In our last e-newsletter, we tackled the problem of spam and phishing emails and how to identify them.

So, now that we have identified the enemy, let’s take a look at three simple approaches that you can use to reduce the flow of spam into your inbox, and minimize the risk of having personal information stolen by unscrupulous spammers.

Delete, delete, delete!
The best thing to do with spam and phishing emails is to – you guessed it – delete them – WITHOUT OPENING THEM. Opening them tells the spammer that the email address is valid, and they will continue to send more spam. By opening them, you also run the risk of being infected with malware. Delete spam as soon as you identify it as such to prevent accidentally opening them later or having someone else open them.

Unsubscribe from email
The best strategy for dealing with spam is to delete the email and move on, but often we get the question as to whether or not you should ‘request to unsubscribe’.

Successfully unsubscribing from spam emails is first determined by the legitimacy of the email itself, which was explained in our April 2011 e-newsletter. If the email has been sent by a disreputable company, your request could be ignored. Or worse yet, they could honour your request, but then sell or give away your email address. This is because the ‘request to unsubscribe’ essentially told that spammer your email address is valid, so while they might take you off their mailing list, they still may choose to let other companies use the address.

We always recommend not replying to the sender, but rather use an “unsubscribe” link. There are rules out there – put into place by Bill C-27 (Canada) and the CAN-Spam Act (US) – that spam email senders must abide by, including opt-out features that allow recipients to unsubscribe from the emails. Legitimate emails will provide these options and the process is pretty straight forward, but it does mean you have to open the email. After the email is open, you can usually find the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the page. Typically, you will receive a confirmation that you have successfully unsubscribed. As long as the senders are legitimate companies, you should be unsubscribed with 24-48 hours.

Use a spam filter
Now that you know what spam looks like, you’ve deleted and/or unsubscribed from them, what further steps can you do to stop them from actually filling up your inboxes? From our experience, installing anti-spam software is effective and worth it! This type of software is simple to use and generally works well. For example, one of our clients was getting upwards of 100 spam emails a day within a few weeks of having his website go live. After installing anti-spam software, he was still getting 100 spam emails a day, but they were being stopped by his new software. Eventually the number of spam emails he received went from a torrent to a trickle.

There are many options for anti-spam software on the market today. Our recommendation would be to talk to friends about what they are using and give it a try. We use a product called ChoiceMail; it’s simple to install and easy to set up.

Protect your primary email address
Use one email address for your business, and a separate email address for all on-line activities, i.e. purchases, registrations, forum discussions, etc. If you don’t employ this strategy, over time you will begin to see an increase of spam emails coming in as a result – read more on ways to manage your email addresses from our June 2010 e-newsletter. In addition, ask your web developer to protect your email address by encrypting it on your web site.

Additional ways to protect yourself
In addition to using anti-spam software, we also recommend having up-to-date anti-virus software, and that you scan your computer regularly with anti-malware software. We use AVG anti-virus and Ad-Aware anti-malware, but again, there are many available options, including plenty of free software downloads.

Internet con artists will always try to figure out new ways to circumvent security systems and new ways to steal your personal information. The measures we discussed above are proven effective for reducing the flow of spam emails. Using these measures, not giving out personal information over the internet, and knowing what to look for, will keep spam under control and ultimately be your best security.