are familiar with it. Junk mail is not something new. All of us are used to receiving good old-fashioned (printed) junk mail in our physical mailboxes outside our home. We throw some of it away, but I think it’s safe to say that most of us will give such junk mail the benefit of a doubt, and open the envelope to read what’s inside.
We might even buy something. Why is that so? The answer is that we know that there’s built-in due diligence at work here. It’s called simple economics. It costs a lot of money to print and deliver old-fashioned junk mail to you (because of printing, postage and handling). So, direct marketers won’t waste money sending you something that no sane individual would respond to.
The Internet changes everything. The cost of an incremental e-mail is virtually zilch. At the click of a button, a spammer can deliver as many junk e-mails as he wants, for next to nothing. Unlike traditional direct mail or telemarketing, there is no diminishing marginal return for sending out more solicitations. And it’s precisely because there’s no incremental cost that spammers will send out as much spam as they can. Even if only 1.0 per cent of the recipients were to respond, they’d have already achieved their aims.
So, what can you do about it? If you’re using web-based mail, many of these services already employ filtering devices that try to detect mass mailings and redirect them to a separate mailbox. Most people have Yahoo! and Hotmail e-mail accounts. Generally, Yahoo!’s filter does a much better job than Hotmail’s. But both these types of free e-mail accounts are dispensable, so if one gets too infected with spam, you can just cancel it and create a new one.
If you’re using regular (POP3) e-mail, there are various filters you can obtain through ZDNet’s free download site (www.zdnet.com/downloads). Once you’re in there, enter the keyword “spam” in the search engine and a bunch of spam buster programs will appear for you to download. Not all of the filters are available for free but most are sold at a reasonable price, and well worth paying for to avoid spam.
These filters usually work by identifying certain keywords that spammers like to use, or helping you identify and blacklist common perpetrators. But bear in mind that these solutions are not perfect. They should, however, help to reduce the amount of spam you receive.
Another way to cut down on spam is by observing certain e-mail behaviour. Here are three useful tips:
1. Never Respond, No Matter What.
Some tricky spammers include an option for you to unsubscribe to their mailing list. Never fall for that trick. It’s a way for them to know whether your address is “live.” Once they know that, they’ll sell your address to other spammers for a premium.
2. Set Up Multiple E-mail Addresses.
Treat these as disposable addresses that you wouldn’t mind abandoning if they were to get overly spammed. Use these for registering for various online services, posting messages on newsgroups and taking part in online chat sessions. Web-based services like Yahoo! and Hotmail are still free so you can create as many of these disposable e-mails as you like.
At the end of the day, no matter how many filters you use, and how much precaution you take, some spam will still inevitably get through. Just accept it as a fact of modern life and regard spam as an unavoidable nuisance that you have to put up with to enjoy the convenience of e-mail.