Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Blocking spam based on the email address it comes from is pretty pointless. I'll look at why and what you should do instead.

I get hundreds of junk emails per day, and after checking them, I click on "clear junk mail folder" to get rid of them. Does that action also block the address from future junk emails, or must I block each one individually?

First, it depends on what email program you're using. Since you didn't say, I can't say for absolute certain.

However...

Emptying your junk mail folder simply empties a folder and does nothing else.

My real concern is the second part of your statement where you wonder if you need to block them individually.

Yes, but in my opinion it'd be a colossal waste of time.

Does Who It's From Matter?

No. Not really. At least, not usually.

"The result is that blocking most spam based on the 'From:' address is pretty pointless."

The fact is the "From:" address on spam is now an exceptionally unreliable way to identify most spam. Spammers will commonly use fake "From:" addresses, and assign them randomly. This makes it look like the message came from someone who had nothing to do with it.

It also means that the "From:" address on spam keeps changing. You may often get the exact same spam "From:" several different email addresses, even though it was all sent by the same spammer.

The result is that blocking most spam based on the "From:" address is pretty pointless. The chances that you would get spam from them again are already very low, as the address keeps changing. And, since the address keeps changing, you'll probably keep getting that same spam again, "From:" other people.

Obviously, if you're seeing a series of spam that all come from the same email address, then by all means block it if you want. However, it probably won't address the majority of what you're seeing.

You can still block all you want, I'm just saying it won't help. It'll take up a lot of time, without any real positive effect.

What Should You Do?

This is where spam blocking tools help you.

If spam lands in your junk folder, you're done. That's pretty much the best possible result. Typically there's no reasonable way to prevent the email from arriving, but at least you can have it automatically sent into the spam folder where you need not look at it unless you choose to.

If spam lands in your inbox, then use the "this is spam" button, or its equivalent if you have one, to mark the email as spam. This does several different things, including moving the spam to the spam folder. More importantly, though, it uses that email - all of that email including the message itself - to better "learn" what is and is not spam.

The more often you mark spam as spam, the better the system gets at identifying spam.

Be careful: if you mark things as spam that are not actually spam, you'll increase the possibilities that legitimate email will be falsely marked as spam.

The rule's simple: if it's truly spam (email you didn't ask for), and it's in your inbox, mark it as spam. If you did ask for it (i.e. it's a newsletter you signed up for, or a company you said "sure, send me information", then it's not spam. Unsubscribe to stop receiving it.

In the long run, your correctly identifying spam that has erroneously landed in your inbox is the best way to help the system improve its spam detection.

It'll never be perfect, we need to be clear on that, but getting mail properly filtered to your spam folder is a step.

Article C4444 - September 9, 2010 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

13 Comments
Vikas Ajit Medhekar
September 9, 2010 10:53 PM

Hi,

Using an automatic email filtering technology will help reducing these junk emails by some extent.

For instance, using technology provided by Boxbe.com, etc.

mark
September 10, 2010 7:21 AM

I sometimes get low fat spam (a term I made up for unsolicited emails sent out by companies you may have contacted, for example, to take advantage of a freebie) In most cases I can opt out following a link in their email. In the cases I couldn't do this, I simply clicked the label as spam. After reading this article I see this could also cause my spam filter to interpret other wanted emails as spam. In the future instead of labeling these as spam I'll uses the routing filters to send them to trash.

Ken B
September 10, 2010 8:15 AM

For the same reason, whitelisting your own e-mail address isn't a good idea, as the spammers often forge your own address of the "from".

http://blog.runonfriday.com/2010/09/why-whitelisting-your-own-e-mail-address-is-a-bad-idea/

Frank Bown
September 14, 2010 9:08 AM

Beware, if you have mail forwarded from one of your email accounts to another, blocking an email while logged into the second account may stop that account receiving any emails forwarded from your first account. This happened to me with Hotmail accounts.

Gene Lynch
September 14, 2010 9:40 AM

I use Mailwasher free to block and bounce the spammers. It makes my computer invisable to them and usually they quit after a period of time. Sometimes they don't. Also REMOVE the e-mail addresses before forwarding a e-mail Also use BCC.

Lester
September 14, 2010 10:36 AM

Interestingly enough, one of the best spam filters I've ever seen is Gmail. It catches almost all of the ones that come my way, and it seldom catches emails it shouldn't.

Mike
September 14, 2010 1:34 PM

FWIW, I don't spam legitimate emails that I've requested, but do take the time to unsubscribe. It's only the ones that I've unsubscribed several times over months, and still they come, that I finally relegate them to the spam domain they so much deserve. Interestingly, this seems to be a major problem with print magazines that I once subscribed to, some years ago, and few other legit businesses.

Yes, sadly, occasionally legitimate email senders will wander into spam territory by ignoring unsubscribe requests. If they do that then I totally agree that they are span. (Similarly it should never take "up to two weeks for your request to be processed". No. There's no longer a reason for unsubscribes to be anything other than immediate.)
Leo
17-Sep-2010

Eileen
September 14, 2010 2:41 PM

I use Incredimail for my email. It has Advanced Account Access which means I take it directly off the server so I choose what goes into my computer.

Marty Wolfson
September 14, 2010 3:08 PM

Strangely the best spam stopper I've discovered is an email address with a name and number! For no good reason, I always avoided numbers in my email but I wound up having to use one on one account and that address gets almost zero spam while my other two get quite a bit. Can't explain it, but if I had it to do all over again...

Linde
September 15, 2010 2:08 PM

So far I have found only one way to get less or at times no spam: A good e-mail provider! And yes, Gmail is among the best! I have one company provider that is even better, and one paid provider that passed up to 100 spams per day - until I started passing it through gmail first.

Mikey
September 16, 2010 1:46 PM

You can also use SMTP protocol messages to simulate a server bounce, which might reduce future attempts to send spam to that address.

Kathy
September 28, 2010 12:17 PM

Regarding the unsubscribe comment above: some companies have multiple email subscriptions and you have to unsubscribe from all of them. I ran into this when my husband passed away and I needed to keep his email account active. I kept getting emails from one company but I noticed that each was from a slightly different email address... such as newsletter, updates, new products, etc.

Robert Matthew
October 21, 2012 6:03 PM

I have a person I believe, who I knew, who is working for a company that sends email for a certain product. This person keep sending emails for it and is using a different address each time. I can not block the email because it is changed all the time.

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.