In light of recent events, many of you may be concerned about an onslaught of SPAM email. Here’s how to fight back and keep your inbox clean, regardless of what service you use and how you check your mail.
Most of us have some kind of junk filter, but it’s not always effective. We’re going to take a look at the best ways to counter spam email attacks in both webmail and desktop email clients. That said, if you’re drowning in spam you might want to consider a shift to Gmail, as it has—as far as I’ve seen — the most effective means of blocking spam that you can get. There are a few ways to migrate your email to Gmail, and if you want to use Google Apps with your own domain name (it’s free), Google offers a migration tool to copy your inbox to their servers. We know not everyone loves Google as much as we do, so we’re going to go over as many other options as we can, but if you’ve been thinking about switching to Gmail and you’re having serious trouble with spam, now might be a good time to join up.
If you’d prefer to stick with your current email offering, however, we’ve got a bunch of stuff that’ll help you out. Every option we’ll look at it is currently free.
To make the Guest List process easier, BoxBe’s junk filter is configurable to allow certain types of messages to be auto-approved. It rates junk messages on a scale of 1 to 10 and you can set which ratings will be automatically allowed into your inbox. For example, allowing messages with a junk rating of 3 or lower will increase the likelihood of messages from people you know, who aren’t already on your guest list, getting to your inbox without any intervention. You can also automatically block messages with a high junk rating so those messages never even cross your path.
If you don’t have Gmail/Google Apps, Yahoo! Mail, or AOL Mail, BoxBe provides a forwarding address so you can still use it with any service you’ve got.
Bayesian Filter Plug-ins
If you’re not already using a Bayesian spam filter of some kind, you’re probably wondering what it is. Here’s a quick definition, courtesy of SpamBayes (one of the options we’re going to look at):
A form of statistical analysis used (in a form) in Paul Graham‘s initial “Plan for Spam” approach. Now used as a kind of catch-all term for this class of filters, no doubt horrifying statisticians everywhere.
Some email apps already use Bayesian filters, but these plug-ins tend to be more accurate thanks to more frequent updates. Here are some of the best free options at your disposal.
JunkMatcher is a free, open-source plug-in for Apple Mail that doesn’t just implement a bayesian filter, but also checks for spam-like language and IP addresses to see if they’re common senders of SPAM. It integrates directly into Apple Mail and allows for a ton of customisation.
Apple Mail blog Hawkwings offers a collection of spam-filtering plug-ins, but JunkMatcher is the only free version among them. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of Apple Mail you may want to keep an eye on that section in case other free options show up in the future.
Set Up Your Own Filters in Common Desktop Apps and Webmail Apps
Filters are common in many email clients, from Gmail to Apple Mail, letting you easily bypass certain messages. An easy way to avoid spam email is to make your own custom filter that automatically moves, deletes, or archives the spam so you never see it. If you’re using Gmail, here are some great tips and tools for dealing with unwanted email:
- Try This Gmail Filter to Rope Off Mailing Lists and Newsletters
- 10 Must-Have Gmail Filters Available for Download
- Syphir Adds Awesome Advanced Filters to Gmail
- Massive Language Filter Reduces Some Gmail Spam
If you’re not in Gmail, there are a few ways to set up filters. We’ll talk a look at a few popular desktop applications and webmail apps.
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Apple Mail makes filtering really easy with Smart Mailboxes. Just create a new smart mailbos (go to Mailbox, then choose New Smart Mailbox) and enter criteria that’ll filter out everything you don’t want. You can see a few options in the example above. Good things to filter out are senders you know are common spammers, words that often appear in spam email messages, and — if you want to get pretty strict — limit the messages the smart mailbox shows to only people in a particular address book group. This will help you only see the messages you really want to see and avoid the ones you don’t. Just be sure to create an email filter that’s the opposite of the one that shows no spam. That way you will have easy access to all the other messages you’re filtering out so you can go through and look for something that may not have made it past your strict filter.
Windows Live Mail / Hotmail
The latest version of Hotmail has quite a few useful settings for combatting spam. If you go into your accounts options you’ll find a section called Preventing junk email. In that section you’ll have two options: Filters and reporting and Safe and blocked senders. The Filters and reporting option will let you set how tough your spam filter will be on potential spam. The Safe and blocked senders will let you deem particular senders safe and block senders you know to be spammers. Both are helpful in filtering out your junk mail.
Got any great tips for getting rid of spam email quickly and easily? Let’s hear ’em in the comments!