MightyMerchant

Managing Spam

Image Managing Spam
If you are like most people, the mention of the word "spam" is enough to make you gasp, cringe, or hurl imprecations at your computer, at a faster rate than even those offending messages are streaming into your Inbox. I would like to go over some basic steps you can take to manage Spam so you can once again reclaim your computer to be your own.
 
Main Causes of Spam

Spammers are a pretty low form of life. About the lowest out there, as a matter of fact. They will employ any means possible to "harvest" or generate lists of email addresses and then proceed to spew millions of messages at those addresses with, I suppose, the hope that there are people in this world who want to buy Viagra or engage in some sort of salacious practices over the Internet.

Of course we could hold out hope that over time, rational human beings will not respond to all this useless drivel, and the spammers will go crawl under their rocks again and leave us alone. But, despite some pretty strong legislation that has been enacted this year, the spammers don't appear to be slowing down. So let's arm ourselves with knowledge and common sense in this battle, and see if we can get the best of them.


Here is how spammers have most likely found a way into your Inbox:


1. They "mine" the email addresses off of websites. This means that they use special software programs that search through websites and pull out the email addresses that are displayed on web pages.


2. They "mine" domain registrations. Since domain registrations are public information, spammers can rather easily build up a database of all the valid domains out there and then start firing off emails at them. They send emails to "bob@", "sue@" or "webmaster@" or many other typical addresses with the the odds being that these emails will arrive in some unsuspecting recipients mailbox.


3. They scavenge on public forums and newsgroups and harvest all the email addresses of those individuals who post messages to these groups.


Is there any sanctity left out there? I think not.

Steps You Can Take to Eliminate Spam

Here are some steps you can take to significantly cut down the spam that you receive. Some of these steps MightyMerchant can help you with at either no charge or at a nominal fee. The fourth step - Spam filtering - is a service that MightyMerchant offers or that you can purchase from a third-party vendor.

1. Remove email addresses from your website 

At this point in time, we recommend not posting any email addresses directly on your website. If you want customers or site visitors to contact you, then we suggest offering them an on-line form that they can fill out and that will direct the email to you without exposing your email address. MightyMerchant can update your website for a one-time cost of $40.
 
2. Remove the default maildrop on your website

Until recently, MightyMerchant's typical practice was to set up a default mailbox on a website and all email addresses get forwarded to this "maildrop". This is a flexible and easy way for you to set up a range of email addresses for different aspects of your business (sales, info, orders, etc). The problem with this approach is that spammers send emails to all kind of random addresses at a domain and even if they don't know your specific address, the incessant wave of emails will find their way to your mailbox. As convenient as the default maildrop is, we have come to realize that we need to do away with it as it leaves you vulnerable to the brute force approach to sending spam. Please contact us, if you want us to consolidate your email addresses to a few critical ones and eliminate all the rest. MightyMerchant can make this update for you at no cost.

3. Retire your email address

Probably the most important decision you need to make related to spam is deciding what to do about your current main email address. If you have registered your domain with your email address as the contact address or have your personal email address advertised across your site - or on other sites - you can be sure that spammers have it and are hammering away at it relentessly.

My suggestion is to start a process of transitioning your email to another address, one that you protect closely and that is not generic. If you have an address like "dave@" or "sue@" or something that spammers will send to regardless of whether you advertise it or not, you are a sitting duck.
Most domain registrars now let you register your domain without posting your email address. Removing your email address from your public domain registration is an excellent step.

When posting to email lists, use a secondary address - so you can protect your main address from public exposure and more easily filter the spam coming to your secondary address.
 
There is often a cost to giving up an email address - perhaps it is printed on business cards or has become part of your personal identity. But if your address is already out there in the public, retiring it might be a necessary step to curbing the flow of spam that is overtaking your life.

4. Employ Spam filtering

Even with the first three steps in place, spammers will find you. If you are sufficiently outraged at the onslaught of disgusting and ridulous messages you receive in your Inbox on a daily basis, I would recommend using spam filtering.

There are many different types of filtering. The options fall into three main categories.

Message Filtering programs that you purchase as add-ons to the email software that runs on your computer. Some of these programs do an excellent job. The downside is that you are still getting all the spam onto your computer and that if you check your mail from more than one location, you will not be able to take advantage of the features unless you load the software at the various locations from which you are doing the checking. Some of the popular programs are:
http://spaminspector.com

http://spamwasher.com

http://www.spambully.com

Programs or services that use what is called a challenge and response system. This setup sends an automated reply to any email that requires the sender to verify who they are. You can then decide to allow these adresses into your approved list on a case-by-case basis. This approach is superb for eliminating spam. The problem is, that challenge-response programs can present a barrier for some people, who will decline to follow through and contact you. If you are running an online store, this approach can be risky because you will lose customers who won't want to go through the permission process.
 
A popular challenge-response program is:

Server-Based Spam Filtering stops spam before it gets to your own computer. This is a great solution for cutting down on the spam before it reaches your computer. When using a server-based program, you'll want to check your filtered messages on a regular basis to ensure that you are not missing important emails.

MightyMerchant offers a server-based filtering solution with a $75 one-time setup fee and $10 a month cost. If you are interested in using it, please contact us to find out more.
 
Some Additional Pointers

Here are a few other pointers to consider:
When you get a spam message, never click the button at the bottom that prompts you to unsubscribe. Doing so will only notify the spammers that they have found a "live" address and will ensure a larger volume of spam coming your way.
 
Whenever you register for anything online, sign up for a service, or even fill out a paper registration card, consider using a secondary email address. You'll also want to read the company's privacy policy and find out if they sell their email addresses.

Conclusion

Here at MightyMerchant, we work hard to protect your email inbox from spam. By using the common sense practices described here and guarding your email address like it is one of your prized family jewels, we hope to help you regain your e-sanity once again!

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