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Avoiding Spam

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you. My email address is here.

Google Mail    Hotmail    Messaging    Why Start with WebMail?   Setting up Webmail    Spam in Web Mail    What's Spam    Unsafe Emailing   
So What? What Harm Can a Few Extra Addresses Do?    Unsafe Surfing   

During the last few years I've realised how I'd arrange my email if I were starting over.

  1. From the word "go" I'd have at least one webmail account, and to begin with I'd give just my webmail address to everyone, even family members and close friends.
  2. I'd acquire and install essential protective software straight away.
  3. After some weeks—perhaps longer—I'd give the address provided by my Internet Service Provider to just those people who I knew practised safe emailing and safe Internet use.
  4. Whenever asked for an email address, I would give the webmail address, only giving the private one when I became sure about a person's emailing habits.
  5. I would never type my private address onto a form on a web page (except, when required, the web page of my Internet Service Provider or some other official and absolutely trustworthy site).
  6. I would never, ever, give that address to a workplace, school or anywhere from which the same email is sent to each of a number of people.
  7. When filling out paper forms, I'd think before entering either an email address or a mobile phone number. In most cases, a street address and a landline phone number is all that's needed.



Webmail accounts are easy come, easy go. You can delete or abandon one webmail address and get another. You can have several, using each for a different purpose.

In contrast, once your primary email address (supplied by your ISP and associated with your user name) has been discovered by spammers you're a bit stuck. To rid yourself of such an address you may have to actually close your account and open a new one. This does vary from one isp to the next; sometimes the change can be made on payment of a fee.


What is Spam?

“Spam” is the name used for unsolicited email—electronic junk mail. To find out what the spammers get out of it (lots of money) and how they can harm you, read the page What is Spam?

Spamming is against the law, but that doesn’t deter true spammers. For the recipient, spam can make opening an email client a thoroughly miserable experience. Much of the material is offensive, even in the subject line, while the time wasted sifting through it can be more than you have to spare.


Unsafe Emailing

You'll soon see that some people send the same email to several people, and when they send an email to you you can see other people's email addresses. Do you know each of those people? Are you sure that they wanted you to have their address? Are you happy to know that each of them now has your address? Of course, within a family or a close group of friends, the answer could be "Yes". Most often, though, the names mean nothing to you.

If you don't know how to avoid doing this yourself, please read Unknowingly Distributing Email Addresses.


So What?

Quite often, those addresses finish up in other people's address books. Some people just love to send a joke or a chain letter to everyone in their address book, never considering that it might be unwelcome. Once you're in such an address book, off goes your address, included in every copy of every such email that person sends.

Apart from the unsolicited advertising problem, most email viruses send themselves to every address in the infected computer's address book, and some people either have no anti-virus software or don't realise that it should be constantly updated. Without being unkind, it's probably reasonable to suggest that people who forward every chain letter are also likely not to understand the need for anti-virus software.

Read about chain letters here.

Asking someone not to forward multiple address things can cause offence. If that person only has one of your webmail addresses, though, when it's spammed out you can get rid of it, get a new one, and give that to your unsafe friend. Maybe—just maybe—when notifying them of the new address you could include a wide-eyed "Guess what I found out", note telling them why you've changed your email address but not suggesting that they helped to cause your problems.


Unsafe Internet Use

There are gambling sites, sites that offer either unsavoury material or "something for nothing". The latter lot includes ultra-cheap software, "cracks" for expensive software, "make money from home" schemes and other obviously dodgy—or downright illegal—things. Stay away.

Just visiting certain sites, without clicking anything once you're there, can allow harmful rubbish to install itself on your computer.

Some sites that you find when Googling for information won't let you read that information without supplying your email address. Try another link. (Later, you may want to register at one of these sites, but leave that until you feel sure it's a good one.)

Being new on the Internet is a bit like walking through a strange city with a fistful of money in one hand and a notice saying "I don't know where to find the police" in the other. The Internet is lawless. That is, laws certainly exist, but they are flouted by people and organisations who feel pretty sure they won't be caught. They make a jolly good living by exploiting those who have a good sense of right and wrong and a belief that everyone else lives by their own ethical standards.

Here are a few of the ways they get your email address.

Oh! Making a list is hopeless. There are dozens of tricks to entice you to enter your address—or those of your friends!


Free Webmail Accounts

There are many free web-based email accounts available online. Amongst the most widely known are Yahoo and Hotmail. Now there's also gmail from Google, and this is probably pick of the bunch.

Gmail and Hotmail can be set up to download to and send from your local email client, using stationery if you wish.


Here's where you can set up a new Gmail account.

Gmail has good filtering and a heap of useful features. Searching through all mail is dead easy, and you can group all the emails from one person or a group of people. The space allowed for storage is huge, too.



To get a free Yahoo! mail account go to Yahoo.
Filling in the form on this page will let you have a free Yahoo! mail address.

This form is fairly self-explanatory, but a few tips follow.

Do not click the “People Search Listing: List my new Yahoo! Mail address for free” box or any box below it. Clicking any of these boxes means you want Yahoo to send you advertising. You cannot even report this advertising as spam, since you have requested it.

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You can configure Outlook Express to receive Hotmail mail, but it may be simpler to download and install Windows Live Mail, which is very Hotmail friendly.

To get a Hotmail account go to MSN Hotmail.
Again, the form is quite straightforward, but remember to uncheck the boxes under “Services” Hotmail Member Directory Internet White Pages.

There will be a graphic below these boxes with some numbers and letters and some squiggly lines. Type the numbers and letters into the box below it. The reason Hotmail want you to do this is because many people write programmes to go to free email sites and sign up for multiple email accounts. No computer can “read” the graphic of numbers and letters, so having this box makes sure only humans can sign up for a Hotmail account.

Do not click any of the boxes under “Tired of registration forms?”


If you agree to all they say, click the “I Agree” button.


Avoiding Spam in Web Mail

Once you have your new email account, log in and turn on the spam protectors.

In Yahoo you do this by clicking on “Mail Options” on the far right at the top. Under the “Management” section you will find a section called “Filters” Clicking here will allow you to choose what level of filtering you want.

In Hotmail you do this by choosing the “Options”  tab near the top right of the page. Under “Mail Handling” in the middle column the first option is “Junk Mail Filter

Click on the words “Junk Mail Filter” and choose the level of filtering you want. I find the middle option is best in most web mail clients, but in Hotmail you’ll need the highest level.

Choose what to do with your junk mail—I like to delete it right away.

Click “Save Changes”.


Instant Messaging

I’m told by someone who uses an instant messenger that these too are targeted by spammers. Should an obvious spam message pop up, don’t respond, just close the window.

Personally, I can't be bothered with instant messaging. With a reliable ISP, email is just as fast, and you look at it when you choose to, rather than have it pop up while you're busy.

If you've tried unsuccessfully to get rid of the Messenger, there's help at MSN/Windows Messenger Resources - All Steps. It worked for me!

OK. Now you have a few ideas about frustrating the spammers. I hope it’ll help.

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