Skip to content


Home

We all have a love/hate relationship with our e-mail Inbox. While most of us couldn’t live without the instantaneous written communication we’ve come to rely upon, why do we have to spend so much time setting filters, black lists and white lists, and still have to wade through scores of messages we didn’t want to receive? And to top it off, despite our very best efforts to follow the instructions of our ISP and e-mail client software, we often find a message we really wanted or needed to receive got trapped in a filter! Aaargh!

While we await the victory of professional SPAM fighters over the legions of SPAMMERS, are there other means at our disposal? This blog intends to find out. Join us as we explore how “you can filter SPAM”.

GIVING OUT E-MAIL ADDRESSES TO STRANGERS…
WHY I LOVE “CATCHALL” ACCOUNTS.

This is one technique I’ve used for years. It’s cheap, identifies SPAMMERS and those who either cooperate with them or are too dumb not to be used and abused by them, and is easy to setup up and utilize.

First, I register a domain specifically for my purposes, and host it on a server that allows “catchall” e-mail accounts. Catchall accounts have been around a long time and reportedly originated so senders who mistyped an address could still get their e-mail delivered, if they at least got the domain right. Such is especially important for responsible commercial website owners who want to be sure they hear everything from all their customers. While some hosts have done away with catchall accounts thinking they bog down their servers, I use them specifically to filter spam. Here’s how I do it:

I set up any private e-mail accounts I want on my server for the new domain. These are the ones I’m never going to give out to anyone I don’t absolutely, positively know won’t be sending me SPAM or be lazy enough to allow others to harvest my address. Additionally, I set up a “catchall” account, something like “catachall@mydomain.com”. And, I tell my e-mail server that any e-mail sent to my domain that doesn’t actually have an account set should be forwarded to the “catchall@mydomain.com”.

Next, whenever I’m asked for an e-mail address on a website, in an advertisement, or by a stranger I’ve only recently met, I manufacture an address at my domain that will uniquely identify the party to whom I gave the address. For example, imagine I’ve just read this incredible online newsletter and would like to signup to receive future issues. I don’t know the publisher from Adam, and I really don’t want anything other than future issues of his newsletter. For the sake of this example, my domain will be “mydomain.com”, my name is “bob”, and the name of the newsletter I want to subscribe to is “newsletter”. When I’m asked for my e-mail address, I insert “bob-newsletter@mydomain.com”. (Note: I didn’t say anything about actually setting up an account with that name on my e-mail servers.) Now, anything sent to that address will be automatically forwarded to my “catchall” account by my e-mail server. I set my e-mail client on my local computer to check on the Inbox of the “catchall” account. If I begin to notice e-mail addressed to that unique account I don’t want, THEN, I actually create that e-mail account of that specific name on my e-mail server and direct that Inbox to dump directly to the SPAM or TRASH folder. Presto, problem solved, at least as far as that spammer is concerned.

I don’t bother with my blacklist, either in my e-mail client, my ISP, or otherwise any more. There are simply too many ways the “source” of an e-mail can be masked. By using the “catchall” method, I’ve been able to keep receiving the e-mail I really want, while blocking any unique account that starts getting SPAM.

I’ve even adapted the technique a bit for my friends who are having trouble knowing if they’ve been compromised and their list of e-mail contacts harvested by a spammer. I simply give them a unique address and have them install it in their list of contacts. Then, if SPAM starts showing up addressed to that account, I know he does have a problem and can assist him in finding the trojan or other likely culprit.

Let me know what you think of this idea, and what others ways you’ve found that help you filter SPAM.

In future posts, I’ll share how I avoid having e-mail addresses automatically harvested off the websites I operate, while still making those same addresses easy for human visitors to see and send e-mail to. Peace.

Posted in .