Tips for Fighting Spam – Part 1

Fight Spam on Blogs and Social Media

It’s tough to find pics of people fighting spam, so these people fighting will have to do.

It’s probably not a surprise to you to hear that spam is a reality of life online. If you’re using social media, running a website, or blogging, you’ve probably run into spammers. The bad news is that spammers are getting trickier all the time. The good news is that there are ways to avoid them.
This is the first installment in a four-part series of posts designed to help you fight back against spammers and protect yourself online!

What is Spam?

Simply put, spam is, “…flooding the Internet with many copies of the same message, in an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to receive it” (from SpamAbuse.net).

Most of us are all too familiar with spam in our email inboxes, although email providers are getting better at fighting spammers all the time. When it comes to spam on websites, blogs and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, spam usually shows up in the form of a link-filled comment, post, or tweet. The links lead unsuspecting clickers to websites that can install malware, spyware or viruses on innocent computers. Even trickier: these links are often masked as short links (e.g. bitly links) to make it more difficult for your to deduce that it’s spam.

Tips for Fighting Spam:

Thankfully, there are lots of ways to reduce your exposure to spammers and even fight back against them.

This is the first post in a four-part series about fighting spam. This week I’m going to give two tips for fighting spam that will help you across all of your online homes. Next week I’ll share tips for combating spam on your blog, and the week after that, dealing with spammers on Twitter. For the final post in the series, I’ll write about beating spammers on Facebook.

For now, here are my two golden rules of combating spam across any platform. If you’re a pro-spam fighter yourself (and even if you’re not), please do share some more tips of your own in the comments below!

1. If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is:

This might seem like an obvious tip, but it’s worth remembering when it comes to spammers online. Spammers are getting smarter — they will attempt to appeal to your emotions, which can make spam really, really hard to detect. For example, when I first started blogging, I remember spending a lot of time trying to determine if a comment that went something like this was for real:

My brother told me about your site and how much he liked it, so I had to check it out! Your[sic] doing great posts here! Keep up the good work!

Seems harmless and nice, right? Well, had I approved that comment, anyone who clicked on the website the sneaky spammer had provided would have been treated to a nasty computer virus.

Watch for typos, weird urls or email addresses (e.g. jimmy@buyshoescheapandfast.comx) and blanket comments that don’t specifically refer to something included in one of your posts or tweets. And before approving any comments or clicking any links, always ask yourself if it’s too good to be true.

2. Create Strong Passwords & (Maybe) Change Them Regularly:

Create Strong Passwords:

On all social media sites (blogs included) it’s a good idea to create really strong passwords so hackers — spammers’ evil cousins — can’t get into your accounts and spread their evil spammy links. Of course this isn’t news to anyone; we’ve all been warned to create strong passwords. But what makes a strong password?

There are apps you can use to manage your passwords and create super strong ones (I like 1 Password; it’s good, but pricey). I’ve also read that one of the best ways to create a secure password could be to use a sentence.

For more tips on creating strong passwords, check out this post, The Ultimate Guide to Creating Strong Passwords or this post from Microsoft, Creating Strong Passwords.

(Maybe) Change Them Regularly:

I’ve read mixed things about changing passwords on a regular basis: some people say it’s a waste of time, while others swear it helps reduce hacking/spamming. I err on the side of caution and try to make changes to the passwords I use most often every few months.

What do you do to help combat spam online? Have you even run into a particularly sneaky spammer?

Stay tuned for the next three posts in this series: fighting spam on your blog, Twitter and Facebook!

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/claudiogennari/

8 Responses to “Tips for Fighting Spam – Part 1”

  1. The boxing photo made me laugh! Such a perfect choice for this article, who doesn’t feel like knocking the socks off stupid spammers – there’s some seriously bad karma out there coming their way….;)

    Spam mgmt a topic I need to learn a lot more about so I look forward to receiving the rest of your series.

    • That’s great! I have had a few people ask me about stopping spammers (and I just had to crack down on them myself), but I wasn’t sure how much interest there was out there. Good to know I’m not alone in my desire to learn ways to banish spam :)

  2. Wow, thanks for the heads up! I’m pretty sure I approved some spam on my blog and had no idea. Great post, as always.

    • Thanks Rachel! That’s one of the worst parts about spam for me: it makes me suspicious of regular Joes and Joans as well as spammers :( It can be really hard to tell if a new poster is a spammer or a nice person. The email address or website is always the deciding factor for me.

  3. This was very helpful. You’re turning into a great resource for me, Carrie. Thanks! And, yes, the email sent to me was addressed as ‘friend’. I didn’t know you could personalize your posts, but if you get around to it, you could change it to ‘Kate’. But don’t trouble yourself if it’s too much!

    Have a funtabulous day :)

    • Hello Kate!

      I’m so glad you’re finding the posts useful. Let me know if you have any questions or anything you’d like me to cover in upcoming installments :)

      I use an awesome email program called Emma (http://myemma.com/) to send out my emails on this blog, so I can add in your first name easily — in fact, it’s already been added. You’ll see it the next time I send out an email.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  4. Me again! Super quick question – I received a new subscriber today who was clearly spammy – they’re email address was so and so @sealyposturpedicreviews.net – so anyway I went to go into my subscriber list to delete them but it wasn’t even at option, instead it had a little R with a circle around it beside their name – weird. And then I noticed that the only other person in my subscriber list who also had the same image beside it was ME! So somehow they had signed themselves up as a User, not with administrator status or anything but still, left me feeling a little odd – in your experience with wordpress is this anything to be concerned about or is this pretty normal?? Feel free to not know the answer and tell me to go look somewhere else for help!!!!

    • Hi Adrienne!
      I know we talked about this over email, but I’ll post a response here to in case anyone else has run into this.

      To stop spammers from signing up as a subscriber on your WordPress.org site, all you need to do is go to Settings > General in your WordPress dashboard, and then un-tick the option that says ‘Membership – anyone can register.’ That way the sneaky spammers can sign up to your WordPress instance. They’re likely hoping that you have your default new subscriber role (just below the Membership tick box) to something high enough for them to gain access to your site.

      Glad you caught them!