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

Sometimes you may want to explicitly prevent someone from trying to contact you. Ignoring them is often simplest, but there are tools to help as well.

How can I keep someone from contacting me in email or instant messaging?

Severing communication is an unpleasant necessity at times. For personal or occasionally legal reasons you may want someone to stop contacting you or someone you know. The rub is that you'd like everyone else to be able to contact you as before.

We can't control what other people do but there are some ways we can either make it more difficult to be contacted,or automate the process of ignoring the contact attempts.

For email, the most radical solution is to change your email address - or rather, disable the email address that the person is using to try to contact you. That's a fairly harsh solution because it means that you then have to go and tell everyone else from whom you actually want email your new address. If you do end up going this route I definitely recommend following some of the recommendations in this previous article to make the next time you need to change a whole lot easier.

If changing your email address isn't something you want to consider just yet, then the next best thing is to never see the email you don't want to see. In other words, filtering. Most email clients have the ability for you to set up rules or filters that will take action on an email when it is received. So use your email program to set up a rule that says, in essense, "if I get mail from this person, delete it immediately"

If your email client doesn't have rules or filtering built in then you might check with your ISP. Many ISPs now offer web based access and quite often that includes filtering as well. By setting up a filter directly with your ISP, the email you filter out will never even be downloaded.

As an almost draconian measure, many web email services such as Hotmail or Yahoo Mail, as well as some mail clients now have spam filtering options that allow you to reject email that isn't from an address in your address book. This means you'll accept email only from people you know. There are serious drawbacks to this approach, since there's often a lot of legitimate email that arrives from addresses you don't know beforehand such as on-line purchase confirmations or other ecommerce and business correspondence. But it can be an extreme solution.

Finally, if it's serious enough check with your ISP or the ISP of the person who's sending email for any additional alternatives they might have to offer. Depending on the ISP they may be able to help.

If much of what I've just described sounds familiar it should; these are similar to many techniques used to fight spam. In both cases you're receiving unwanted email. The only difference is that in this case you know who's sending it. Adam Boettiger, of HackingSpam.com has written a short book, 10 Quick Steps to Stopping Spam with several techniques that are not only useful for cutting down on the flow of spam, but can also be extended or altered to deal with the situation we're discussing here.

Instant messaging programs have similar issues, but have simple solutions. MSN messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger all allow you to specify that you'll only allow incoming messages from certain people or allow you to specifically block certain people. Check the Options, or Privacy Settings in the instant messaging client.

Article C1892 - February 10, 2004 « »

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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.

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13 Comments
Nonnie
March 1, 2005 11:53 PM

How do we counter the financial scam letters from Africa that use Yahoo mail? Yes! I use Mail Washer effectively. Are there any other ideas?

Leo
March 2, 2005 8:49 AM

I use the delete key, myself. Really, there's very little else to be done in the common case.

The irony is that these letters would stop completely shortly after they stopped working. But, sadly, enough people *still* fall for it that the spammers & scammers see it as worth continuing.

K
August 29, 2005 11:05 PM

What happens to SPAM emails that are filtered out of your account. Is there a delivery failure email to the sender or does it just delete the email and never inform the sender that you did not and will not receive any more emails from them?

K
August 29, 2005 11:16 PM

Is there a way to send an auto-reply email on hotmail?

Leo
August 30, 2005 10:00 PM

What happens to filtered spam depends on the email system and filtering solution. The *right* thing is to do nothing - just delete it. Any kind of response will tell the spammer that they;ve reached a valid email address, and will result in MORE spam, not less.

miki
February 11, 2006 1:28 PM

What happens w/msn messenger when you block someone and delete them, are they notified?

Michelle
March 26, 2007 12:54 PM

When you block someone and delete them on MSN, they are NOT notified. To them it looks like you are offline.

jojo
February 11, 2008 12:50 AM

somebody is sending me emails and i am not interested to read them or not BUT i want him to know that i am not receiving anything from him.
could you help me please i really need him to know that i am not reading his mails.

nada
August 12, 2008 7:44 PM

hi
if i block someone and delete it from my msn messenger. i find the adreess on privacy
how can i delete it from privacy?

M
October 5, 2008 5:29 PM

someone is harrasing me at my work's e-mail also on my work cell. I know who it is but when I confronted this person they deny the phone calls & e-mails and now state that I hacked into their computer. I have printed all the e-mails. This has been going for for several years and need to put a stop to it as it is emotionally draining. Can I file charges against this person?

I'm afraid I'm not a lawyer. You should contact one, or your local law enforcement to see what's possible and practical.
- Leo
06-Oct-2008

taha
January 12, 2009 3:22 PM

i delete someone from email list how i can have it

shelly lawrence
January 8, 2010 10:02 PM

I want someone to know I am not reading their emails to me. I dont want them to think they went through, and my emai is just deleting them before i see them.
What happens when I block somoene on my aol acct. Do they know when they email me it doesnt go through? Is there a way to do this?

celia
May 28, 2012 12:17 AM

How can random people (or bots) continue to IM me on yahoo messenger even though I have it set to ignore anyone who is not on my contact list? This is the 3rd week of me receiving anonymous messages when I log in despite my "ignore" settings? Help would greatly appreciated.

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