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Knock Out Spam With the One-Two Punch

By Sharon Fling
Posted Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Are you sick of spam relentlessly spewing into your emailbox? So was I, until I learned how to knock it out, or at least slow it down, with my one-two punch. Do both of these things, neither of which will cost you a penny, and enjoy a distinct decrease in the amount of garbage in your inbox.

Here we go:

#1 Mail Washing

First, hit the spam with Mailwasher, available free at ( This easy to set up little program lets you preview email before downloading it. You see all the usual details - sender, subject, size - but with one big difference: you can decide BEFORE downloading if you want it.

You get, I'm sure, many emails that you wouldn't have downloaded if only you'd known what was in them. That's just one thing Mailwasher can do for you. Its real power is in its ability to 'bounce' unwanted messages (spam) right back to the person who sent it, marked 'message undeliverable.'

To the spammer it looks as if your e-mail address is no longer active, and hopefully, the next time they 'clean' their list, your email address will fall off. But even if it doesn't, Mailwasher adds the spammer's address to a blacklist. The next time they spam you, it's already marked for deletion. (You can always unmark it.)

When you're finished 'washing' your mail of spam and unwanted downloads, click 'process mail' and whatever messages are left will be downloaded as usual when you log on through your e- mail program, which you can do directly from MailWasher.

I have over 20 email addresses, so you can imagine the flood of spam that poured in my mailbox every day. Now I run them all through Mailwasher first, and it has made a huge difference.

To further reduce spam, Mailwasher has another trick that your regular email program doesn't. It learns. There are all kinds of settings, filters, sorts and alerts. The more you use it, the more it learns what you do and don't want to see. It does lots of stuff that I haven't even tried yet. But for what I need - quick and dirty spam elimination - it does great.

Best of all, it's free to try. If you like it, the author asks that you pay him whatever you think is fair. How much you pay him is up to you, but the funds go to future development of the product. Considering how useful this program is, I think that's a very worthy cause.

#2: Email Encoding

Once you've got Mailwasher going, you're on your way to getting off the spam lists. To stay off, don't skip this second step!

One of the ways that spammers get your email address is through harvesting programs that crawl the net snatching email addresses off of websites, message boards, newsgroups. Anywhere they can find something that looks like an email address, they grab it. And the way that they know it's an email address is by looking for 'mailto' or the '@' symbol.

There are programs available - also free - that will encode your email address for you. This converts your ASCII email address into its equivalent decimal entity. For example, the letter "a" equates to: "a" (without the quotes), the letter "b" equates to: "b", and so forth.

Here's an example of an email address:

"johndoe@ someserv"

which appears as:

To make the link clickable, you need to include the HREF tag, i.e.

nospam@my m"

which appears as:

Try it. Copy either of those expressions (WITHOUT the quotes), save it in an HTML file, and open it in your browser. It looks and acts just like any other email link, but the spam bots only see numbers and characters.

Here are a few free email encoders:


utility, doesn't include HREF tag)

(emails the results to

Encoded e-mail addresses can be read and translated back into the original ASCII text by almost any web browser, so you can use encoding wherever you can use HTML. I've replaced regular email links with encoded links on all of my websites.

Unfortunately not all forums will let you use HTML. In those cases, you'll have to rely on putting the NOSPAM in your email address, or using only "throwaway" email addresses such as from Yahoo or hotmail when posting to public places. Another trick: spell out your email address, i.e. my email address is "sharon at" or "sharon at geolocal dot com." Not as good as being encoded and clickable but better than nothing.

Of course, spammers are a clever bunch. Whatever we come up with, they'll find a way around. Pretty soon they'll probably program their nasty spam bots to translate encoded emails for them.

The only answer for that is to replace email links with an IMAGE of your email address. Only human eyes can see that an image is an email address, so it can't be harvested. But, *don't* link the image to your email address unless it's encoded - that would defeat the purpose, which is to make your email address unreadable by the spam bots.

The downside is that human eyes will have to manually type your address to send you an email. Unfortunately, that includes people you WANT to hear from. There's no way around that. Hopefully one day we won't need to go to such lengths to avoid what has become the scourge of the internet.

So, to summarize:

1) use Mailwasher to delete and bounce spam, which hopefully will get you dropped from spam lists, and

2) encode your email address on web pages and other places where it can be harvested. Try the one-two punch and see if it works for you. If nothing else, it will give you the satisfaction of knowing spammers are getting useless messages in their mailboxes too.

About the Author
Sharon Fling is the author of "How To Promote Your Local Business On the Internet", and publishes an electronic newsletter that gives business owners tips, tools and resources for targeting local customers. For more information, visit ( or send a blank email to:


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