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Issue #773: May 15-21, 2022

Q: Lately I’ve been getting 10+ junk emails every day. I mark them junk and block sender, but the email addresses are just random letters and numbers, so that doesn’t work. There’s something similar about them. I’ve attached a sample of 2 via a screenshot. They all contain Any advice?

 – Marianne K.
Destin, Florida

A: Yes, I do have any advice, Marianne.  In fact, it’s the same advice I’ve given in the past about dealing with spam, but it’s worth repeating, and is an especially good lesson to those that haven’t heard it before.

It is natural to want to keep the inflow of messages in your e-mail inbox under control.  After all, you not only pay for the bandwidth required for all that unwanted stuff to be downloaded from your server, but you also have to sort through it, much like you do with the junk mail you receive in your snail mail deliveries.  On the surface, it probably seems like blocking each sender is one step closer to conquering the problem, or at least it gives you the feeling like you’re doing something about it.  Well, I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but your efforts are probably not helping even a tiny bit, and worse, some actions you can take, like clicking certain unsubscribe links can actually make the problem worse.

The reason spammers send spam is that it’s a cheap, fast, and efficient way for them to get their marketing out to a large number of people.  Now, whether this marketing is for legitimate products or services, or is an attempt to scam you is the topic of another column.  For the purpose of this discussion the important part to know is that spammers create or purchase e-mail addresses from various sources online, then they do what spammers do, which is send lots of spam.

Now, spammers know very well that people don’t want to deal with their junk, and they also know how easy it is to block e-mail addresses.  For that fact alone, they usually only send a few hundred spam messages using a given e-mail address, and then they abandon that address and start using another one.  Now, switching addresses may sound like a big deal to you, but that’s because you use legitimate e-mail addresses, which you share with your friends and family, and which usually represent you in some way (like my own for instance).  Spammers don’t care about that, and, if you look at the underlying e-mail address of many spam messages, you’ll find that as you noticed, many of them are made up of random letters and numbers, or perhaps look semi-legitimate, but have a number attached to the end.  These are free, plentiful, and easy for the spammers to obtain.  It means nothing to them to drop an address after it’s served its purpose.

I hope you can see that by meticulously blocking these e-mail addresses you are accomplishing absolutely nothing.  You’re adding an address to your blocked address list that will never be used again.  And each one of these addresses in your blocked list slows your mail processing down a tiny bit more, since your system has to search that list every time a new e-mail arrives to see of the sender is blocked.  The larger the list, the longer the search takes.

As for the e-mails all seeming to contain “” if you look at them a little more carefully, you’ll see that they also start with “<http://”  It’s clear to me that these are not e-mail addresses, but rather are web addresses.  I would caution you to never, ever click these!  One of the foremost rules of protecting yourself online is to never click on links in unsolicited e-mails – and that is precisely what you have here.  These could link to anything, including more unwanted advertising, malware installers, and even sites that install identity theft software to your system.  I won’t go into detail, but there have been cases where the mere act of displaying the e-mail could cause the PC to become infected.

I hope I’ve made the point that spam is nothing to fool around with.  It will help you greatly to know who you regularly correspond with and from whom you’re expecting e-mail and treat all the rest with suspicion.  The stakes can be pretty high, and you are your own front line of protection.

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