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I just discovered "blocking" to keep spam from coming in my mail box. I'd been choosing words to make the spam go to the deleted messages folder but seemed I couldn't keep up with them. I'd also tried to write back and "unsubscribe" but then I'd get a message that said it bounced. So I found blocking and am giving that a try. Now, does this keep the message from ever getting into my computer or does it accept it and then delete it?

Welcome to the world of spam - and the never-ending battle against it.

Choosing words and blocking based on that is one approach, but as you noted it's tough to keep up.

In fact, it's darned near impossible.

I do want to start with one point: Never EVER click on an "unsubscribe" link in email that you didn't actually sign up for. It tells spammers that they found a real, live, email address, and it'll result in more spam, not less. That being said if the email is legitimate (perhaps follow on mail from an on-line store you shopped at, or a newsletter or mailing list you joined), then yes, please do use the unsub link. I know it's hard to keep straight sometimes.

And while we're on the subject, please, PLEASE, only use any "report this as spam" button for actual spam - it's not the way to unsubscribe from something you signed up for and actually harms legitimate businesses and spam fighting efforts.

Back to word-based blocking.

Spammers in particular will intentionally misspell words to bypass blocks. If you've ever seen spam full of misspellings, or odd character selections, you're probably seeing exactly that. It's impossible to predict all the possible combinations of words and characters that spammers might use to get a concept across.

That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to block spam by just choosing words.

On top of that of course you might pick a word to block that someone uses in some legitimate way, and you'll miss their mail. This happens to me on occasion.

Whether or not blocking prevents mail from reaching your machine depends on the blocking service you're using; there are several approaches. If it's done on a website provided by your ISP, for example, then yes, that would most likely prevent the mail from even being downloaded. On the other hand, if it's a setting in your mail program, then that's something that happens after the mail gets downloaded.

So what can you do? My earlier article How do I get rid of all this SPAM?!?! discusses some of the options.

Article C2495 - December 18, 2005 « »

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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?

December 19, 2005 7:59 PM

Ever hear of SpamAssassin? I didn't until about 6 weeks ago. SpamAssassin is included in the package I have with my web host. That's how I learned about it. Here is a list of what [little] I know about it (maybe you'd like to start a thread about it?):
It is an "Apache" open source project that is dedicated to thwarting spam delivery.
It (in the form I use and maybe in all cases) operates on the server end.
There are commercial programs available that employ its inner workings (I don’t know a thing about them).
It intercepts all email, evaluates it using a variety of “rules” and ‘decides’ if the email in question is “Ham” or “Spam”.
If it finds the email NOT to be Spam, it sends it on to your inbox unaltered. If the rules indicate that it IS spam, SpamAssassin changes the subject of the message (which is optional and configurable). It also adds text to the beginning of the message indicating that SpamAssassin has found that the email is likely Spam, what its “Spam score” is and how it (SpamAssassin) arrived at that score.
As I said, you can configure what changes it makes to the subject line, but you can also decide what score is given for the individual rules, what score is indicated to be Spam and what action you’d like SA to take regarding the Spam. In addition to the options listed above, you can have the Spam sent to another mailbox or even deleted before sending it on.
All of this is much easier than I’ve been able to describe here, but I’ll tell you this for nothing: It has worked beautifully [and perfectly] for me. I still have Norton set up to check email for objectionable key words etc., but so far it hasn’t had to do any work since I started using SA.
If you’re (or anyone else is) interested, I’ll post a description of how I tested and configured it for my purposes.
BTW- I’ll be signing up for your newsletter, so if you decide to create a thread about this, and it is mentioned there, I’ll follow the link(s) there.

December 19, 2005 8:41 PM

Yes, for those that have the ability to control their own mail server, or for those ISP's that have the option, spamassassin is great. I have it myself, as do most of my clients. It's not perfect, but it's very good.

Ivan Tadej
December 28, 2005 1:07 PM

Oh well, I will mention this program also here (beside the one in/under the "Why shouldn't I use the "Report Spam" or "Junk" button?": article), since it's a related topic and I have all the text already written ...

I recently discovered an only 81 KB in-size FREE anti-spam program from Keir software called K9; see here: In short, K9 is an anti-spam application that "sits" between the remote e-mail servers and a local e-mail client (for instance Outlook, Thunderbird etc.); so it's not the type that only checks the servers for spam (however, it can also do that), but "ignores" the e-mail client. And well, it's also available in the "non-setup" form (the form of programs I prefer), i.e. a .zip archive, and no installation procedure required. Yeah, I know that this might sound strange, but that was the main reason for trying it in the first place.

best regards,
Ivan Tadej, Slovenija, Europe

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