It’s a sad fact of life, but two decades have passed since the Internet first gained widespread acceptance among the general public, and we still have to deal with spam. Unsolicited and unwanted advertising continues to clutter cyberspace. It irritates all who receive it. And in worst-case scenarios, spam can even disable a website or email address if the volume is too heavy.
Worse, today’s spammers have grown infinitely more sophisticated than their predecessors. Which means that even though most web browsers and email programs come with spam detectors, spammers with the skills, technology and determination can still find ways to deposit their pornography links, phishing schemes, and ridiculous get-rich-quick advertisements into the inboxes of unwilling recipients.
Fortunately, not all is lost. Here are four simple steps you can take to dramatically reduce the amount of spam that manages to find its way into your email inbox.
- Install CAPTCHA on your website forms to foil the bots. CAPTCHA, which stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart,” requires people to enter a randomized code in order to submit an online form. The randomized code is often in the form of distorted, wiggly, or otherwise hard (but not impossible) to read lettering. Spam bots – the automatic email generators favored by today’s sophisticated spammers – can’t read the randomized code so they can’t submit the form.
- Don’t put your email address on your website. By itself, this will eliminate a lot of spam. But the decision has to be weighed against with other concerns, such as making it easy for site visitors to contact you. If, like most companies, you decide to include email addresses on your website, install PrivateDaddy. This free, open-source software hides your email address from spam bots while still making it visible to humans. Some web platforms, such as WordPress, even come with a plugin you can install.
- Turn off comments on your blog. Again, not an easy decision. But like leaving your email address off your website, it can help to reduce spam in the right situations. If you have a very active community of readers who post a lot of legitimate responses, the value of that community will outweigh the inconvenience of any spam that comes through. On the other hand, if you tend to get a small amount of random comments, chances are that many of them will be spam. Turning off comments will eliminate spammers’ ability to get through using your blog.
- Unsubscribe from what you don’t read. When you subscribe to a newsletter, blog, or other form of online communications, you give that business or organization permission to contact you via email. You may not want to receive what they send you, but technically it isn’t spam. So they can – and will – send you stuff until you tell them to stop.
Legally, all email newsletters must have an unsubscribe link somewhere in the email. Usually, they make it hard to find by putting it at the very bottom of the page, in small print. But if you no longer read a newsletter or don’t get any real value from it, hunt down that link and unsubscribe.
Be smart, be vigilant, and minimize the ways spammers can gain entrance to your email inbox. The small amount of time you invest will pay big dividends in reducing the amount of unwanted email you receive.