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October saw an increase in spam of 8.5% over September – as if it was not too high anyway – according to MessageLabs. This has resulted in many difficulties in use of email because of the action taken by ISPs to protect themselves. Although many will not have notices you can be sure that anyone using a catchall mailbox or using email forwarding will have experienced problems. Why?

First, a catchall mailbox is one that will accept any email @domainname whatever the prefix and whatever the content. It is therefore a spammers dream because they do not have to guess at the prefix. Of course where the Spammers have guessed at prefixes then every one of their guessed prefixes will get delivered into the mailbox. Result: the mailbox gets full and is blocked to other genuine mail until cleared. Of course you can increase the size of the mailbox, but why do so? It is easy to avoid all that spam (and viruses, malware etc) just by removing the catchall status from the mailbox.

Secondly, many ISPs do not treat email forwarded to them the same way as direct mail. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Except that so many of us like to use just one email account, so whenever we buy a new domain, we use the email forwarding option to redirect all our mail to our original mailbox, whether it is Hotmail, Yahoo, BTConnect, Tiscali or whoever. The trouble is that this may be simply sending all mail to the domain to another ISP without any weeding out of spam, virus and so on. Even if it is a proper alias prefixed email account, the mail forwarded from it must be less important if you are BT than email coming to BT mail servers for their customers directly, mustn’t it? So to protect the direct mail of their customers the ISP will lower the priority given to receiving forwarded email. In some cases and at some times when particularly under pressure, forwarded mail will be completely blocked.

If you use an email client like Outlook Express, Outlook or Eudora it is easy to add more than one email account and it is much easier then to organise your email so that you do not mix up work and pleasure or one domain and another.

Just removing catchalls and email forwarding will cut much of the spam and virus threats. And while you are about it, have a look at our safety tips and guide to good email practice.