Anyone who has been using email for any length of time has experienced spam. The more you use email the greater the onslaught. I was reading recently a post in mac-forums.com where someone was asking for advice about dealing with spam on a Mac. After replying I realized this would make a good post for the tech blog.
Spam, or junk email, is a huge problem and has been since practically the start of email. According to wikipedia “According to the Message Anti-Abuse Working Group, the amount of spam email was between 88–92% of email messages sent in the first half of 2010.”. Yes there are laws, but those would only stop the law abiding, of which spammers generally are not. Unfortunately there is no sure-fire solution for stopping it yet there are some things you can do to deal with it and keep it out of your inbox.
NOTE: This article assumes you are already an experienced email user and savvy to the content of spam and the dangers therein. It also assumes you’re somewhat tech savvy and can understand how to set up the things discussed here.
How Many Email Addresses Does Someone Really Need?
For several years now I’ve used several email accounts from gmail and other providers depending on what I use the account for. For example, I have a primary gmail address that I use as a spam trap for signing up to things online such as email lists on a topic I’m interested in or to get more info about a product or service. The reason for this is because many ‘organizations’ (usually not a legitimate business) will collect names and email addresses and sell this info to spam lists. So I use this address for anything I’ve not been able to vet as in their practices. If spam lands there (and boy does it) gmail has very good spam filters that will catch most of it and keep it out of my inbox.
I have another email account that is private and used only for family and friends.
I have other accounts for my business, for music, bills and finances, for faith related things, you get the idea. Obviously I want to keep business separate from all other email. The other accounts are a way of easily filtering email and watching the various sources of email to these accounts. If I start seeing spam landing in one of these, I look back at what I recently signed up for and that is a good suspect for who sold my email address. Thus, who I can’t trust. Most legitimate businesses will not sell your email. Any that does, in my opinion, is not a business I want to interact with.
If you want to take it one step further and have your own domain name, you can set up email redirects so that any email sent to your domain, no matter the address, is automatically sent to one common email account. In this way you can monitor specific companies or organizations you might suspect of selling email addresses. First set up your main email account to accept email from anything sent to your domain. Then, say you want to receive updates from Joe’s widget company. When you sign up use firstname.lastname@example.org for your email address. If after a while you start getting spam addressed to email@example.com you will know Joe has been selling email addresses and he might be someone you don’t want to do business with.
Also it’s a good idea to spread out your email addresses across various providers. gmail tends to be very reliable but they can go down. Not to mention their scanning every word of every email. Not to worry, there are other good providers you can use such as yahoo.com, aol.com, zoho.com, and riseup.net to name just a few. They all have different privacy policies so you might look at each carefully if privacy is a concern. They all also have different levels of spam filtering.
So Many Email Accounts And So Little Time
With so many potential email accounts how can anyone begin to manage them? Easily with Mozilla’s Thunderbird. Thunderbird runs on multiple platforms, including being able to run on a thumb drive in case you need to be mobile with it.
While it’s not terribly complex, it can take some time to set up for multiple email accounts, and some of the setup options are not always very intuitive. Fortunately with it’s large user base there is a good amount of documentation and help online.
I manage all of my email accounts in Thunderbird and have for some time. I use IMAP on the ‘critical’ email accounts where I want email to be stored on the server and POP on the rest where I don’t need the security of a server backup. Between each email provider having spam filters and Thunderbird’s spam filtering capability, I rarely see spam except when I clear out the spam folders. I also make use of Thunderbird’s filter functions to automatically route email to various folders to keep everything somewhat separated and organized, thus saving me that added step of doing so manually.
I realize this has been merely a brief review of what is possible and only using my method with Thunderbird. No doubt there are other ways that work quite well for others. Please share what you’re doing to deal with spam.