Fighting Spam


I am receiving a lot of Spam, way too much…

The last years the amount of Spam I receive has been steadily growing, and now I receive about 50 messages per day. But I am not going to sit down and accept it; no, I am fighting Spam. I am fighting Spam because Spam takes away the pleasure and the functionality of a system I like and use a lot. Spam is about to destroy e-mail. I fight Spam in several ways, here is how…

I am very careful with my e-mail address

The most important thing is to make sure that spammers don’t get your e-mail address.

I always try to avoid to fill in an e-mail address in guest books, forums and when requesting online information. If I do have to give my e-mail address, I always make sure I can track down the source.

I can do that, since I have my own domain. If I have to leave my address at, I will use The moment I start receiving Spam on this address, I can easily block it.

If you don’t have your own domain, this is not possible, but make always sure that you only put your address on-line if you really have to. And never munge your address by adding something like NOSPAM!!!!!

I never let spammers white list my e-mail address

Spammers look for addresses on the Internet, but a lot of them are not used anymore. Therefore they try to verify that somebody is reading the mail; a verified address is worth more to the spammer.

There are two common ways to whitelist an e-mail address. The most common is the ‘Remove me from this list’ message at the bottom of much Spam.

But instead of removing you from their Spam list, the spammer will put you on the verified addresses list, and you will surely receive more Spam. Therefore I never use these links to remove me from a Spam list.

The second method of white listing uses images. The spammer links to an image with a code in the filename, and when you open the message this image is loaded from the spammer’s server. After that the spammer can check the code in the image name and your e-mail address is verified!

I usually use Mozilla mail, which let you select whether you want to view messages in HTML (including images) or as plain text. Although a lot of people send messages in HTML by default, few messages have content that NEED this, so I usually read my messages in plain text. (I also send my messages in plain text, but that is a different story). People using Outlook will have to disable their preview pane to prevent images from being loaded automatically.

I separate Spam from my normal mail

No matter how hard you try to prevent Spam, at a certain moment you will receive some, and it will never stop. In 99% of the cases you can easily recognise Spam from the sender and the subject, which are unknown, strange, in a foreign language and coded (texts like: jbkdk,bjhskda).

I always make sure to directly put Spam messages in a separate folder, so I can continue reading my regular mail, and deal with the Spam later. If you don’t receive many messages, you can do this by hand, but lazy people like me like this to be automated.

The latest technology is based on Bayesian Filtering, and luckily Mozilla has this technique integrated.

I report Spam to the provider of the Spammer

Depending on my time (usually not a lot), I send a complaint to the provider of the Spammer. I open up my Spam folder, analyse all messages and send a message to the provider of the originating mail server and sites mentioned in the text.

It is very difficult to find out who is the responsible, but fortunately this can be partly automated as well. I use the SpamCop notification service, to report Spam. SpamCop analyses the email, works out the likely true sender of the email, looks in the body to find any advertised email addresses or web sites, and then emails the administrators of all the systems involved to let them know about the problem.

SpamCop tells me whom the notification will be sent to, so I can remove any incorrectly targeted reports from the list.

I don't buy

This last one is quite obvious, but essential. Spammers send you messages to sell something. Sending millions of e-mail is cheaper than sending leaflets by snail mail, but still costs money. If I don’t buy anything, they will have the costs but no profit. If we all just stop buying, Spam will stop automatically!!!!

Jeroen Sangers @jeroensangers