Quick Start Guide to Spam Prevention

Spam is a huge problem that effects everyone with an email address. If you're one of the few people who have managed to have an email address and avoided a bombardment of spam, you're definitely in an elite group and, unfortunately, every day that passes brings you closer to ending up on a spammers email list and having your inbox polluted with unwanted advertisements and scams.

We want you to have the best possible chance of reducing the amount of spam that arrives in your inbox. The information below is meant to fill you in on the basics of spam protection.

 

What is spam?

This may seem like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people confuse spam with messages that they just don't want in their inbox. There is a difference.

Spam is unsolicited commercial email. You have never done business with the party sending you the email and you certainly didn't ask to be notified of their offer. This can also include scams and phishing attempts - essentially any email from an unknown source that is attempting to extract your money, password or private information.

Let's say that you've purchased something from Amazon and, as a result, Amazon sends you an email with their latest offers. This would not be considered spam as you've done business with Amazon previously. In this case, look for an unsubscribe link to be removed from those sales emails. Most legitimate sales emails will include an unsubscribe link if that's an option. Some companies (like us) will send notifications out to their existing customer base that you cannot opt out of as they are essential to your ongoing relationship with that company.

 

Should I "unsubscribe" from a sales message if I don't know the sender?

No. The first thing to remember is that spammers are scammers and they are looking to use your information against you in order to profit. In this case, when you click an unsubscribe link, there's a good chance that you are indirectly telling the spammer that someone is indeed checking your email address, thereby making it more valuable to other spammers. As a result, you will receive more spam.

 

What can I do to stop spam from coming to my inbox?

Luckily, you have a few options. We'll start with the least effective and progress on to the most effective:

 

1. Delete any spam message or any message that you don't want in your inbox. This won't stop spam from coming in the future and it won't route the spam differently when it does arrive, but it will get the messages out of your inbox.

 

2. The Apple Mail application has a built in Junk mail filter. If you use the Apple Mail app to check your mail, you can enable this by going to:

Mail menu (next to the Apple in the upper left when the Mail application is open) > Preferences > Junk Mail > check the box next to Enable Junk Mail Filter

The built in junk mail filter will learn what is and what is not junk based on what you mark as Junk (you should see a Junk button at the top of your mail app that you can click when you've highlighted a junk message). The more junk messages that you mark as junk, the better it will learn what to move to your junk folder automatically. If a valid message is moved to the Junk folder, there's no need to worry - just mark it as Not Junk.

If you don't use the Apple Mail application it doesn't mean you're out of luck. Most modern mail applications (like Outlook and Thunderbird) also have built in Junk mail filters. Just check their help section for proper use.

 

3. MacHighway offers the SpamAssassin server level filter at no charge. WARNING: Do not use the SpamAssassin junk filter and the Advanced Spam Quarantine & Virus Filter (below) at the same time. You will need to disable one if you intend to use the other.

The SpamAssassin junk mail filter resides on the server and it analyzes messages as they arrive to the server and will delete messages if the spam score is too high. The SpamAssassin filter doesn't learn what you think is spam, but instead relies on it's own qualifications to score spam. A low score means a low likelihood of a message being spam, while a high score means a high likelihood of being spam. If too many spam messages are finding their way through to your inbox, you can set the score lower to be more aggressive. If too many valid messages are being marked as Junk, you can set the score higher to allow more messages to be delivered to you.

If you choose to use this filter, please refer to the note about blacklisting & whitelisting an address below.

Full instructions for enabling and using SpamAssassin can be found here.

 

4. MacHighway offers the Advanced Spam Quarantine and Virus filter at $6.49/month or $64.90/year. WARNING: Do not use the SpamAssassin junk filter (above) and the Advanced Spam Quarantine & Virus Filter at the same time. You will need to disable one if you intend to use the other.

The advanced Spam Quarantine and Virus filter is a very robust option. The filter will move suspected junk mail into a quarantine for each email address at your domain. If you have messages in the quarantine that need to be delivered, simply mark the messages as "Not Spam" and the message will be delivered to your inbox. At the same time, you are also training the spam filter what is not junk based on content.

If a message is definitely spam, you can mark the message as "Spam" to delete the message from the quarantine and train the filter on what is definitely spam.

If there's a message that's quarantined that's not spam, but also not something you want delivered to the inbox, you have the option of deleting the message from your quarantine.

Please click here for information on training the advanced spam quarintine system to more effectively filter spam.

If you choose to use this filter, please refer to the note about blacklisting & whitelisting an address below.

Full instructions for enabling and using the Advanced Spam Quarantine & Virus filter can be found here.

 

 

Should I blacklist addresses if I'm receiving spam?

No. What you will end up with is a very big and ineffective blacklist. Spammers are never going to email from their legitimate email address, instead choosing to spoof someone else's email address. They send out a batch of the spam emails and then change the spoofed email address that they are using. For that reason, it's almost a guarantee that you will never receive several spam emails from the same sender address.

You will want to reserve your blacklist for senders who you are positive will be sending you unwanted emails from a consistent address.

 

Should I whitelist my address or domain name?

No. Spammers will often count on your doing this and use a trick that spoofs the sender email address with the same email address as the recipient. By whitelisting your own address, you're actually inviting more spam to get past the gatekeeper.

If you are using SpamAssassin it's extremely unlikely that a legitimate email sent by you, to you will end up being marked as spam. If you use the Advanced Spam Quarantine & Virus filter, if a legitimate email sent by you, to you is quarantined, simply mark that message as "Not Spam". The filter will eventually learn that legitimate messages sent by you, to you are valid based on the content of the message.

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