Spam challengeMore and more people are trying to cut down on the spam that floods their in-boxes. Some Internet Service Providers like Earthlink and Web Hosting Services like offer built-in spam challenging logic to their email accounts. Because I have several active email accounts I use Spamarrest to limit what gets passed along to my inbox.

These spam-limiting features all work by finding out who sent the email to you and then doing one of three things.

  • If the sender is someone you know of and approve, the message will be forwarded to your inbox.
  • If the sender is someone you know of and have blocked, the message is deleted.
  • If the sender is someone you don’t know, the sender is sent a request to verify that they are a human and not an automated spammer (see example at the right). If the sender responds to the challenge within 7 days, I get their original message and they are put on my list of approved correspondents. If the sender does not respond, their message is deleted in 7 days.

A huge majority of my email, over 95%, is in this third category. And, a huge majority of those messages are from automated spammers who never answer the spam challenge and whose messages are deleted in a week.
Spam statistics

Occasionally I look through the hundreds of messages from unknown senders. Whenever I do, I usually see a newsletter or group mailing from someone I wouldn’t mind hearing from.

But, they didn’t answer the spam challenge.

This failure to respond is a wonky waste of time. Their business has spent hours of time — and therefore lots of money — preparing the mailing to me. But, after they mail their message, they don’t go through the replies to the newsletter to see that my automated service didn’t recognize the newsletter’s email address and wanted to verify that there were people behind the message.

All the newsletter writer would have to do would be to click on the link in the challenge email and then fill in a CAPTCHA or answer a question. They would only have to do it one time, because the the email address would be added to the approved list and future editions of their newsletter would be delivered automatically.

Worse, in my experience sending newsletters, a fair number of clients and prospects will reply to the newsletter itself with questions or even orders. If the sending business hasn’t assigned anyone to read the replies, then it is missing business in addition to readers.

It’s simple. If you send out an electronic newsletter, give someone in your organization the task of reading replies sent to the newsletter address. Have them answer the spam challenges. Tell them to answer the messages placing new orders, too!