You think you get spam?
My email accounts have gotten over 10,000 pieces of spam in the past 30 days.
Unfortunately, most methods of spam protection fail.
- The built-in spam protection that comes with the email accounts from your web hosting service marks too many legitimate messages as spam. The spam algorithms, such as SpamAssassin, are too aggressive in my experience. You’ll miss many messages you want to see if you rely on them.
- The built-in spam protection of Outlook, the Microsoft email program, is both too weak and too aggressive. You’ll still see lots of sleazy messages in your in-box, and, in my experience, you’ll also have to read your spam folder to make sure real messages haven’t been filed there.
For many years, my solution was to rely on Spamarrest. Spamarrest sends a challenge message to anyone who sends you mail, when that person’s email address isn’t in your list of contacts. This approach was very effective. I have received only a trickle of unwanted emails, most of those were from salespeople who manually responded to the challenge message and clicked to get their spam to me. I dealt with those exceptions by completely blocking that user or the whole offending domain.
Spamarrest is a cheap (about $50/year) paid service. It lets you send and receive mail from a web page, too, so you can access your mail while traveling.
The downside of Spamarrest is that a fair percentage of real people either don’t see or don’t understand the challenge message that Spamarrest sends to them. As a result, I have missed some business and personal messages, including some that were time-critical. Still, Spamarrest has been the only effective spam fighter I’ve tried.
Until this month.
Over the summer I tracked the spam-catching ability of the Gmail account I use to connect with Google services. Though Gmail did not filter messages through Spamarrest, I never received any spam. The messages in its spam folder were, indeed, spam. All of them. Google, alone, seems to be able to separate spam from wanted messages.
So, at the start of October I stopped Spamarrest from emptying my [email protected] and other email accounts. Instead, I had Google connect to the accounts and get the messages in real time. It’s worked.
I have received very few spam messages. When I have checked the spam folder, all the messages I’ve seen have looked sleazy. Better, no one has told me that they sent me a message that I didn’t see.
I’m sold. I’m recommending Gmail as a spam filter for your mail. Get a Gmail account and have Gmail empty the mailboxes of your other email accounts.
Note: I am not recommending that you use an Gmail address as the published address for your personal or business life. Gmail is free, and Google has no obligation to you to keep that free service going. There are scary stories of people who relied on Google and Gmail, only to have Google suddenly block their accounts. I do not want you to trust Google with anything that is critical to you.
Instead, use Gmail as an email concentrator. Read your messages in Gmail online or else download them to your computer. You’ll like the spam protection. And, if Google ever decides to stop Gmail or to ban you, you can still access your email through Spamarrest, Outlook, or whatever other method you’re using now.
If your fuse is short as regards spam and you don’t want to see it anywhere, not even your spam folder…and, if you’re willing to start from scratch….try this:
Use an alias address from GMX.com or Mail.com to send mail, and for registration with unfamiliar sites.
For daily and monthly business(bills), use a gmail acct with a scrambled username to receive mail using gmail’s Mail Fetcher in settings and fetch mail from two AOL webmail accts. Do not send mail from the Gmail or AOL accts.
AOL 1 is daily business, AOL2 is monthly business (bills). Daily business must be kept separate from monthly bills. Both AOL accts use scrambled usernames like tfiwUyS (the force is with you young Skywalker). The sample address is therefore [email protected]. Scrambled usernames foil dictionary attacks by spammers trying to guess your username.
Use AOL’s Exclusive Blocker in settings to block all addresses that are not in your AOL Contacts.
When you fill out gmail’s short Mail Fetch form for AOL 1 (daily), select Inbox as your designated folder.
When you fill out the Mail Fetch form for AOL 2 (monthly), select a folder called A-Monthly. The A- keeps it up top so you can see if it’s lit up with a message.
Daily business is fetched from AOL1 and delivered to the Gmail Inbox. Aol 2 is delivered to the A-Monthly folder.
Now, if a Contact or acct in AOL 1 sells your email address to a third party, the spammer’s “roulette wheel” of forged return addresses, IP addresses, and Domains will be blocked by AOL’s Exclusive Blocker.
If that same spammer tries to spoof your AOL 1 Contacts by impersonating, for example, [email protected], he will fail because your bank contacts are in AOL 2.
AOL 2 has only companies whose names are household words. These companies will not sell your email address. No online prepaid debit/credit card companies we’ve never heard of are allowed in AOL 2. Use the alias webmails for those.
So both the regular spammer and the spoofer of Contacts are foiled by this system.
If a spoofer does happen to get through in AOL, opening it in Gmail is safer because you will have “display images” disabled in Gmail settings. (This is important because AOL automatically opens images in a Contact mail, even if it is a spoof, and that would tell the spammer that your address is real and in use). You then delete the spoofed mail in AOL without opening it there.
With this system, we spend most of our time in the gmail acct, a little in the alias accts(facebook, merchants), and visit AOL only to delete the Inbox mail that has already been fetched and read in the gmail acct.
When we open our Gmail, we see 4 things:
1)we see a full page custom theme, such as the Northern Lights, or whatever we like;
2)we see our Inbox;
3)we see our A-Monthly folder to the left, and whether it is lit up with a message to pay a bill;
4)and we see the loneliest spam folder on the internet.
The system is adaptable, but the following are fundamental to keeping spam off the premises:
1)scrambled usernames (no Larry2013 or Harry007 or Mary 26);
2)AOL’s Exclusive Blocker;
3)separating daily business from spoofable monthly business;
4)and alias address accts with credible domains (no spamstop.com or mytrash.com,etc.).
If zero tolerance is your goal, this method will subdue spam once and for all by keeping you under the spammer’s radar. He can’t spam us if he can’t find us!
I did forget to mention that the Gmail/AOL Mail Fetch method is for casual users rather than business users with websites. Casual users have the luxury of defining spam as “mail from people I don’t know”. Business people do not.