Sneaky ways to avoid spam
By Jay Dougherty Oct 14, 2005, 9:04 GMT
Washington - Those who clutter your inbox with dozens of unsolicited e-mail messages don't play fair. So why should you? The fact is, there are perfectly legitimate ways to avoid most of the spam that you receive by employing some sly tricks that will outsmart the spammers.
Rule number one, however, is to designate an e-mail address as your primary, pristine never-to-be-violated address that you give out only to the most trusted friends and colleagues.
This e-mail address should be off-limits to any web forms, newsgroups, Internet chat groups or communities, online retailers, or any other entity that may conceivably at some point want to sell or otherwise distribute your contact information to someone else without your knowledge.
Once that address has been established, you're ready to go. A fairly new web site, Mailinator (http://www.mailinator.com), allows you to create free, temporary e-mail addresses on the fly. There's no need to register or sign up with the service before using the temporary e-mail address that you create.
Here's how it works. Let's say you're trying to access some Web service, forum, or downloadable file that requires you to supply an e-mail address.
Instead of going through the lengthy process of creating a free e- mail address at Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail, you simply make up an e-mail address that ends in @mailinator.com. There's no need to register first with the Mailinator site.
Once you've provided your newly-created e-mail address, just go to the Mailinator web site, type the e-mail address you used into the 'Check your inbox!' form field, and press Go. Any e-mail that was sent to you as a result of providing the address to a third-party should show up in your Mailinator inbox.
You can create and use as many Mailinator e-mail addresses as you require. There are some limitations, however. You won't be able to send e-mail from Mailinator. All e-mail that you receive in your Mailinator account will be deleted in a few hours.
Finally, Mailinator accounts are never really secure. Anyone who might be able to guess your newly-created e-mail address will be able to read the mail.
But as a spam preventative, the temporary Mailinator e-mail addresses can prove invaluable for those times that you know you're providing an e-mail address that could be used by spammers.
The Mailinator concept has proven so popular that other services are springing up to offer virtually the same thing. myTrashMail.com (http://www.mytrashmail.com) distinguishes itself by holding stored e-mail from 12 hours to five days, but otherwise the offering is virtually identical.
Just create an e-mail address with @mytrashmail.com as an extension, and then visit the myTrashMail.com Web site to pick up any mail received.
The temporary nature of Mailinator and myTrashMail.com will make the services unsuitable for some purposes, however. Still, that doesn't mean you should give out your pristine e-mail address to just anyone.
Make liberal use of the permanent, free e-mail addresses offered by Google's GMail service (http://www.gmail.com), Yahoo! Mail (http://mail.yahoo.com), MS Hotmail (http://www.hotmail.com), and other well-established free e-mail providers.
While in the past these e-mail addresses have tended to attract spammers even if you never gave the addresses to anyone, spam control has been much improved, with GMail in particular doing a good job of preventing unwanted e-mail messages from showing up in your free e- mail inbox. <!--page-->
No matter which e-mail address you use, though, there will be times when you need to provide it on the Internet and risk the chance that it will fall into the hands of someone who wishes to use it to market services or goods to you.
For example, if you run your own web site, you'll want to display some e-mail address that people can use to contact you legitimately.
In those cases, you can use a little-known trick that will make it difficult for automated e-mail harvesting programs to pick your address from a web page and drop it into a spammer's database.
Instead of listing your e-mail address normally, as in email@example.com, you can replace the '@' symbol with something that is recognisable by a human but will confound a computer and cause it to bypass the e-mail address altogether.
For instance, instead of writing firstname.lastname@example.org, provide the address yourname
Finally, to protect your pristine e-mail address, you can turn to services such as SpamArrest (http://www.spamarrest.com), which sends out 'challenges' to those who send you e-mail messages.
Challenges are e-mail messages to which the sender must respond in order to have the original message delivered. Those who truly want you to receive a message will respond to the challenges, while spammers or automated mail sending programs will choke on the challenge. Legitimate senders need only respond to a challenge once.
Thankfully, the tools available for ridding your inbox of spam are growing by the day. Along with a good spam filter such as the one found in Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client, you can return to the days when e-mail was something you looked forward to receiving.© dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur