home page
home page
Archived article from the year 2000
"Your data has a social life too"


As safe as a postcard

Safe procedures

Reading headers

Main email index

home page

It's the cheapest form of direct marketing imaginable. That's why marketing morons send you so much of it. Just smile when you get an inbox full of junk and spam and thank the senders for these valuable confirmations that your email system is in good working order.

How to avoid junk email (spam)

!. Do not run Outlook with the preview window open. That's the window at the bottom right which shows the content of whatever email is highlighted above. It's open by default and needs to be closed manually. Go to View in the top menu bar and click on Preview Pane to close it. If you keep the window open, it allows email "bugs" to work, and these tell the sender that you've seen the mail and your address is active. This is bad news, because active addresses are resold throughout the junk mail industry. Also switch off the preview pane in your Deleted Items folder, to avoid opening the first deleted mail when you open the folder.

2. Do not open junk mail if you can avoid it. Most spam is obvious. The subject lines read like marketing brochures and may contain lots of capital letters and exclamation marks. For security reasons, it's best not to open it. Simply delete it unread by selecting delete from the left-click mouse menu.

3. If you're not sure that a message is junk, open it when your Internet connection is closed. This stops email bugs and other nasties from working as the spammer intended.

4. Never reply to spam or email to complain about it. You'll go straight on the spammer's mailing list as an active address and your junk mail will double.

5. Never opt out of a spammer's mailing list. You can opt out of lists kept by responsible companies - that's fine. But if you've never heard of the the company and you try to opt out of their list you may find yourself promoted as an active address and your level of junk could go up.

6 Don't sign up with companies promising to protect your email address and take you off spammers' lists. There are a couple of genuine ones, but the majority are bogus. All they do is collect addresses and sell them. Ooops!

7 Create disposable email accounts and use these when signing up with companies you don't entirely trust - for example when registering for free software.

8. There is a junk mail filter system available in Outlook. You can try it, but my own experience of it was poor and I switched it off. It identified genuine mails as junk and so I had to check the junk folder after every mail download and manually add the genuine addresses to an exceptions list, which was more effort than simply deleting junk from the main inbox. The filter itself can be modified manually by opening FILTERS.txt in Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office.

9. If your address appears on a Web page, "munge" it. That means add an extra character or two that must be taken out for the address to work, and write instructions for your visitors so they can do this. There are automatic address harvesters that trawl the Web collecting any address they find. They're fooled by munged addresses.

10. The idea of investigating an email in detail so you can complain to Internet companies that have handled it, including the one where it started out, sounds appealing but isn't worth it unless you're a technical expert. Usually the origins are heavily disguised, and many spammers use a slash and burn technique where they use an address and Internet company once and then run away and do something different next time. The chances are, if you can decode the true origin of a junk mail, some important technical person has already done so and acted on the information. More info on email headers.

11. Switch off automatic receipt sending. You'll find this under Options > Preferences (click "E-mail Options" then "Tracking Options"). On the Tracking Options page clear all the fields in the top section and choose "Always ask me before sending a response" in the lower section. Spammers abuse the system to check their drivel has been received.

Safe procedures for email


Personal data
Mobile phones


About TinHat
Privacy policy

copyright Foxglove Media Ltd 2003. See disclaimer and republishing guidelines.