Got Spam? Here’s How to Reduce It

This famous canned meat product became synonymous with ubiquitous nonsense after a 1970 Monty Python skit featuring a cafe that served only Spam.

If you’ve got mail, you’ve got spam! About 60 percent of email is spam, and that’s not counting legitimate — but sometimes annoying — commercial email from companies that you have some relationship with.

So what can you do about it? You’re never going to live in a spam-free world, but here are the basic tools in your spam-fighting toolbox:

  1. Don’t publish your email address on your website. Once your email address is exposed on a website, it will be found by spammers. Legitimate robots crawl the web day and night to index pages for Google, Bing, other search engines and the like. But bad robots also crawl the web constantly in search of email addresses. Once your email is out there, it becomes a target for spam.
  2. Use client-side spam filtering, such as Outlook’s Junk Email filter. Outlook’s Junk Email Filter checks messages once they arrive in  your Outlook client. If it looks like spam, it will be moved to to the junk mail folder or deleted. You can change the settings based on your needs. However, use caution before deleting suspected spam automatically, because you might permanently delete a legitimate message that way.
  3. Use server-side spam filtering, such as SpamAssassin. Most email services bundled with a web hosting account also include the option of filtering mail using SpamAssassin or another comparable filter. SpamAssassin works by scoring messages on a scale from 1 to 10. The higher the number, the more likely the message is spam. Depending on your settings, suspected spam can either be filtered to a spam folder or deleted automatically. Using SpamAssassin may require some fine-tuning and the accuracy is never 100%. But it is an effective tool.
  4. Use a challenge / response system, such as BoxTrapper. This is a more heavy-handed solution. When you use BoxTrapper, anyone who emails  you the first time must confirm their identity by replying to a confirmation email. Since most spammers won’t bother, it is an effective solution. But it can also be annoying to regular users, so it’s a tool you only want to use when the level of spam outweighs the benefits of annoying some legit senders.
  5. Use an upgraded email service, such as Gmail for Business or Hosted Exchange. Email services bundled with web hosting typically have greater limitations on disk space and exist in a shared environment, meaning the same mail server may be used by multiple domains. Bundled email is an effective and affordable solution for many small businesses, but sometimes it pays to upgrade to a dedicated email service. Hosted Exchange or Gmail for Business offer a dedicated solution, but with an increased cost of $5 to $10 per mailbox per month.