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The practical reality is that you can't stop spam. The best that you can do is deal with it as efficiently as possible using the technologies that you have in your hands today.

Most advice on spam centers on filtering or not placing your email addresses on websites, etc. Too late. I cannot believe that Yahoo really wants me to view email for pills and other junk with a spelling mistake in the title to get past their filters. I also do not know why there is no Hotmail (I no longer use it) option to just receive email from my contacts. How do I stop spam without any filters whatsoever? I also have a non-FIOS free Yahoo email account for only Yahoo and I get no spam. I'm starting to believe that Verizon Yahoo is sending me this spam for additional profits. Is there a way to stop not-blocked spam? Does telling the Canadian pharmacy that I no longer want their pills still result in more spam? We have CAN-SPAM for protection, but is that worthless too?

In this excerpt from Answercast #62, I look (once again) at the pervasive nature of spam and the best ways of dealing with it.

Get rid of spam

Boy! So, I need to clarify a couple of things.

One is no, there is no way today to stop spam. Period. That is the practical, albeit frustrating reality of the nature of the internet today: the nature of email and spam.

The best you as an individual can do is to use the spam filters. I know! Use the filters that are in your email program or in your email service to help train that service as to what is or is not spam.

Your ISP is not in cahoots with the spammers. They don't want that spam any more than you do. Spam is taking up valuable resources from them as well and they would love to see that all go away. But, you can't stop spam.

Anyone can send spam

So, the problem is of course that anybody can send email to anybody. Period.

Even if you manage to hide your email address in some fashion:

  • Eventually, somebody's going to guess it.

  • Eventually, it's going to fall into the wrong hands.

  • Eventually, it's going to end up on a spammers list and they're going to start sending you stuff.

The CAN-SPAM act

CAN-SPAM. My understanding of CAN-SPAM is that the legalities really haven't done that much to stop spam - or done much that you and I would consider truly useful.

In reality, it may have been used to prosecute some of the major spammers that we occasionally hear about in the news media. But the fact is spam is so pervasive, and it's coming from so many different places on the planet, that there is simply no legal jurisdiction that's going to be able to just "decree" that spam must go away by fiat.

Filtering spam

The only solution to spam is a technological one. Today, that means:

  1. Making sure you're using spam filters to their best.

  2. Using blocking when it's available (if it's even useful for the types of spam that you're getting.)

  3. And basically taking a breath. Stepping away. Using the Delete key liberally and moving on.

Spam is just not worth getting all wrapped up about. It's not going to go away any time soon. There are approaches, there are certainly technologies that could be used to make spam go away, but the problem is (once again) it requires such a global coordinated effort that it's really unlikely for that to ever happen as well.

So, the practical reality of the situation today is that no, you can't stop spam. The best you can do is to deal with it as efficiently as possible using technologies that you have in your hands today.

Unfortunately, those seem to be the very technologies that you resist using: filtering and blocking. I also want to point you at an article, "How do I prevent spam and scam emails from being sent to me?" The fact is it will say what I just told you - but perhaps it will give you a couple of other of ideas for other things that you might do to try and reduce the amount of spam in your inbox.

End of Answercast #62 Back to - Audio Segment


Do you have a question about your computer? Maybe the Internet, or some other random technology?

Head on out to http://ask-leo.com and start by searching the thousands of questions that I've already answered out there.

If you can't find what you're looking for, head out to ask-leo.com/ask to ask your question. I might even answer it here on a future AnswerCast.

While you're out there, sign up for my email newsletter where you'll get twice-weekly doses of fixes to problems, tips to avoid getting into trouble, and even the occasional answer as to why things are the way they are (or as in the case of this last question, why we can't fix things we'd like to fix.)

Backing up!

If you take away only one lesson from anything I ever, say, please, let it be about backing up. Nothing, and I do really mean nothing, can save you from almost any disaster like a proper and recent backup.

Please realize that all of my answers are based on my own personal experience and opinions and should be used entirely at your own risk. I don't know you, your abilities or the specifics of your machine and those details can make all the difference. Let's face it; I'm making all this up as I go along based on my experience and best effort. I could be wrong!

The Ask Leo! AnswerCast is a production of Ask Leo! and is Copyright 2012. Thanks for listening, I'm Leo Notenboom and I'll be back soon with another Ask Leo! AnswerCast.

Article C5934 - October 18, 2012 « »

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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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8 Comments
Scott Eppinger
October 19, 2012 3:01 PM

On the other GUEST computer in my house most people are Yahoo and Facebook users and noticed their Yahoo is ovewhelmed with Spam,, On MY Personal computer I been using HOTMAIL since like a long time ,, and receive virtually NO SPAM or Obvious Junk Mail ,,, WHY ,, Bcoz I have OPTED for the PAID SUBSCRIPTION to hotmail ,, It cost $19.++ a Year and MY INBOX is CLEAN

Tom R.
October 19, 2012 3:17 PM

I've found GMail to be super-efficient at sending spam to the junk folder. I rarely ever get unwanted mail in my inbox. I think it may have happened 1 time.

Yahoo, on the other hand, in notoriously horrible at stopping spam. I have a Yahoo account that I use for sign-ups on internet accounts, for confirmation purposes. Every time I go into my account to confirm a new sign-up there's literally hundreds of unwanted mailings in my inbox. I just delete everything in my inbox and move on.

Jazz
October 19, 2012 9:56 PM

I tried filtering in Outlook Express and found that afterwards it downloaded my emails from my ISP up to the point where it runs into an unwanted email, then it stops downloading completely. All the legitimate emails that would have been downloaded after that one, are not being downloaded.

Chuckster
October 20, 2012 10:01 AM

My answer is simple. All my wanted contacts have been tagged not spam. I open the spam section, highlight anything there and erase them all. A few seconds a day and they are gone.

Duane
October 20, 2012 3:37 PM

Leo did NOT give the answer I wanted to hear. I, too, want to stop all spam! Alas, I have a related(?) question. I have numerous email accounts (7 at AOL.com). I use each address for completely different purposes. Yet, I often get (almost daily) the same spam emails at several of these addresses. Is there technology which allows someone to "see" all (or more than one) of my @aol.com email addresses?

James
October 20, 2012 4:21 PM

Chuckster, that's basically my approach. However, I never delete my spam. I use Thunderbird, and you can tell Thunderbird to automatically delete your spam after x days. So my spam gets deleted for me. Saves me the extra work.

Duane
October 20, 2012 4:43 PM

James, when I "upgraded" from WinXP to Win7 I discovered my beloved Outlook Express would no longer work. At Leo's suggestion, I've been using Thunderbird ever since. But, as a non-techie, I neither like nor understand Thunderbird. No offense to Leo, but I find Thunderbird to be a lot like the ask-leo website: it is for the "techies" and not for the simple minded (like me). It is not pretty.

Example, why does some email marked spam go to my In box while other email not marked spam go into my Spam folder?

James
October 21, 2012 4:19 PM

Duane,

I can't really explain that to you. You might want to look at the filters that might be in use.

Very early on, I used/set up a filter that basically says that if the email is from someone who is not in my address book, mark it as spam and put it in the spam folder.

You might also want to look at Mozilla Support. They've got some good articles and you can also post questions that you can't find an answer to and get help from other users.
http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/home

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