There are a few simple things you can do to greatly reduce or even nearly eliminate your likelihood of being deluged by spam.
First, I want to distinguish what I mean by “spam” as opposed to “another annoying email.” If you have an account at Macy’s or buy from Amazon.com or got some software from XYZDevelopers, and you checked (or didn’t uncheck) a box at some point that said “it’s okay to send me your newsletter and/or important news blasts,” that is not spam. All responsible emailers from responsible businesses have an “unsubscribe” link in their messages. Use it.
What to do if you’re getting it
So now we’re left with the cheap jewelry and the personal enhancers and wildly frisky people longing to meet you. Clearly spam. They drive you around the bend, don’t they? In this case the rule is quite different: never never never click “unsubscribe” in any of these emails. If you do, you’ve just done them a favor by confirming that there’s a real live pair of eyes at the other end and your email address will be even more deluged.
Mac people: If you’re using Apple Mail, consider turning off the “Display remote images..” setting in Viewing preferences. (Or choose a similar setting in whatever email you use.) And check into SpamSieve, which is a brilliant software. Simple, focused, almost entirely self-monitoring, and to-the-point.
How to avoid getting spam in the first place
The A number one bit of advice is never never never never put your email on your website. Have your web developer install a contact form. If you must display your email, have your web developer encode or otherwise obfuscate your email address. I would wager that about 100% of the spam received is received by people who put their bare naked email address on the web. Spambots are waiting to pounce.
I know this from personal experience because I’d adhered carefully to best practices with one of my email addresses but unbeknownst to me, it was put in a PDF that was posted to a web site (a business group I belonged to), and from there on out the jig was up.
Get a general-contact email address from GoogleMail
There are a lot of times when you need to sign up for a forum or a service and you’re not quite sure of their privacy rules. For example, I have an email I use for my accounting activities, and one or more of the services I’ve used decided to spread the joy by selling or sharing that email address. I’ve learned from that and now use a free Google Mail address for all sign-ups, registrations, services, etc. Not only do I have tons of space (very easily searchable, as you might expect from Google), but their email has very accurate spam-spotting algorithms and so I never have to have any of that download to my computer.
The recommendations above cover a lot of ground, but recognize that sometimes it’s out of your hands. You could have a friend or colleague with an infected PC and by virtue of being in their address book, your email address became compromised. The best thing you can do is to encourage your friends and associates to keep their patches and virus protection up to date (if they’re on Windows OS, especially) and to follow the simple recommendations listed above.
Spam is here to stay but there are ways to get above it!