Andy's Technical Notes Main Security Page

End user spam avoidance

While there is no one thing that can stop all spam there are many little things that can each stop a bit of spam

This time proven advice is intended for end users, for email system administrators see our admin pointers


Since the actual spam detection systems are constantly being worked around by the spammers and vice versa in a cat 'n mouse game, the first measures are to prevent you from getting on any more lists than you already are (or if you are really lucky or on a new account, keep you off in them in the first place)

1) When you can choose your user ID/address (i.e. the part before the, don't pick a dictionary word or just your first name (assuming they are even available) as spammers do occasionally just make guesses of addresses from lists such as the dictionary, the Bible, baby names books, etc.. Eg. my father-in-law chose as his fun account, and within 3 days of not even having used it yet, it had collected 3 spams.

2) Make sure your system is patched up to date, running antivirus/anti-malware software with up to date signature files, and periodically scan your system with your antivirus to make sure it is doing its thing. Don't block the automated processes of scanning or leting your PC support people from doing this as it is a necessary part of protecting you.

3) Be careful to whom you personally give out your email address. The more people that know your address, the more likely it will end up in the hands of a spammer. This should apply to other peoples' addresses as well. Part of this is when sending messages to a large number of people (such as jokes, and announcements), put everyone in the BCC: instead of TO:. This will reduce the number of addresses others can capture, provides your friends and family with some privacy, and shrinks that long list that shows after it has been forwarded a few times.

4) Don't put your email address on any website or newsgroup in the clear. There are multiple techniques for this, but the simplest is to just add something just after the @ symbol that a human reading will know to remove such as or Yes these are a bit frustrating to deal with, but until we get spam under control at the system level this is pretty well a requirement to not getting spam. Pick the lesser poison.

5) Create multiple email addresses for different purposes when you can such as at home. For example use your name for official type correspondence and close family, another one for casual friends, use a free on-line account for signing up with services you don't know much about. A free on-line email service that is great for limiting spam is Please use your personal accounts for personal stuff and leave your work account(s) for actual work.

6) If you receive unsolicited junk email just delete it, preferable without ever opening it!
Just opening many of these messages will allow the spammers to know they found a live and active account and therefore target it more aggressively. This happens due to using web page technologies to display email messages other than plain text. Even the preview window of some email clients can cause this to happen making this feature an anti-security feature that is best avoided. Never respond/reply to or unsubscribe from such unsolicited messages as that typically just confirms your account is live and target-able for more messages. Do NOT purchase or contribute to these deals and offers as they are mostly scams you want to avoid anyway such as sugar pills sold as Viagra or off scale ruler to 'prove' body part growth.

7) Don't be a spammer yourself! Mass mailings of any kind are problematic on a number of fronts. They guarantee you will end up receiving piles of spam in return, will get turn possible clients away from you, and may even get your account suspended or corporate system black listed. If you need to do mass mailings, make sure it is a opted in list as that is increasingly the law.

Last updated 2020-04-06