The easiest way to avoid spam is to disclose your email address as little as possible. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task. You'd have to let go of many useful and legitimate services that require your true email address.

An alternative is to filter out your incoming mail, discarding everything that looks like spam. A problem remains though: How to tell the spam from legitimate mail?

For the sake of this discussion, I'm supposing you have some means of filtering your incoming mail. Some mail agents will allow you to do that. You can also use procmail (Unix/Linux) to do the filtering.

A good thing to do is to always filter out messages that do not have your email address or any of your mailing lists on the To: field. Many of the so-called bulk-mailers will only put the destination email addresses on the message envelope, not on the headers. This rule itself should filter out around 90% of your spam mails.

Also, filter out messages without a "From:" field or containing the "X-UIDL:" header.

It's a good idea not to delete the messages caught by the filters immediately. Just send them to a separate folder/mailbox for later visual inspection. You'll find some legitimate cases classified by your filters as spam. The most common ones are people who have personal distribution lists and put something bogus in the "To:" field. Also, some POP3 servers insert the "X-UIDL" header on all messages. If that's the case, just add an exception to your filter rules, like, "If the message is coming from (a specific person known to use these features) then do not filter".

These simple steps minimized my spam to 10% of what it was. A true relief.

And last but not least, always keep in mind that you should never reply to a spammer. Some spam mails have something like "If you wish to be removed from our mailing list, reply saying ....". If you reply, the spammer will be sure that your email address represents an active and valid email account. And, of course, you won't believe the word or a spammer will you?

The best way to avoid receiving spam is to not divulge or publish your e-mail address. There are companies that compile and sell databases of email addresses, many of them use spiders (bots that scour the web, which are also used in good faith by search engines) picking up e-mail addresses from web pages; so just putting a <a href=""> tag on your web page will attract unwanted mail. Some spiders look for e-mail addresses in the hidden fields in mailto forms (if you don't know what this means then you are probably safe.

Occasionally you will want to register at a site that you do not entirely trust, but which requires a validated e-mail address. To do this you should use a disposable e-mail address. Addresses are freely available at, and you can register as many as you like. Once you have a dummy email address, register using it and pick up the confirmation e-mail that you need to complete your registration. Then forget about the e-mail account you just created.

Never, ever, ever, reply to spam. Most spam messages say that you can remove yourself from their mailing list by sending a message to an e-mail address they provide. If you send a mail to this address you will simply confirm that your e-mail address is valid, and so your address will be more valuable for them to resell.

A forward to end all forwards

The sent email should be headed with a disclaimer to avoid antagonising your recipients. It should be something along the lines of "Sending you this email does not mean you have recently annoyed me off by sending me an untidy forward. But maybe you know of someone who did it to you and would like to share my wisdom with them... Bear with me, I am receiving almost 25 spam emails per day. This is out of control."

You may then proceed as follows:

"Just found out how to win a free iPOD? Feel like you want to share the joy of this good news with the rest of the world?

Think before you push the dreaded forward button!

"There is information left over from the people who got the message before you, namely their e-mail addresses & names. As the messages get forwarded along, the list of addresses builds, builds, and builds and all it takes is for some poor friend to get a virus, and his or her computer can send that virus to every e-mail address that has come across his computer. Or someone can take all of those addresses and sell them or send junk mail, or even try to apply for a credit card in your name. " (wikiHOW, 2006)

And guess what happens when you submit our email addresses to a get-rich-quick-scheme? Both your inbox and mine will be filled with smelly, pink-on-the-inside, spam spam spam!

How can you save yourself, your friends, and most importantly, me from all this trouble?

1. Ignore ALL get-rich-quick-schemes. You're just giving your email address away and there is absolutely nothing to be gained. Friend networking websites are the spawn of Satan too.

2. The easy but important bit - Delete all of the email-addresses that appear in the body of the message i.e. at the top. Highlight them, backspace them, cut them out - whatever it is you know how to do. OFF! OFF! OFF!

3. The hard but equally important bit - Avoid using the To: or Cc: columns When you send an e-mail to more than one person, do NOT use the To: or Cc: columns for adding e-mail address. By default, this does not appear as an option in Outlook Express but you access it by clicking the To: and CC: buttons. Always use the BCC: (blind carbon copy) column for listing the e-mail addresses. This way, people who shouldn't be seeing your email address, wont get to see it.

Other things to consider if you've been having an especially favourable day:

4. Removing those annoying <<<>>> things that can build up in an often forwarded e-mail.

5. Check that the e-mail you are forwarding is not out of date i.e. Jimmy died of cancer six years ago and forwarding this email won't help 'Make a Wish Foundation' contribute five cents to his mom. Also, was discovered to be a hoax nearly a decade ago. is a good source for urban legends. On a similar note - Msn is not going to die because you do not forward this email. With our luck it'll still be with us during Armageddon.

6. Removing Advertisements that companies place at the bottom of your e-mails; such as "the future is Fabulousimail ----".

7. Make sure you do not forward the message as an attachment. You know what I mean. You open an email, then its attachment, then its attachment... This is a waste of bandwidth. The easiest way to avoid this is to simply copy and paste text and download and re-attach images or other files. Be equally cautious when forwarding a virus warning -many times its a hoax and you are being used by the naughty people.

8. Conclude the email with a gracious thank you, your name, and good wishes for the forthcoming holiday season. Hopefully, recipients will like your good sense of humour so much that they will forward your email to their entire address book properly, thus, sharing your good wisdom with email users all around the world.

NB: If the online world were to combine my method and the described by Lobsang Rampa above, all bulk emails and already-heard jokes would disappear. O happy day.

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