How to deal with spam

If you have had an email account for any amount of time, you are likely to have received a stupendous amount of spam email and a nice variety of viruses. A few nodes here have noted how to avoid spam, but in certain cases, you can't. So, what can you do about it, if you DO receive lots of it?

I will not pretend I am a whiz when it comes to internet and other computer-related issues, but I have worked as a journalist for quite a while now. This means that my email address is probably on every single spam email list that exists in the world, as it is posted with every article I have written that is posted on the internet. Which means that I have received my share of spam email: a quick check puts my main email address ( at about 70-80 spam and virus emails per day. yes, per day. Yes, that is almost 2500 email messages per month that I do not want. But I have gotten quite good at sorting them, and dealing with SPAM takes about 3 minutes of my time per day.

So, here are SharQ's super tips for dealing with spam mail, if you cannot avoid them:

1) Get a large-sized POP account. We are talking approximately 10-15 MBs (mine is currently 5GB, but that's a bit over-kill)

2) Get a couple of aliases pointing to the same POP account. ( and, for example)

3) Get a proper email client. I prefer Microsoft Entourage, but whatever floats your boat.

So, when you have all of this, do the following:

When you need to fill out email forms for companies you do not want email from, then fill in one of your email aliases. Your email will still arrive to your primary POP3 account, but your alias address will be in your to: field. This is a good thing, because it makes the filtering easier.

... Which brings us to the filtering. Or not actually. It brings us to the setting-up-the-email-client. Point one: There should be an option somewhere where you can limit how much of a message gets downloaded from the server. Set this limit to 6K. This means that all emails that are text-only will be received in full, whereas anything that has attachments (including pictures, and viruses) will be truncated at 6 thousand characters.

Now, whenever you get an email with an attachment, have a look at the filename. If it is .exe or .bat, or whatever else that looks dodgy, just erase the email from the server (should be a command for that, somewhere), and you don't even have to bother downloading them. Same goes for all other types of attachment. If you didn't expect it, or can't be bothered reading it, you just get rid of it.

Then, we get to the fun stuff... Filters. 99% of the time, the emails that are of any importance, will be from people you know, i.e people that are in your address book. So set up a filter that copies all emails from people in your address book to a particular email. Or even better: Copy all /other/ emails to a directory by itself, called "potential junk" or something like that. Also, set up your alias accounts to be forwarded to this folder.

If you are like me - i.e you have an email address that has to be freely available on the internet, because of your job - you'll get tons of emails from people that I haven't got in my address book, so go through your "potential junk email" folder every few days. Usually the action will be "delete, delete, delete, skim through then delete, delete, delete, etc".

Now.. This method does nothing to protect you from spam, but it does make it significantly more efficient to get rid of it - and when you are in a hurry and a bit stressed, ignoring your potentially spam mail does help a lot to prioritise your workflow! (Personally, I also organise all my different contact into colours by category. Sources, work / freelance contacts, friends, family, businesses, etc. Anything to make things more efficient.)