The Relative Importance of Isms
My Own Private Library

An Old Lady in Meltdown

[A new story, Adjusting to the Limitations of Age, has been posted this morning on Blogher.]

If anyone reading this has written to Crabby Old Lady lately expecting an answer, you’re probably disappointed or, more likely, pissed off. Crabby is at the end of her rope, pulling at her hair, pounding the desk, throwing wadded-up paper at the cat - a deranged, screaming harridan teetering on the edge of her mental precipice.

The reason for her lunatic behavior? For every legitimate email she receives – a message from a friend, blog reader, colleague, subscription newsletter, Google Alert, etc. – there are a minimum now of 50 to 75 pieces of spam. Maybe more. Close to a thousand of them pour one after another - 10, 15, 20, 25 at a time - into her inbox day and night and that’s in addition to the hundreds of spam messages a day Crabby’s email filter catches before they hit her inbox.

Ding, ding, ding goes her email alert every ten minutes like Chinese water torture until, to preserve what’s left of her sanity, Crabby turned off the audio. A cascade of messages pours forth with pornography, financial scams, Hoodia sales (what the hell is Hoodia, Crabby wants to know – on second thought, never mind) and lately, god help Crabby, there are pitches for gifts “just like Oprah buys”.

CRABBY CAN’T STAND IT ANY MORE!!! This is how people are driven to go postal.

Crabby’s spam volume has increased by magnitudes in just the past six or eight weeks. It is so much work now, so vision-blurring, so time-consuming to scour through the spam looking for the real stuff that Crabby has given up. She telephoned her monthly banking and credit services last week to reinstate snailmail delivery of statements because she fears she’ll miss paying her bills for not finding them among the crap in her mailbox.

A few years ago, telemarketing calls reached such monumentally disturbing proportions that the federal government took action. There is now a “do not call” registry and the financial penalties to telemarketers are expensive enough – thousands of dollars per wrongful call – that it works.

But to Crabby Old Lady’s dismay and rage, there can be no such solution to email spam. A little research reveals that most spammers are based in other countries where the U.S. has no jurisdiction. And email filters are useless against messages buried in images which are, Crabby estimates, at least half of the spam she receives.

When telemarketing calls were rampant, at least there was the adrenalin release, when Crabby had been interrupted for the fifth time during dinner, of slamming down the phone. Clicking the “junk” icon doesn’t provide even a smidgen of the same satisfaction.

So where are all the vaunted genius techies now that we need them, Crabby Old Lady wants to know. This has become intolerable.


Use a hidden email address. Do not post it anywhere. Don't use it on websites or registration forms. Keep it hidden.

Give it to people directly -- that includes your bank and your friends and the like. That does NOT help you get email based on this site, or people who have not been in touch for a while but it DOES mean you know the priority stuff is getting through and the audio sound is usable again. Then, once a week, you can wade through the public account.

Spam Assassin catches the bulk of my spam but I have a very good admin. I get 3-5 spam a day on an email address that has been in public view since 1994 -- that's workable with. Might be worth looking at that too.

The only thing that really works is to get a "junk" email box. Most ISP's allow you to have more than one mailbox. Keep your main email address for friends, family, bills, bank statements, etc. If you have to give an email address for any other purpose (like registering a product, etc.), give them the junk email address. And watch out for even the ones you need; many times, on the bottom of the page of many sign up forms, there will be a little box checked that says something like "yes, I'd like to be sent info on exciting new...." Make sure you uncheck that box, or your be on yet another spam list!

This war, too, is changing. I get spam on my private e-mail as well as on my public e-mail. Recently spam has even started showing up on my e-mail account at work... and I've never used that account for personal business.
On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that the last thing I want to do is to give government a permission slip to monitor my e-mail for my own good.

I hear you Ronni. I actually think I've been very lucky compared to you and others. My e-mail catches most of the spam that comes in and sends it to a spam folder. I know it can be a pain in the butt. Working on the Blogher site...I deal MUCH more with it....and a lot get past the filters set up to catch it.

Personally, I've signed up for the "Do Not Call" registry twice now....just did again recently. It's wonderful...and does save some of us from going postal.

Like everyone else, the spam came in drowning waves until I found this address: ... I started to take the time to forward everything that didn't get caught by my junk mail catcher. Now, there's only a few spam a day. The time taken to forward this stuff on has been worth it. They don't come back.

I've reduced my spam to zero! Secret - tested every email program I could find. Found 2 that actually cut out email spam when set correctly within the program. Apple's "Mail" and Microsoft Office's "Entourage". They are so effective that I check the junk folder regularly to make sure some good stuff hasn't slipped through. And it usually has! Just drag it into the inbox, or mark it "not junk" and next time it comes through just fine.
Hope this helps!


Some programs - Eudora, for example, though I don't know how well it compares to the two that Roger identifies - will actually catch "image only" as spam and toss it in the junk folder. They don't use just keyword filtering, but some additional tricks to find spam. They still don't get all of it, but they get most.

Or, sign up with an ISP that offers filtering using Postini. It will catch a few things you don't want it to, at first, but you can whitelist the senders and deliver what you wanted. But it's not in your inbox, so you wade through the spam when you select.

