What can be done to prevent Spam?

What not to do

Under no circumstances should you reply to any address(es) that appear to allow you to be removed from a spammer's list. Doing so usually means you incur more spam, as the spammer will sell your address to other spammers. The fact that you reply means that your address is valid, and worth more in the underground market where working email addresses are sold. This is one deceitful approach spammers will use to filter out 'good' addresses from the bad.

How do I stop getting all this spam?

Because spam is sent in a variety of ways, each message may need to be addressed individually.

DreamHost offers several tools to help assist you in preventing incoming spam. The anti-spam filters provide a filter before the mail is delivered to the MX (mail) machines for final delivery. You can also add custom message filters in your panel to target specific keywords.

There are also other third-party services that can be used to filter mail for you instead of using DreamHost’s filtering service.

Visit the following articles for further information:

Anti-spam filters

The first line of defense against junk is to enable spam filters for your domain. Visit the following article for further details:

You can edit your MX records so that mail is routed to the junk servers first. The filters can be enabled through the DreamHost panel and require up to 6 hours for DNS to resolve before the filters are active.

Anti-spam filters cannot be enabled with a domain using a catch-all address. These addresses generate a lot of incoming spam anyway, so it’s a good idea to disable them.

Custom message filters

Your second line of defense against incoming junk are the custom message filters you can create on your DreamHost panel.

These are filters you can create yourself to add your own custom rules. Sometimes, experienced spammers are able to send mail that bypasses the anti-spam filter scoring process or find ways to get their messages scored very low. In such cases, you’d need to create custom filters for spam that the anti-spam filter did not catch.

These filters are useful for various reasons, such as organizing your mailbox by having the filters move mail to other folders. These filters can also be set to delete mail that matches your rules or move them elsewhere.

How DreamHost responds to spam

DreamHost has a very strict policy against spamming from its servers, and takes a very dim view of those who use such practices to further their business goals. If DreamHost catches someone sending spam, their account is disabled without a refund since it violates the terms of service.

Unfortunately, stopping spam from outside of DreamHost isn't always quite as simple. There are currently actions being taken across the Internet and beyond to stop spam. For example, various pieces of legislation aim to make it illegal in some localities to send spam. Until then, DreamHost must rely on existing technologies.

The consequences

Spamming is grounds for account cancellation at DreamHost, without prior warning or refund (even on the first offense). Visit the following page for further legal details:

This applies to cases where the account in question is obviously being used for the distribution of unsolicited bulk messaging. Even spamming from another service in order to promote a site hosted with DreamHost is against DreamHost’s anti-spam policy, and will be dealt with accordingly.

In cases where the sender's intent is unclear, or DreamHost is unable to determine if a spam complaint is with merit, the site is not deactivated until the complaint is verified.

Is my bulk email spam?

Spam is any form of unsolicited bulk communication used to promote a website, a product, or an idea. Generally, the recipient does not welcome the spam, nor did they intentionally sign up to receive it. The most common method of distribution for spam is electronic mail, although newsgroup postings, web-based bulletin boards, and various forms of online messaging may also be conduits through which spam is sent and received.

Unlike opt-in mailing/distribution lists, spam does not give an opportunity for the recipient to express his or her disinterest before having already been spammed. Given the size of the Internet, it should be assumed that the vast majority of its users have no interest in the contents of your mailing, and should not be included without prior permission. So-called 'targeted' lists are still considered unsolicited (as each individual is still without choice in the matter prior to receipt of a message), and are covered within DreamHost's anti-spam policy as well.

Determining if a complaint is valid

DreamHost reserves the right to determine whether or not a spam complaint is valid. The following table describes the guidelines that assist in this goal, and may prove useful in ensuring that your own actions are protected under the terms of service:

Situation Action
message is using forged headers
automatically considered spam and the originating account will be permanently deactivated – there is no reason to forge headers when sending legitimate correspondence.
very large number of complaints are logged from numerous individuals
strong evidence that the message fits the spam profile – legitimate mailings usually do not provoke that sort of reaction from their recipients.
your bulk mailing advertises tools for sending spam or email addresses used in the practice of spamming
you may be using your own products to perform such actions.
your mailing uses a deceptive subject or tone (i.e., 'Hello friend!' in the title) with an apparent intent to deceive people into reading it
it's quite possibly spam.
you have a history of spamming or other account violations
this would obviously count against you.

How to prevent cancellation

The short answer to this is simple: don't spam. No policy can completely prevent spam, but DreamHost’s at least prevents it from occurring more than once. If you spam, you will lose your account.

The long answer is also pretty clear: make an effort to distinguish yourself from the spamming population. First, if you offer a mailing list to your customers, the only people who should be on that list are those who explicitly request (via a web based form, email, or the like) to be added to the list. You should also provide instructions for unsubscribing with every mailing, and honor all requests to be taken off of your list.

If you wish to post a message to a newsgroup of a promotional nature, you should ensure that the group's charter allows for such postings (some do, most don't). It is your responsibility to check with the charter of any newsgroup you post to in order to determine what is acceptable.

If you are careful to ensure that everyone on your distribution list chose to be there, and provide means for those who do not wish to be there to unsubscribe, you should have little to worry about. Bulk email is fine as long as it is an opt-in service.

Why have these rules been implemented?

Please understand that while DreamHost’s anti-spam stance may seem harsh, it is for the protection of all customers and the Internet community in general. There are many opportunities to market your site effectively without resorting to such activities.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the anti-spam policy and how it may affect you, feel free to contact DreamHost. The goal is to educate customers on the effects of spam, and attempt to insulate them from those negative effects as much as possible.

More information on spam

There are numerous sites which go in to great detail about the spam problem, and may provide information that you can use to make yourself better prepared to fight your spam problem. Here are a few to get you started:

SpamCop!

One very useful tool is SpamCop, a website run by an anti-spam activist which makes the process of finding and reporting unsolicited commercial email much easier than before. Many times, the headers in such messages are forged by using fake or 'throwaway' email accounts. However, SpamCop usually finds a way past these tricks and helps you report the sender to the proper individuals at his/her service provider. Although you may find some administrators to be unresponsive, most respectable providers will take your complaint seriously and close down the spammer's account.

Although it won't help with all cases, SpamCop has proven to be effective more often than not.

See also

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