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Filtering Spam from RAC E-mail Aliases

January 21, 2008

Last week the problem of the increase of spam through RAC (callsign@rac.ca) e-mail addresses was raised at the Ottawa Valley Mobile Radio Club meeting. This has grown to be quite a problem for many and I think I have found one solution which works very effectively and which I will describe here.

First, I should say I think that the @rac.ca aliases offered is a great feature. It allows Canadian amateurs to easily e-mail each other because of the obvious addressing and many amateurs have signed up for the alias accounts. However, over the last few months spam has targeted these aliases heavily. It seems the reaction by some has been to drop the use of the alias, which inhibits this easy way we can communicate (without extensive e-mail address books).

Like others I saw a spike in spam about a month or two ago and it reached a point that I felt I had to do something. I use an online e-mailing system and which included spam filtering, but the spam seemed to be easily by-passing that. A colleague at work told me that he used gmail (google mail) and that effectively removed spam for him and I thought I would give it a try. Well I can report that in the month of so of using gmail I have reduced my spam to almost nothing and I feel more in control of my e-mail. Plus, through gmail’s features I have found that I can still pass my e-mail easily to my main e-mail address so I do not have to look at more than one e-mail account. There is an added bonus too as all my @rac.ca e-mails are backed up for me as google has a very large disk space for users (over 6GB and growing). You can see a screenshot of my account below (click on the thumbnail) with over seven hundred spam e-mails that has been automatically filtered to my spam mailbox. That spam will be designated for deletion after thirty days, unless you delete it sooner.

gmail screenshot.
If you are interested in how to do this filtering with a gmail account here are the details.

1. Sign up for a gmail account. This is free to do and you will then have a web based e-mail account that you can view from anywhere with internet access. Follow the instructions and use a password you will not forget.

2. Redirect your @rac.ca e-mail to your new gmail account. The instructions to do this can be found here. The information on changing is in the middle of the page. Your new e-mail address will of course be your new @gmail.com address.

3. Forward your gmail e-mail to your regular e-mail account. You may want to first delay doing this to prove that e-mail is arriving in this account and the spam is being filtered. To forward your e-mail go to the settings section (the link is in the top right corner of the main gmail account page). Once in the settings select the ‘Forwarding and POP/IMAP’ tab and you will get a window like the one below (click the thumbnail).

Fiorwarding settings in gmail
Now, we will keep this as simple as possible, but you can see that you can get quite sophisticated in how you handle your e-mail. Our simple step is to select ‘forward a copy of incoming mail to’ and to enter your regular e-mail account address (not your gmail account). Mine is blurred out in the screenshot above. I recommend you select ‘keep Gmail’s copy in your Inbox’ so you have an e-mail backup. Save the changes and that is it. You should now have e-mail from your @rac.ca alias filtered by gmail and forwarded to you, with a backup as a bonus. You do not need to set up a POP or IMAP access.

4. In running your gmail account make sure you log in now and again to:

a) check your spam folder for e-mail that had been filtered out by mistake (I have had maybe two or three legitimate ones in several hundred filtered e-mails),

b) designate any unfiltered spam in your inbox as spam, so the filtering system can learn how to be more effective. Again I had one or two slip by.

Also be aware that gmail has some novel ways it displays e-mails. It uses a conversation approach so that subject linked e-mails will be collected together so when you click on an e-mail the related ones are there too. I recommend you spend a little time getting familiar with gmail as the e-mails start to come in.

If you have dropped your @rac.ca alias then I recommend that you sign back up again and give this filtering approach a try. Don’t let the spammers win.

Let me know if you found this useful, or not, using the comment box below.

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