Data Doctor: Why spam filters block expected e-mails - East Valley Tribune: Business

Data Doctor: Why spam filters block expected e-mails

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Posted: Monday, April 16, 2007 6:54 am | Updated: 6:35 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Q: What causes e-mail messages to get filtered by spam filters? I seem to be having problems with people saying they did not get my message more often these days. — Jerome

A: I have also seen an increase in this problem, only from the other end. I have folks who I am expecting messages from that are not getting through my corporate mail server, and in most cases it’s because of superfluous content that is included in the message.

One of the most likely causes these days is if you have an image such as a company logo or a picture of yourself — common with real estate folks for some reason! This will instantly raise your spam score with spam filters.

The reason is primarily due to the huge increase in “image spam” — the most recent tactic that spammers have adopted to assault all of us. Instead of putting their pleas for you to buy a penny stock or male enhancement products in text form, they figured out if they created an image that had their sales pitch in it, they could bypass the text-based spam filters.

Spam filters use an algorithm (among other methods) to score each message based on known spamming techniques and common keywords. Terms like “mortgage”, “stocks” or “FREE” will also add to your spam score because of the propensity of spam dealing with mortgages, stocks and free offers (and there are hundreds of others).

So if you’re a mortgage broker who has your company logo and the word “mortgage” in the signature and includes a marketing message such as “Ask about our FREE appraisal program” in every message, you’re probably going to be dead meat with many of today’s spam filters.

My latest experience with a mortgage broker, a good friend who happens to be in the real estate business and a business broker in another state (who were all recent victims of my corporate spam filter), points out that it currently does not like anyone who calls themselves a “broker.”

Spam filters constantly adjust their scoring systems, so what is OK today is considered spam tomorrow. If you want to see how complex this can get, look at the testing parameters for a popular filter called Spam Assassin at: http://spamassassin.org/tests.

Other possible causes that keep your message from getting to their destination include:

• Large file attachments (whenever possible, put the information in the body of the message instead);

• Colorful backgrounds, which are essentially images;

• Extraneous text, such as proverbs or cute sayings at the end of your message, especially if they are in quotes; and

• Special characters, fonts, lots of HTML or foreign languages

If you are having a problem getting a message to someone or want to see if your basic e-mail message template is causing your spam score to be higher, try sending it to spamscore@politemail.com. I sent a blank message and got a score of 1.3 (considered low risk), then sent a blank message with a small image added and it jumped to 4.2 (considered medium risk).

The moral of this story is use the KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) system for sending e-mail, and you will be more likely to get your message through.

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