All About selecting and using autoresponders!


Stopping Spam With With Autoresponders
Glenn Gordon

It seems to be a fact of life that, the longer one has an e-mail address, the more spam arrives there. One answer to the spam flood has come from several companies, who, for a fee, stop all mail from sources you have not previously verified and forward it only if the sender replies to a verification request, something spam sources will not do.

This approach is quite effective, for a fee. The good news is that, if you have a website of your own with e-mail forwarding and autoresponder capability and an e-mail program like Outlook or Outlook Express, chances are you can duplicate most of the value of this service at no extra cost. To make it really effective involves turning your e-mail use inside-out, as it were. Instead of all mail being presented for your review unless you set up rules otherwise, incoming mail from verified addresses is automatically placed in what I call Welcome Mail folders. Most of the mail in your Inbox will be from people wanting to establish valid communication with you. The vast majority of spam will never appear at all. Sound too good to be true? Hereís how to make it all work.

You will need to set up 2 webmail addresses at your website. One I will call your Public Address (, one your Private Address ( Set up the Public Address to forward to a Verification Request autoresponder you also set up on your website. In that autoresponder message, say something like:

"Your message to (your name) is subject to verification before delivery. Please re-send it to (your Private Address) for review. If it is verified, you will receive notice and can communicate in the future without re-verifying.

I am sorry to have to require this extra step. It has become necessary to eliminate unsolicited e-mail.

Do not respond to this message; it is being sent by autoresponder."

Set up the Private Mail account on your Outlook or Outlook Express email program. There is no need to set up a Public Address account since no useful mail will arrive there.

Spam sources sending messages to your Public Address will not respond to the autoresponder message and so you will never receive those messages. Valid senders will respond to the autoresponder message and re-send their mail to your Private Address. The sender can use your Private Address from then on to send you messages.

For messages received at your Private Address, you will need to set up a "Welcome E-mail" folder or folders in your e-mail program to store valid email. You may want to set up one for family and friends, and one or more for business communications. Make rules routing messages to these various folders based on the sending address, using your address book list. That way, messages from your current friends, family and business associates will automatically be placed in respective folders for your spam-free viewing. You will also want to set up folders for viewing your favorite ezines, etc. (Note: Since many ezines are sent from addresses which won't accept replies, you will need to use your Private Address when signing up.) Of course, you can just operate out of your Inbox instead of setting up folders and rules, but since the Welcome E-mail folders are your last defense against spam, I donít recommend it.

Donít publish your Private Address anywhere and give it out only to those you want to communicate with. When you do give it out to someone, take their email address and make a routing rule so you will automatically receive their messages. Is there anything to stop spam from arriving at your Private Address anyway? No, but it should be small since you are not publishing your Private Address. And, more importantly, since your rules accept only e-mail from previously approved addresses, it will not end up in any of your Welcome E-mail folders. You will want to periodically scan the Inbox for valid messages awaiting verification. When you find messages from senders you want to communicate with, send a reply and set up a routing rule for that sending address. Note: The need to review your inbox for email you want to verify can be somewhat of a pain, but if you pay for the commercial services that I mentioned at the outset, the same step is necessary.

In general, you should set up other email addresses you publish to forward to the Verification Request autoresponder you set up above. An exception would be if you publish addresses like where your customers need to contact you with any urgency. Set such messages to forward to your Private Address and establish a rule to route these messages to the proper folder. Of course, be sure to include the subject in the hyperlink so you can establish the routing rule based on that subject. I have yet to receive any spam sent to such addresses with the subject intact, so the routing rule should keep your folder spam-free.

You will need to visit your Public Address webmail account periodically to delete the spam that will collect there, since a full box will probably inhibit the operation of your Verification Request autoresponder. A small price to pay for spam-free email!

Other tutorials in this series:

Autoresponders - Where do they come from?
Free autoresponders - Should I use one?
How to use autoresponders - What can they do for me?
Autoresponder follow-up messages - How to write them
When to use autoresponders - Right and wrong times
Structuring an autoresponder series - How to!
Customer relationships - Grow them with autoresponders!

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Copyright 2003