Avoiding SPAM

This document is written for Sailmail members with some advice on avoiding spam.

Spam (junk email) is a continuing problem, especially for Sailmail members and other folks with low-speed connections. The best way to avoid spam is to keep your address private, and out of the hands of the spammers.

The majority of spam is sent to addresses which are collected from web pages, using automated programs (“spam-bots”) which crawl the web looking for email addresses. Some is also collected from newsgroups, “whois” domain listings, and other public lists. And increasingly, addresses are also collected by viruses and “worms” from infected computers and used to send spam. This latter is particularly troubling because your address can become a spam-target even if you are careful, if one of your friends (with your address in their computer) gets a virus.

These addresses are then collected into long lists, sorted alphabetically, and sold to other spammers. (It is common to see multiple recipients on the same message, this is a result of the sorting and allows more spam to be sent faster).

Remember that before you started using your Sailmail address, it had never received spam. (Addresses based on common names such as “harry@sailmail.com” get spammed all the time, but not an address like “wxy1234”). It is up to you to keep your address free of spam.

The best way to avoid spam is to keep your address private. Do not post your address to a website, and make sure that your friends keep your address private. Don’t allow folks to add your address to long lists of bad jokes, it is too easy for that to get posted somewhere. Don’t use your Sailmail address when making on-line purchases, or filling out forms (except your Sailmail renewal of course)- not everything is legit. Keep a hotmail account for folks that you do not trust.

And, and very important, also remind your friends and associates to keep their virus software up-to-date, if their computer gets infected then you may get spammed as a result.

Spam is very difficult to filter without also deleting legitimate email (which is not acceptable). The problem is that spammers are trying very hard to make spam look like legitimate email, and they are not stupid. Sailmail uses the best spam-filter that we can find, but it is not perfect. It is professionally managed and may take a couple of days to adjust to a new spam pattern, but if there is doubt, then the message is passed through rather than deleted. This is the only acceptable choice.

Some services use a “closed gateway” approach which requires would-be senders to go to a website and “register” in order to be able to send email. If you’ve ever received a message back from an earthlink or mindspring user via Sailmail asking you to go to a website, you realize how frustrating this can be. The other problem is that many folks (and especially businesses) reply from a different address, their reply won’t go through and most folks won’t jump through hoops just to answer your query. And worse, much of the virus-generated spam comes from legit addresses (stolen from the infected computer) which would sail right through. Sailmail does not plan to support this approach.

If you want to put your address on a website, then do it like this:
“WXY1234 -at-sign- sailmail.com” or “WXY1234 (at) sailmail.com”
Folks will understand what you mean, but the “spam-robots” won’t recognize it.
Alternately do a Google-search for “Email address obfuscator” (without quotes)
The following page also has a good discussion and includes methods of hiding your address:

If you do have problems with spam, then we can assign a new mailbox by adding an “a” or “1” suffix to your callsign (and email address). You will need to notify your (desired) correspondents of your new address, and be sure to remind them to keep their anti-virus software current. Your current address will stay active for a month to allow an orderly transition. It is a nuisance, but the spam will be gone, and will stay gone, as long as you keep the new address private. If you want to do this, send a note us at sysop@sailmail.com.