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119 - Using Domain Names to Fight Internet Spam

The Problem,
as if I have to tell you what the problem is about spam email. Just in case there's one reader out there who doesn't understand what "spam" refers to, it is the nickname given to unsolicited (and usually very much unwanted) email. Once spam starts to arrive, it seems to have no end. You can't stop it and you can't filter it. The question you find yourself asking over and over is, "How did these people get my email address?". The worst case of course, is when your name gets sold to an "adult" web site. You want to unsubscribe to these mailings, but unsubscribing is not only an exercise in futility but it can actually increase the flow of these materials. You are dealing with unscrupulous people, at best. They could care less if they are offending 99.5% of us with their intrusive and offensive materials. The .5% who buy from them are more than enough to make handsome profits. Email advertising is very cost effective, and that alone means that it's here to stay. (sigh) We just need to learn how to deal with it.

Is there a solution?
Yes, and here's an approach I recommend you try. You can't expect to protect yourself indefinitely, but you should be able to eliminate spam entirely for a time and keep it at tolerable level for a long while after that. Better yet, with this strategy, you can repeat the fix quickly and easily, as often as you want or need to.

Your goal is
to keep your domain name email address off of any lists which might someday be sold. Companies soon find themselves in possession of large customer email lists, and these lists have a substantial market value. Selling their lists is pure profit. It costs virtually nothing to transfer the list to a buyer and quick profit for no work is too tempting to pass up, especially when business is slow.

What do you need to do?
Step 1 is to get a "domain name" and selectively notify people -

What is a domain name? You've all seen them. Look at my email address for example. You know it as: jeffburns@csg-colorado.com The "csg-colorado.com" part of that address is a domain name. Computer Skills Group purchased the right to use that name. Think of it as a post office box from which the domain hosting company forwards my email to my actual email address. This is entirely transparent to the sender. They have no idea what your actual address is and there is no need for them to know. When they send to that address, you receive it. That's all they care about.

Understanding this point, you can see that it really doesn't matter what my real address is. Neither does it matter if I change it from time to time. None of my friends will be effected. When I change my actual address, I simply tell the domain hosting company to change my forwarding instruction to the new address. This service is very inexpensive - often less than $20 for two years. A quick Google.com search will show you dozens of domain name hosting companies. Many ISPs offer the service as well.

Tell your friends only -
Should you tell everyone about your new domain name address? Absolutely not. Only tell your friends. NEVER give the domain name address to anyone who could potentially sell it. No matter what their current privacy policy is, always assume that a company will someday want to sell the addresses it has gathered. Then, guard your domain name accordingly.

Step 2 is to change your actual email address -
This (your actual address) is the address you will give to businesses you buy from, vendors, charities, and groups. To change your actual address, you can either change ISPs (which will automatically give you a new actual address) or contact your existing ISP and request a new address. (Suggestion for AOL users - this is a great time to drop AOL for cheaper and better services. Call me if you want to know more about this.)

What to expect after Step 2 -
Expect the spam level on a new actual address to stop entirely and then remain tolerable for many months, even years in some cases. Adding a domain name to your strategy means that all future clean-ups will be truly painless. Simply change to a new actual address and have the domain name redirected to the new address. You don't have to contact your friends because they just know you by your domain name address anyway.

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