Basic Email Information
Previous  Top  Next

What Is Junk Mail and Why Does It Happen?  

Junk mail, also known as spam, is unsolicited mail sent to you from automated systems hoping to get you interested in some product or service. There are two reasons junk mail is popular. First, some people do respond to it, so there is money to be made. But the number of people who respond is very low compared to the number of email messages sent out. Therefore sending junk mail is only feasible if it's cheap to do. And that's the second reason – it is cheap! Whether you send one email or 1 million emails, the variable cost is essentially zero. There are companies who will sell an email list with millions of addresses in them for as little as $50. Spammers feed those addresses into an automatic email sender and off they go.  

How Does a Spammer Get Your Email Address?  

There are so many ways that spammers can get your email address, it's almost impossible to list them all. If your email address is on a webpage, it will be collected by an automated spider. If you have ever subscribed to an email newsletter, your email address may be distributed. Email addresses on free online email systems are readily available. Spammers also use algorithms to generate large numbers of potentially valid names at a particular domain to try and create valid email addresses. (When there's no cost to sending an email out, it's easy to just try millions of combinations in the hope of getting some real matches.) In an attempt to make their lists more valuable (i.e., with fewer invalid names), spammers will try sending test emails to the domain to see if the messages bounce back or are accepted, and use that information to weed out invalid email addresses.  

Rules vs. Permission Mechanisms  

There are a number of tools available that use rules to determine whether an email should be allowed through to your inbox. Rule-based systems examine all incoming email looking for patterns that indicate that the email is junk. For example, if the sequence '$$$' is seen at the beginning of a Subject line, the message is probably spam. But unfortunately, rule-based systems have many drawbacks and it is necessary to spend quite a lot of time managing those rules.  

These systems have three main problems:  
·They allow some junk mail through because there's no rule that fits a particular message.  
·They block some messages that should be allowed through because something in a legitimate message matched a rule.  
·They require constant upgrading because as soon as a marketer is labeled a spammer, the marketer will find new innovative methods to start again.  
ChoiceMail One, an enhanced permission-based system with optional challenge/response support, works on a different premise. The presumption is that all emails are junk until proven otherwise or, to put it more bluntly, mail from an unknown sender is assumed to be junk until proven innocent. In particular, the onus is on the sender to start the process of proving his or her innocence.  

One concern that is sometimes raised is that a legitimate sender might not want to be bothered going through the registration process. In the ChoiceMail One model, our view is one of practicality and simplicity – if the sender doesn't take the time to register, then the message was not sufficiently important and you, the recipient, didn't need to see it anyway.  

How you choose to deal with this is up to you. Many ChoiceMail users review their unknown email periodically, just to make sure there is no legitimate message there. If you choose to do this, you will find that it takes only a few seconds. Looking through your unknown email list is far less intrusive than having all the unknown email actually reach your inbox, where you must then review all the email messages and delete the spam.  

Further, the latest version of ChoiceMail includes sophisticated analytic rules that you can choose to activate or disable, based on your own preferences. One of the reasons we included these rules was to reduce the amount of unknown email you have to review manually, should you choose to do so.  

We said some unkind (but true) things about rule-based spam filtering earlier. Therefore, we should tell you that our rules are not like those contained in other anti-spam products. Our competitors attempt to analyze the content of the message, with only limited success. Our rules examine the programming techniques used to build the message, because spammers use techniques that no legitimate sender would ever has reason to use. ChoiceMail One also lets you automatically delete mail based on the physical location of the server to which the URL link points (e.g., a large percentage of spam currently points to servers located in China). Our rules are not intended to be perfect – only to eliminate email you definitely do not want. Our challenge-response process takes care of the rest.  

As always with ChoiceMail One, which rules you activate is up to you because ChoiceMail One puts you in control.  

Another concern often raised (usually by competitors) is that challenge/response systems cause problems for mailing list systems because a message sent to a recipient on a mailing list would result in a challenge being sent to all members of the list. However, ChoiceMail is smart enough to recognize mailing lists and does not send a registration request to a list.