- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I read in a California newspaper about people who are so angry over the flood of spam that they are actually canceling their Internet service.

It isn’t that hard to fix. It takes a small amount of time and effort, but if you are going crazy under the weight of Viagra ads, it is fixable.

I run a Web site with a lot of traffic. It has a button that says, “Write Fred.” Before spam became a problem, when you clicked on the button, a blank e-mail came up addressed to [email protected] (All e-mail addresses in this column are imaginary.)

Of course, spammers harvested the address, and I began to get ads for Really Dirty PicturesXXX. Soon, these were most of my mail.

People get spammed because they have fixed e-mail addresses. Sooner or later, spammers get hold of the address. The trick is not to have a fixed address.

The easiest approach, certainly if you have broadband, is to go to yahoo.com and get a Yahoo Mail Plus account for $20 a year. This is a good deal for all sorts of reasons unrelated to spam, but, in particular, it gives you what Yahoo calls Address Guard. This means disposable e-mail addresses.

Yahoo will give you an e-mail address that you should never use at all. That way it will never collect spam. Yahoo also lets you make up disposable addresses with no obvious relation to your base address, use them as long as you like, and then delete them. These disposable addresses are the key to avoiding spam.

As in Microsoft Outlook, you make a list of rules telling the software what to do with incoming messages. At the bottom of the list of rules, you tell Yahoo to delete anything with the “@” sign. This deletes everything you haven’t directed to a specific folder.

You have to be judicious about this to be sure that you don’t delete legitimate messages. If you like, you can put these e-mail messages in some folder to look at later.

You give your true address to friends, and all mail from them goes into the Friends folder. I did that a couple of years ago and have gotten zero spam sent to it. The reason is that the address doesn’t appear anywhere on the Web and thus doesn’t get harvested.

Use a separate e-mail address for writing to companies online that you think might collect your address. If you get spam, delete the address and use another disposable address instead.

On my Web site, when I start getting spam, I just change the address on the Write Fred button. The spam disappears. A month later, I change the address again. It works. Instead of hundreds of spams, I get the occasional few.

For some people, the same thing can be done without Yahoo. If you have a Web site, Lulu.com, your Web host very possibly forwards to you any mail at all sent to Lulu.com ” for example, [email protected] With Microsoft Outlook, you can tell the computer to put mail to [email protected] in your inbox, and delete everything else.

A point worth remembering is that spammers know nothing except your e-mail address. If they have to know something else to get into your inbox, they fail.

If all of this works for me, it will work for other people. It’s a bit of a nuisance, but better than having your e-mail function become almost unusable.

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