Don't Let Spam Slow You Down

I’m still getting too many nods “Yes” when I ask seminar and workshop attendees if they’re still getting a lot of spam. If you are too, take these steps to end it.

Use a good provider. If you’re using Joe’s Internet Service with servers in his basement, he’s probably not using the best technologies to block spam on the server side…before it gets to you. Use one of the big boys such as AT&T for Internet access and make sure your Webhost meets the same requirements (e.g., Network Solutions).

Keep your clickable email address off the Web. There is no valid reason for putting your live, clickable email address on the Web. Spambots scour the Internet looking for the @ symbol and all that comes with it. Spell it out with “at” instead of the symbol…people will know what to do. It’s a good idea to Google all of your email addresses to see where they show up. Get them removed! Then sign up for Google Alerts so you’ll be notified if they show up anywhere later. And remember that Google can index any documents, PDFs, and Flash files so keep your full email address out of there.

Get a powerful spam blocker. Technology is available to stop spam in its tracks. I highly recommend Cloudmark Desktop because it works in the background and doesn’t challenge people who want to reach me (a potential client or journalist shouldn’t have to get permission to send me a message).

Turn up the security volume in your email software. I use Outlook 2007 and have my security set at High. To check yours, click the Actions tab, point to Junk E-Mail, click Junk Email Options. On the resulting Options tab, choose High.

Get a new set of email addresses. If after all this you’re still getting a lot of spam (not likely), change your email addresses and start over. I know it’s a hassle, but you can’t afford to spend another minute deleting spam. Or at the very least, get rid of info@, sales@ email addresses…you’re making it too easy for the spammer because all they’ll need is your domain.

Deal with the few that will still trickle in. After you’ve made these changes, you’ll probably still get one or two spam messages a day. It doesn’t do any good to add them to your blocked senders list because they’re coming from a one-use email address. Instead (in Outlook), hold down the Shift key and Delete (it’ll bypass your Deleted Items folder).

Stop using autoresponders. If you decide not to do any of this and you continue to use autoresponders (e.g., out of office replies), you’re autoresponding to the spammers. You’re letting them know that yours is a legitimate email address and the floods will keep rising.

Email is too important and something can easily fall through the cracks if you don’t stay on top of it. In my book, Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007, I include lots of tips, tricks, and strategies for managing your life. And for hands-on training at your place or mine, check out my workshop (also available online).

Peggy Duncan, Time Management Expert

Are you getting a lot of spam? I'm not and here's why

If you’re still getting a lot of spam in 2007, you don’t have the right stuff. Here are some things you can do right now to reduce this pest.

  • Take your live email address off the Web. Spambots scour the Web looking for the @ symbol and they grab the email address. If you visit my Website, you will not see my live address anywhere. I also do not allow others to post it (except as noted in the next bullet point). All over my site, I write my address using “at” or “(at)” instead of @.
  • Have a special email address for miscellaneous uses. If I’m in a situation where I have to post an email address, I use one whose account is not set up in Outlook. I can only check its messages via Webmail and seldom do this.
  • Bump up the protection level in your email client. Outlook 2003’s built-in filters are so good, I don’t have to use any other spam technology. If you’re using this version and are still getting lots of spam, change the protection level (click the Tools menu, Options, the Preferences tab, Junk E-mail button, and change the level to High). Mine is set at low because I rarely get spam.
  • Use a spam blocker that works. Before I installed Outlook 2003, I used the spam blocker Cloudmark Desktop and loved it. It caught spam and sent it to my junk folder. It also caught phishing emails (e.g., the ones that look like legitimate sites such as PayPal and asks you to enter confidential information and then help themselves to your cash).Cloudmark is a favorite of mine because it’s a community of people who contribute to the blocked sender’s list. This technology also does not force legitimate people who want to send you a message to get permission by clicking a link… (this is a major pet peeve of mine and a ridiculous thing for people in business to use).For an immediate reduction in spam, visit http://www.cloudmark.com/. Use my referral code if you try it (yggw4).
  • Stop creating rules or adding to the blocked sender’s list. Professional spammers change their email addresses before you can blink so using rules (or the command to add to blocked sender’s list) to send their mail to your junk folder is a waste of time.
  • Don’t respond to spammers. Responding to a message asking to be removed from a list is not the way to go. You’re only letting the spammer know that yours is a legitimate email address (it’s fine to click Unsubscribe links when you know the sender is not a thug spammer).
  • Stop using autoresponders. If you’re getting tons of spam, using an autoresponder is one of the worst things you can do. You’re letting the spammer know that your email address is valid, and they’ll know you’re out of the office and your backup’s phone number and email address.Instead of using the autoresponder, I would rather have the reputation of being someone who responds so when they don’t hear from me as quickly, they know something’s up. And to tell you the truth, I don’t want to be a day away from my email because just about everything that happens for me in business starts with email. I stay on top of it and can whip through it pretty easily.(If you want to know how to manage email (and my time) the way I do, check out my book, Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2003. I also conduct workshops and Webinars on this too.)
  • Use a top-notch ISP and Webhost. If your mail server is in Joe’s basement, it’s time to go with one of the big boys. Top-notch ISPs have better technology and spam will be blocked on the server side before it attempts to get to you (my Website and main Webmail accounts are hosted by Network Solutions…wonderful customer care).

If you take time to make these changes today, I promise you will see a big reduction in the amount of spam you receive.

Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert