Spam is irritating, contagious, and in some cases, even harmful. When it comes to business, time is money, and keeping it from being wasted on spam is important.
Having said that, spam is notoriously difficult to evade. It cannot be stopped completely, no matter how hard we try. But there are ways and means to minimize its impact. In our collective fight against digital spam at the workplace we outline a few steps that can go a long way in keeping it at bay.
Unsolicited calls from telemarketers are almost always more irritating than useful. To their credit, the government’s telecom authority, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), has forced providers to set up and maintain a “Do Not Disturb” registry—officially known as the National Do Not Call (NDNC) registry. You can add your number to that list by simply texting START 0 to 1909 (or call 1909 and follow instructions) to block all types of telemarketing calls. If you want to allow calls from certain areas of interest, Trai allows you to apply a custom-calling block by sending a text message “START X” to 1909, where X is any one of the following options represented by their numbers—1. banking/insurance/financial products/credit cards; 2. real estate; 3. education; 4. health; 5. consumer goods and automobiles; 6. communication/broadcasting/entertainment/IT; 7. tourism and leisure.
If you’re using an Android phone, try free third-party apps like Call Control—Call Blocker; and Calls Blacklist. The former has all the essential features and a “community blacklist” which has numbers added by other users of the app. The latter has built a steady reputation for being a simple, no-frills app to blacklist unwanted callers.
For iPhones, iBlackList for $12 (around Rs.655) is the most comprehensive app to block spam calls and messages. However, you need to jailbreak your iPhone to download and use the app.
Email spam creeping into your inbox has reduced drastically with email providers deploying smarter algorithms to catch mail from suspicious servers. There is very little you can do apart from maintaining whitelists or filters for your email inbox to ensure you get email you really want. People who use a desktop email client like Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird should definitely take a look at SpamBayes—a cross-platform spam filter. It requires users to train the filter, as you classify spam and ham (non-spam, legit) emails in your inbox, and with time the filter gets better.
To deal with newsletter spam in your inbox, take a look at Unroll.me, a beta service that lets you easily fight newsletter spam in your Gmail, Google Apps and Yahoo! Mail inbox. Alternatively, you can add the Unsubscribe.com Chrome extension, which lets you easily drop out of mailing lists in your Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Microsoft Outlook inbox, etc.
For all its privacy fiascos and social blunders in the past, Facebook offers robust built-in features to block and minimize exposure to spam. The ability to block anything within Facebook is controlled via the Blocking feature available in Privacy Settings. Through this one screen, you can block Facebook users, apps, event invites and app invites. You can also discreetly maintain a restricted list of users—people who aren’t part of your inner circle—and Facebook will only let them view your public updates. Additionally, you can install apps like Norton Safe Web, which scans through your Facebook feed to weed out and eliminate malware and spam links.
Twitter is besieged with spam accounts spewing spam tweet. The low-tech way to block a suspected spam account is by visiting its profile page, clicking on the black silhouette icon and clicking “Block” or “Report for spam”. You can also look at services like http://stoptweet.com, which identifies the spam accounts following you, deletes them, and protects your Twitter account from spammers in future.
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If your company’s blog is hosted on a custom WordPress installation, signing up for a free WordPress.com account will give you a free Akismet authentication key. Copy-paste the key details into the Akismet plug-in on your company’s blog to block 99% of the spam that comes its way in the form of malicious comments or trackbacks.
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