Gmail and Spam
August 28, 2007 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I have a gmail account. Love it. However, after successfully avoiding spam for months, I've been found. I'm getting 20 pieces of spam a day at least. It goes to the spam box, but even that annoys me. Is there any way I can further block spam in gmail? I really don't want to get a new email address.
posted by miltoncat to Technology (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It annoys in you in the spam box... Really?

Spam is a fact of life. If you want to avoid it completely you will need to set up a pay per service filtering account where people must provide information that proves they need to send you the info and then you click a box that allows or disallows this.

Somewhat intrusive and eats up a bit of time... but they work.
posted by crewshell at 8:43 AM on August 28, 2007

Yeah i dont understand why the spam box would both you?
posted by ihope at 8:45 AM on August 28, 2007

So, let me get this straight: GMail removes the spam, sticks it in your spam folder, and that makes you unhappy because the spam that's not in your Inbox is still there?

The only way to prevent spam entirely is to never give out your email address. I get around 300 pieces of spam a day; they're automatically removed after 30 days, but if I hate them, I can always go in and delete them all with a single button press.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 8:45 AM on August 28, 2007

The most extreme method of spam control is using a whitelist, where you block every email sent to you except for the addresses on the list. However this can pose problems if you give your address to someone without adding theirs to your list, as their message will be deleted/marked as spam.

But really, you shouldn't get worked up about Gmail doing its job. I have at least four email addresses funneling into my Gmail account, two of which are 99% spam, so my spam folder often shows triple digits. I've learned to live with it, or empty out the folder from time to time.
posted by Meagan at 8:47 AM on August 28, 2007

Yeah, I wouldn't worry about it. I get about 100 messages in my GMail spam box a day at this point. For a long time, nothing.

But GMail is great at catching the spam! I don't even pay attention anymore. And at worst, 1 or 2 messages a month slip past GMail's spam filters into my Inbox.

Compare this to the last time I used Hotmail, where I would get over 50 spam emails per day in my Inbox, past Hotmail's so called "filters".
posted by smitt at 8:51 AM on August 28, 2007

If watching spam grow is annoying, there are greasemonkey scripts you can use that literally don't show you the spam collecting in your spam box. Short of extreme measures you can't both have an email address that other people have, pretty much, and not get spam.
posted by jessamyn at 8:54 AM on August 28, 2007

Oh man.

Yeah, spam is annoying, but it's kinda like the heat in August - you're gonna burn up your brain thinking of ways to fight it. Some days I get 50 spam messages a day in Gmail's spam folder; some days I get 500.

beaucoupkevin is right - only if you NEVER give out your email address.
posted by jimmyhutch at 8:57 AM on August 28, 2007

One trick is to get a domain or e-mail address from somewhere else. Let's say you get me at Then forward that to a clean, Gmail account with some crazy name like Then if someone manages to get your "real" e-mail address, you don't have to lose your archives or anything, just change the forward to coming from, say, somethingelse at, and use Gmail's various filters to filter the mail from different addresses into different areas (labels).

I now forward ALL of my various addresses and domains into a single Gmail account like this and it works great. There are a few labels I know NEVER get spam, and the ones that do are unimportant anyway as I've "switched" addresses.
posted by wackybrit at 8:57 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you use Firefox, there's an option in the Better Gmail add-on that will block the display of your spam folder count.
posted by JohnFredra at 8:57 AM on August 28, 2007

I have a huge blindspot to the number of messages in the spam box. I don't have to delete it, so it doesn't annoy me.

Nonetheless, you can try using spamgourmet or a similar service when you have to give your email to something on the net.
posted by stevis23 at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2007

or, what jessamyn said.
posted by JohnFredra at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2007

The e-mail address I use most, and that my friends all have, is one that I do not ever, ever use to sign up for anything. It may be too late for you, but it's been like three years for me and I've never gotten any spam on that account.
posted by brina at 9:03 AM on August 28, 2007

The only way to prevent spam entirely is to never give out your email address.

Even that doesn't work. I created a Gmail account that I gave to absolutely nobody. I used it to mail myself files and only myself. It got spam.
posted by dobbs at 9:05 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Move it all to the trash automatically.

Has the words: is:spam
Check Delete it.
Check Also apply filter to * conversations below.

All the spam messages will be moved to trash, where you can check for false positives.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:21 AM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Just get used to it and develop a blindspot towards it. Spam will never go away and spamfighters (like google) are too conservative to delete it outright. They'd rather give the user control and look through the spam. THis is good because:

1. Your buddy might be on a mail server with no reverseDNS record. He might use the word "viagra" as a joke. To a spam filter that is spam. To you its ham.

2. Spam techniques and counter-measures change rapidly. This can increase false positives. Right now everything in your spam folder is spam, but that might not be true next week.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:22 AM on August 28, 2007

HotPatatta, thanks a million for this tip!

I had an untainted Gmail account until some d-bag fraudster on Craigslist released it into the wild.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:45 AM on August 28, 2007

You'll still get spam, even if you don't give out your address. Spammers try random user-parts.


and smarter methods, to get your name. The only way to avoid it is to use a email address that is so long and has enough entropy that it would take a long time to get to it.

So, you may not get spam, but the trade-off is that it's difficult to yell it to the cute girl at the bar.
posted by cmiller at 10:14 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I still did not understand why spam messages filtered straight to the spam folder annoy you? Isn't gmail doing exactly what it is supposed to do and giving you the freedom to either ignore the spam or go through it (for false positives)?

