|Shield your e-mail address from spammers
Monday July 11, 2005
Cal Deal used to get more than 1,000 spam messages a day.
No wonder. His Web sites had his e-mail address posted on dozens of pages. Messages sent to each "alias," or different recipient name, were forwarded to his main e-mail inbox. The situation was "horrendous," said Deal, who owns The Graphic Witness Inc., a firm that creates presentations for court trials.
So a year ago, he set up a new page on his site. When people want to e-mail Deal, they discover the instruction, "Send your questions, comments, etc. to:," and then an e-mail address. Every few months, the address changes. The new one forwards the incoming messages; any messages to the old address -- presumably only spammers would be using that address -- are sent to a junk mail folder.
"The beauty of this system is that I can change that address at any time," he said.
Greek philosopher Aristotle is said to have once stated, "Excellence is not an act, but a habit." The same can be said for protecting your e-mail address from direct marketers, spammers and those who send malicious e-mail and viruses. While setting up spam tools and anti-virus software is one solution, protecting the e-mail address in the first place can prevent spam from coming in. And it is a constant process.
The simplest trick to protecting a primary e-mail address is to control how the address is released in the first place. For example, use one or more e-mail addresses for general office inquiries, like mail@, info@ or questions@. Reserve the personal e-mail addresses of employees specifically for clients, co-workers or other trusted allies, said Steven Alig, president of Alig Technology Group Inc., a Dania Beach-based Internet and technology consulting firm.
Among other solutions:
- Protect your address. If you include an e-mail address on outgoing marketing, use a different e-mail address than your preferred, personal address.
- Set up different addresses for difference purposes, like sales@ or questions@. This keeps an individual's private business address more secure.
- Use free accounts. If you must register online to use a service or view a Web site, establish and use a free account, such as those with Hotmail or Yahoo!, for the registration.
- Evade the robots and spiders. Usually when clicking on a "contact us" link on a Web site, a blank e-mail opens on the user's computer. Instead, have the link take the user to an internal "contact me" form on the Web site, which is then sent to the owner. This will thwart robots that scour Web sites harvesting e-mail addresses, Alig said.
- Improve your filtering. Most e-mail applications use "message rules" that allow users to identify e-mail by sender or by specific words in the body or subject line. Those filtered messages then are either bounced, or placed in specific folders.
- Work with your Webmaster to hide, shield or "obfuscate" the e-mail address. This process encodes an e-mail address on your Web site so harvesters cannot recognize it, Alig said.
"The goal here is to hide the code that says, `mailto' or the `@' sign, because that's something the harvesters search for," he said.
|Jeff Zbar is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Simple tips and strategies can keep e-mail addresses off spam lists
Where: Check with your ISP, Web site host or Webmaster to learn about features that can curb or filter in-bound e-mail. Suscribe to and use free e-mail services, such as Hotmail or Yahoo!, for online subscriptions or registrations.