If you try to get a 'private' email to give to others to reduce spam, pick an unlikely one. is not a good one, the spammers will try it randomly, along with first names sometimes. Give a shot to something with a couple numbers on the end or, better, in the middle. (Yes, it's cheesy, and it started with free-mail services and people claiming similar id's - but it's really hard to find by random email.) And make sure anyone given that address knows that it is never to be given out anywhere without your okay.

Those were all good suggestions from the commenters. I use webmail now for my main email addy. It was an addy which nobody but friends and important business connections ever was given but still when I was using Outlook, I was starting to get way too much spam. I am guessing spammers got it through my server somehow.

For years I have kept a hotmail account that I use for everything I am required to have an email addy when registering. Hotmail actually does pretty good with recognizing spam and I do check my junk list once in awhile. Only rarely are they wrong.

The nice thing with webmail is I can immediately send spam to 'spam report' without reading more than name and subject line. I never read messages from names I cannot connect to something I do or that didn't use a subject line to give me a clue.

For now the combination has cut my spam to manageable levels-- some days none, but I don't doubt those who send garbage will find new ways to get through which will require new ideas.

What gets me is does this ever work for them? Do these spammers really sell to anybody? Nobody should buy anything from a spam source, never go to the website they are promoting (same thing with the spam that gets through onto the blogs).

I used to tell the phone call people that I would never buy that way. I was very grateful when they changed the rules to stop that although I now receive a few that get through based on I am a customer. If they call more than a couple times (especially with that automated calling), I stop being a customer.

I'm right there with you Ronnie! I've had only a few issues in recent years, but something changed in the last 10 days. Perhaps someplace I visited? This AM I received over 100 spam messages, not handled by my Norton Spam blocker or my established screens to weed out pharmaceutical or sexual enhancement words. I think your readers had some good ideas...that I will try. I'll keep reading to see if anyone comes up with any new or more effective methods. Amazing how something useful like internet communication gets abused for the almighty buck, etc. Keep up the good work!

It is absolutely maddening, I agree, but I am on MacMail at home and on my laptop, and I agree with Roger. Very few things slip through except for limited stock market options. We had Entourage at work this past year and again, as Roger said, it was great. So, of course, the school got rid of it and now we use something called First Class, which is a disaster. There is no way to filter the Spam on a Mac, though the company is doing pretty well on the PCs.

hi Ronni! I have several email address, all of which funnel back to one main address.

I use Mail, which came with the Mac. I have slowly developed a system of mailboxes--for example, all my relative's email are funneled in to "Relative Mail" and so on.

So my "Check for junk" file gets about 30 emails a day. About a third are from things like newspapers I subscribe to, about a third are from enterprises I've done business with, and the remaining third are indeed junk.

My ISP catches a lot too, I just ignore it most of the time.

I only receive spam in numbers of any consequence at one email address that from the beginning I've restricted to use for purchases via the Net, other commercial contacts. The amount of spam there has been progessively growing over the past year I've been using the Internet and is now close to a maddeningly 200 per day. Fortunately, Gmail catches practically all of them as spam. Occasionally two or three get through, but I always spot them immediately, shipping them to spam, too. I rapidly screen spam daily, have never clicked on one yet, nor will I. Never found a legit email in my spam either.

Sound like some good ideas here I'll note in case I need add'l help in the future. I'm with Rain, if businesses I've used don't drop me from their
spam list when I request same, I drop them.

No doubt that is what has happened to my email since haven't heard from you. It might help to change services -- I have done this twice and it seems to work for a couple of years until the spamers catch-up with me. It seems to be a price we'll pay until the servers get some kind of artificial intelligence or we can 'reverse spam' and jam "THEIR" systems. Good Luck.

Ronni - do you rent your own server? If you do there are options especially if you use cPanel. There are also a number of whitelist companies that offer a service - go with them and your SPAM becomes zero. I run my own server an use cPanel - it has its own whitelist feature BoxTrapper Spam Trap Spammers have to respond to an email to get whitelisted and even if they do (which 99.999999% won't) you can immediately blacklist that address.

What a pain in the neck to have all that spam!

This morning, the sound track in my head to your latest rant is: "Spam Spam Spam Spam . . . the Monty Python tribute to spam. The song can be heard if you go to see Spam-a-lot currently running on Broadway and in London's west end.

In the meantime, I hope you find a solution to your spammy problem. I certainly sympathise.

Many good suggestions here. I favor having at least two email for friends and family and one for going on the web. Also, many do not set their email accounts up correctly. Go to Options, Settings, Preferences and choose options. My ISP permits us to block by specific words so I no longer get email that has the words mortgage or viagra in them.

SpamArrest is a good 3rd party solution - subscription costs very little and is a complete whitelisting solution

I took Marylouise's suggestion regarding forwarding spam to It's just past noon and I've already recieved 20 identical emails for a hot stock tip; the amount of satisfaction that I've felt in sending them along is tremendous.

I wonder if anyone buys any of that stuff that is spammed. I sure don't. On the other hand the internet is not restricted, just as it needs to be.

I get mind boggling amounts of spam and have just learned to go thru it very fast. delete, delete, delete. If you don't want any, turn your computer off. Then spend one day going through all your spam delivered to your general mail box. There is no way to stop the spam in an uncontrolled environment, which is what we want it to be,right?

Am just catching up on tgb. Been out of touch for 10 days. On Sun (12/8) tried to respond to the Friday post.
I was rejected with the message, We consider this comment spam--in 3 languages yet. What happened?

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