- Never, ever reply to a spam message. This includes buying a product that is for sale or clicking the often-misunderstood "unsubscribe" link, which actually informs your spammer that you exist. If you can tell from the subject line that a message is spam, don't open it — delete it. Spam subject lines usually promise you a better sex life, a more youthful appearance, prescription drugs without a doctor's approval, love, thicker hair, or a better mortgage rate. They also use attention-demanding punctuation, such as exclamation marks or all caps.
- Don’t click any links in a spam email. Spammers often have multiple, unique pages on their sites. Often, when you click a URL in a spam message, this tells the spammer that you — and only you — received the message he or she sent.
- Disguise your email address. Don't put your email address in plain text on your Web site. An effective way to trick the spiders that traverse the Web to harvest email addresses is to disguise your email address by stripping out periods and "@" symbols. For example, "YOURNAME AT YAHOO DOT COM." You can also make the "@" an image, which will prevent crawlers from identifying it. You make also wish to disguise it in your signature file, in case your recipients forwards your email.
- Don’t forward an email from someone you don’t know to a list of people. You remember those "forward this email to 20 of your friends" messages? They are perfect for spammers to harvest email addresses, even if the sender of the original email did not have this intent. These types of sign-and-forward emails often appear in the form of a petition — and they don’t work.
- Don’t use your home or business email address. when you register on a Web site or in a group. If you must sign up for services, want to receive more info, register for newspapers or domains; use a free email address from a site like Yahoo or Hotmail to create an address especially for that purpose. This also goes for posting to the Web, in a listserv, newsgroup, on a contact page for a Web site, or on a resume that is posted on the Web.
- Before you join a list, make sure the list owner or Web master will not sell your address. Check to see if you can opt out of receiving unsolicited email from the site where you're registering. If you are unsure about this, read the site's privacy statement.
- Preview your messages before you open them. Outlook (and many other email clients) let you use a preview mode to peek at the contents of a message before you actually open it. To do this in Outlook, go the View menu and select Preview Pane. Instead of double clicking a message, click it once to select it and you'll see the message displayed in the Preview Pane.
- Use a complicated email username. Spammers' software will look for the easy and obvious addresses first, such as those with identifiable names "email@example.com," as opposed to “firstname.lastname@example.org."
- Use a spam filter. One to try is SpamBayes for Windows, which you can find in TechSoup's Free Downloads section. Another is Mailshell, which is available on TechSoup Stock. (Visit the Mailshell page for details).
- If your organization has an IT department, forward any spam that gets through to it. This way, they can perhaps better tweak the filters.
- Make sure your privacy settings are set so you don't receive marketing from other sites in your AOL and Yahoo profiles. Many listservs use Yahoo lists as the list provider; you must unselect these pre-selected choices in your personal privacy settings.
- Never use your email address as your screen name in chat rooms. It will give spiders or human email harvesters an absolute yes to a questionable email address.
Email addresses are distributed in a variety of ways, including:
- They commonly appear in the signature at the bottom of an email address.
- They always appear in the From:, To: and Cc: lines of email messages.
- They are commonly placed on business cards.
- They are commonly harvested from online forums, message boards, and listservs (which is often against the policies of the forum/board/listserv).
- They are collected at tradeshows and conferences.
Spam can result from any of these contacts.