Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Does spam blocking prevent spam from reaching my machine?

I just discovered “blocking” to keep spam from coming in my
mail box. I’d been choosing words to make the spam go to the deleted messages
folder but seemed I couldn’t keep up with them. I’d also tried to write back
and “unsubscribe” but then I’d get a message that said it bounced. So I found
blocking and am giving that a try. Now, does this keep the message from ever
getting into my computer or does it accept it and then delete
it?

Welcome to the world of spam – and the never-ending battle against it.

Choosing words and blocking based on that is one approach, but as you noted
it’s tough to keep up.

In fact, it’s darned near impossible.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

I do want to start with one point: Never EVER click on an “unsubscribe” link
in email that you didn’t actually sign up for. It tells spammers that they
found a real, live, email address, and it’ll result in more spam, not less.
That being said if the email is legitimate (perhaps follow on mail from an
on-line store you shopped at, or a newsletter or mailing list you joined), then
yes, please do use the unsub link. I know it’s hard to keep straight
sometimes.

And while we’re on the subject, please, PLEASE, only use
any “report this as spam” button for actual spam – it’s not the way to
unsubscribe from something you signed up for and actually harms legitimate
businesses and spam fighting efforts.

Back to word-based blocking.

Spammers in particular will intentionally misspell words to bypass blocks.
If you’ve ever seen spam full of misspellings, or odd character selections,
you’re probably seeing exactly that. It’s impossible to predict all the
possible combinations of words and characters that spammers might use to get a
concept across.

That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to block spam by just choosing
words.

On top of that of course you might pick a word to block that someone uses in
some legitimate way, and you’ll miss their mail. This happens to me on
occasion.

Whether or not blocking prevents mail from reaching your machine depends on
the blocking service you’re using; there are several approaches. If it’s done
on a website provided by your ISP, for example, then yes, that would most
likely prevent the mail from even being downloaded. On the other hand, if it’s
a setting in your mail program, then that’s something that happens after the
mail gets downloaded.

So what can you do? My earlier article How do I get rid of all this
SPAM?!?! discusses some of the options.

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips with a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my FREE special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

No strings. No email. Here's the direct download. (Just right-click and "Save As...".)

2 comments on “Does spam blocking prevent spam from reaching my machine?”

  1. Yes, for those that have the ability to control their own mail server, or for those ISP’s that have the option, spamassassin is great. I have it myself, as do most of my clients. It’s not perfect, but it’s very good.

    Reply
  2. Oh well, I will mention this program also here (beside the one in/under the “Why shouldn’t I use the “Report Spam” or “Junk” button?”: http://ask-leo.com/why_shouldnt_i_use_the_report_spam_or_junk_button.html article), since it’s a related topic and I have all the text already written …

    I recently discovered an only 81 KB in-size FREE anti-spam program from Keir software called K9; see here: http://www.keir.net/k9.html. In short, K9 is an anti-spam application that “sits” between the remote e-mail servers and a local e-mail client (for instance Outlook, Thunderbird etc.); so it’s not the type that only checks the servers for spam (however, it can also do that), but “ignores” the e-mail client. And well, it’s also available in the “non-setup” form (the form of programs I prefer), i.e. a .zip archive, and no installation procedure required. Yeah, I know that this might sound strange, but that was the main reason for trying it in the first place.

    best regards,
    Ivan Tadej, Slovenija, Europe
    http://www.tadej-ivan.tk

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.