Electronic mails or emails have changed the way we communicate. It has become ubiquitous and virtually permeates our daily activities – life simply is unthinkable without them. It is fast and easy to use. In seconds, you can send messages, even entire documents, across different time zones. You can respond to messages in seconds as well. In fact, sending emails is one of the most common activities we perform on the Internet everyday. We use email to communicate with distant relatives, friends, or colleagues. We even do business using emails.
Unfortunately, the usefulness of emails is also being abused. Most of us are already familiar with spam emails. These are the unwanted emails that clutter our electronic mailboxes. These are usually sent in bulk to multiple recipients, and most of the time, unsolicited. According to a survey, as of February 2007, 90 billion spam emails are sent per day. It is not just annoying to sift through junk emails to find genuine correspondence; it also wastes your time reviewing those emails and deleting them. So if you are one of the many who are trying to reduce spam in your inbox, here are simple guidelines to minimize the exposure of your email address to potential spammers and hopefully, minimize spam emails arriving in your electronic mailbox.
- Do not post your email address in forums or websites. Spammers have web bots that are used to harvest email addresses posted on the Internet. These bots are computer programs that search the Internet for email addresses and then store these addresses in databases to be used in the spammer’s future email campaign or sold to third parties. If it is really necessary to post your email address so that interested parties can reach you, try to modify it by, for example, inserting spaces before and after the @ symbol. You can also insert the word NOSPAM or some other word after the @ mark and instruct the reader to remove this word. This will trick the bots but will keep your email address still readable by humans.
- Don’t use familiar or common name in your email address. One strategy employed by spammers is to use programs that randomly send emails to particular domains using common or familiar names. For example, they will send emails to john @ philippinestoday.net or peter @ philippinestoday.net. If the email does not bounce, then they will know that the account is valid and the email address is added into their database. Yes, it is good to have our first name in our email address. It is more personal and easy to be remembered by friends. But if your name is shared by thousands of individuals, then this will also make you an easy target for spammers.
- Do not forward chain letters. Chain letters have been around even before the Internet was invented. How many times have you received an email telling you to forward it to a specified number of persons? No matter what it says, whether you will get your wish after sending it to 20 persons or you will go to hell if you don’t, don’t forward it. Believe me, nothing will happen to you. And you are doing a favor to your friends. Several email addresses can be harvested from chain letters. See next tip.
- Don’t just click the forward button when forwarding an email. If you cannot really help it because you had a good laugh after reading the email and you want to your friends to have the same, then it is better to copy the content onto a new email before sending it to them. Don’t just click the forward button and then cut and paste all your contacts’ email addresses in the To field. It is not just annoying to read forwarded emails where 90% of the message is a list of email addresses from people you don’t know, but it also compromises those addresses. If you really want to forward it to several friends, put those email addresses in the Bcc field to hide them from others. Or better still don’t forward those emails at all!
- Use at least two email addresses. You can have a private email address where only your close friends and family members know and a public one for use when signing up in community-driven websites such as forums or doing transactions on the Internet. Your public email address can be from any of the Internet email providers such as yahoo or hotmail. Their services are not only free; they are also good in filtering unwanted emails from your mailbox. And in case it gets compromised, you can just discard it and get a new one.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you open your mailer or send an email to anyone. Remember, misuse can lead to abuse!