I get most of my email filtered first with Yahoo!, then with gmail, then with Entourage on my laptop. Not much gets trough. But I don't spend restless nights thinking about the false positives - if it's very important, I think they'll email again or call.
posted by keijo at 10:21 AM on August 28, 2007

I do understand how you feel--I don't like seeing the spam piling up either. So no, you're not crazy.

What I do is use the Better Gmail add-on mentioned above, and it doesn't show the tally. Out of sight, out of mind.
posted by exceptinsects at 10:52 AM on August 28, 2007

As others have indicated, it's probably impossible to do anything but hide the spam that is currently being sent to your address--that address is out in the wild now, and that can never be undone. But, it's not impossible to set up an account that will never be spammed; you just have to plan it that way from the day you register it. My primary account has existed for just over 3 years, and has never leaked to any spammer lists. Addresses that FORWARD to my primary are on those lists, but no one sending you ads for C1@lis will realize the difference.

If your primary address is sufficiently complex, the chances are good no one will stumble on it by blindly sending mail to random addresses. In my case, it's firstname.lastname, and I have a practically unique name. You can give that one to friends and family, and hope that they're discreet with it (this, admittedly, is the biggest threat). From there, places like GMail make it relatively easy to register multiple accounts, and have those secondary accounts forward everything to your primary. If one of those addresses gets loose in the wild, log back into it, turn off forwarding, and never look at it again. (This might require telling a few people who you DO want communicating with you that is no longer valid, and then either give them, or if you trust their judgment)

This obviously becomes unwieldy if you're creating a lot of fake addresses, which is where the second part comes in: Spam Gourmet. Register an account with them, log in once to give them your address (either one of the fakes or your real one--I've used my real one and had no problems), and then you're off. Any place that asks for an email address and looks even REMOTELY suspicious (in my case, anything that isn't a credit card transaction) gets a spamgourmet address. Be as liberal as you want: the system lets you create addresses completely on the fly, and if you give out a fake address that you don't want cut off automatically, you can sign back in and tell it never to stop forwarding from that fake address. (Otherwise, it forwards N messages, where N is a number in the fake address you give, and then swallows anything else that gets sent to it).

This isn't foolproof, and there's still some vulnerability inherent to giving anyone your real address, but it can be handled almost perfectly without a whole lot of effort. Concocting ad hoc spamgourmet addresses becomes second nature pretty quickly, and fake addresses that are easy to type can cover the rest. Like I said, it's been 3 years since I've seen a Nigerian scammer, mortgage offer, or vi@gr@ ad. YMMV, but in theory this should work.
posted by Mayor West at 11:21 AM on August 28, 2007

I use customizegoogle to hide the # next to spam. it has other features i like too.
posted by thilmony at 11:50 AM on August 28, 2007

You don't need to register extra account, all you need it the '+' operator with gmail. Whenever you give out your email address, to say... Metafilter, if your email is, you can use and it will still show up in your regular email account. If you find that you are getting a lot of spam on, you know for sure that Metafilter gave out your email to a spammer, and you can setup a filter to automagically delete any email coming to that address.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:58 AM on August 28, 2007

Unfortunately, blue_beetle, I've found that almost no online forms will accept email addresses containing a '+'. It's frustrating!
posted by moonmilk at 1:32 PM on August 28, 2007

How about this?
  1. Create a new gmail account. You'll never give out this address.
  2. Set your original account to forward to your new secret one. It won't forward the spam.
  3. Set your new account use your current address in the from field.
Voila! You're now insulated from ever having to see spam.
posted by timeistight at 2:28 PM on August 28, 2007

(Except for the spam that gets through Google's filters, of course.)
posted by timeistight at 2:30 PM on August 28, 2007

Unfortunately, blue_beetle, I've found that almost no online forms will accept email addresses containing a '+'. It's frustrating!

I'm pretty sure you can also seed your address with random occurrences of '.' which maybe more forms will take.
posted by juv3nal at 3:10 PM on August 28, 2007

My e-mail address does not get spam. Not doesn't get spam in the main inbox. It does not get any kind of spam whatsoever, at all.

I was lucky enough to receive this address from a friend (thanks Scott!) and it's on his personal domain, which isn't, apparently, one of the ones tested by spammers. If you really can't stand spam, I recommend finding (or buying) a domain which isn't known for e-mail service. GMail just does not work, eventually they're going to get to a13891kdkai183e at gmail because GMail is so popular.

Beside all that, I'm super careful to preserve the sanctity of my address. I use spamgourmet religiously. I give people a nasty look when they ask for my address.
posted by anaelith at 3:28 PM on August 28, 2007

Can I trade places with you? I get on the order of two thousand pieces of spam each day (because I've been using the same email address, very publicly, for more than a decade).
posted by dmd at 4:52 PM on August 28, 2007

One good trick I've found with gmail to dramatically reduce spam (I get about 30 a day tops) is to use other email addresses and forward these to your main gmail account. That way the spam gets caught in the spam box for your "decoy" email address and only a little bit of spam gets through to your main address.

I know that doesn't answer your exact question sorry, but I don't know of a way to do what you're after with gmail.
posted by katala at 6:44 PM on August 28, 2007

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