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

You can't effectively block a spammer's ID, IP address, or "from" email address because they'll just change it and keep sending spam. There's only one way to battle spam.

I don't know much about PCs. I'm receiving emails in my spam that are undesired and inappropriate. I was told not to open these but how can I obtain their ID to block them from continuing this unwanted material? A simple explanation would be appreciated. I went into Options but I didn't find any solution.

In this excerpt from Answercast #98 I look at the difficulties in blocking spammers by their ID's or "from" address.

Block spammer ID

The simple explanation is... you can't do what you want.

What you want to do is block these senders. The problem is that using the information in the spam that you have already received will not block the senders.

Spammers are devious

The problem here is that spammers are really, really devious. They send things from different places, from different addresses, from different accounts - or they make it look like it comes from different places and from different accounts.

So, if for example, you went through and you said, "Okay, fine, here's a piece of spam, here's who it's from. I'm going to block that person." You know what? The next piece of spam is going to come from somebody else. Blocking that person, from that one piece of spam that you just got, isn't going to help you one bit.

Use email filters properly

The only thing that you should be doing with spam is making sure that your email program, or your email service, is appropriately throwing it into the spam folder. And then ignore it.

If you find spam in your inbox, make sure that you mark it as "spam" so that your email program or email service learns what is spam.

Conversely, if you find legitimate email in your spam folder, mark it as "not spam". This too, helps your email program, or your email service, learn what is and is not spam.

Spam filters not based on "from"

What these services and programs do is they don't look at who the email is from - they don't necessarily look at the IP address or the computer that it's from; although it can factor in.

What they look at is the content of the email. They try and understand what the email is about to a certain degree. And then, learning what that email is about, and what you consider to be spam, they will then (eventually) start automatically marking those emails that you said, "You know what, email like this, it's spam," - they'll automatically start marking that email as spam and throwing it into your spam folder.

Having it go to your spam folder is the best thing to do. You cannot block it; you cannot block it reliably. Almost any attempt to truly block spam will either tell the spammers that you are real and that you will now get more spam, or it will be completely ineffective.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6355 - March 18, 2013 « »

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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?

March 19, 2013 10:07 AM

What I really don't get is why spammers are so stupid that they think people will be more likely to buy their product if they annoy them to no end - which is what is happening to me! And if the spam is for something you will never be interested in under any circumstances what is the point?

Mark J
March 19, 2013 11:55 AM

The point is that, since it costs nothing to send spam, if they sell even 1 item for every 1,000,000 spam emails, they will have made a profit. And they probably sell a bit more than that.

March 19, 2013 12:10 PM

Fortunately I don't get much in the way of spam currently, despite having several accounts with different providers, but I also use Mailwasher myself to catch anything that creeps through. The "bounce" facility is probably a little superfluous these days and of questionable value but at least the program stops rubbish actually getting into my local inbox. Also useful for spotting phishing mails. Just delete on sight!

Old Man
March 19, 2013 5:09 PM

I started by blocking everything that I didn't want even in my Junk mail folder. But my Blocked list got so bit it quit working - overloaded.

Then I read an article somewhat like Leo's, but it gave some additional information. Everything before (to the left of) the @ is most likely false and will be different for each e-mailing. What comes after (to the right of) the @ may remain the same.

So, I made a table of the information after the @ and sorted it. It turned out that a lot of the junk came from the same sites (not counting Yahoo, MSN, Gmail, and such). I then changed the blocked list to only include the @ followed by the site (eg: I was careful not to include any of the major e-mail sites. I do know people who use Yahoo and such.

That not only shortened the blocked sites list, but also got rid of most of the garbage. At least I can now spell Facebook correctly.

I also noticed a tremendous decrease in those appearing to be from Yahoo and the other sites.

So far I've had to add only a couple of sites in the past six months.

Old Man
March 19, 2013 5:17 PM

I should probably add that this is not a "solution of all solutions." I use this only to block that stuff the questioner says is: emails in my spam that are undesired and inappropriate.

I still get SPAM, but at least it's not what I consider offensive. Being asked to refinance my non-existent mortgage may be irritating, but it does not qualify as "undesirable and inappropriate."

March 19, 2013 10:36 PM

When I moved from IE to Chrome my emails almost ceased - why I wonder?

John Bennett
March 19, 2013 11:35 PM

I wish the Internet architects would fix the protocols to make it impossible to give a false From address. That would stop spam dead.

March 20, 2013 5:43 PM

I use Thunderbird. I created a filter that marks every email as Junk and sends it to the Junk folder, if the sender is not in my address book.

Unless you regularly expect to get email from people you don't know, this is a great filter because your inbox only has email from people you know, and the others are still in the Junk folder, if you think you missed something.

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