Technology Bleg

I begin by assuming the answer to the following is "no."  However, just in case, here is my question:  A number of spammers seem to be using my email address as their "reply-to" return address on the spams they are sending out.  Unfortunately, this is all-too-easy to do.  Note, they are not using my account, but just entering my address in the from and reply-to lines (something even I know how to do) on an email sent from one of their accounts.  My question is:  Is there anyway to keep a third party from using your email address in this way?

Fortunately, a couple of layers of filtering (google, then a bayesian
filter) seem to have at least halted the growth of spam in my box and
perhaps even rolled it back a little.  By the way, I still stand by my solution to spam, which is to charge 0.1 cents per email.  Normal eavy users who might send 30-100 emails a day would pay 3-10 cents a day, ie nothing.  Spammers who send 10 million emails would be charged $10,000 for each mass mailing.   


  1. Bill:

    Unfortunately, your surmise is correct. I've been through two rounds of this, and the only good thing is that it eventually dies down as the slime forging your return move on to other addresses.

  2. Rob:

    Unforunately, charging $0.001 per email or $1 won't do much for spam because most of it is sent from locations outside the USA, and therefore the cost can't be enforced.

    Of course, some technological strategy could be set up, which would most likely lead to a tightly controlled industry standard, possibly controlled by gov't regulations. This would basically eliminate any email providers except those with the financial backing to meet the requirements. Or in otherwords, email from won't be considered trusted (hence ignored) unless it's on a special list of "safe" email domains.

  3. Ian Baird:

    Form borrowed from:


    Your post advocates a

    ( ) technical ( ) legislative (x) market-based ( ) vigilante

    approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

    ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
    ( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
    (x) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
    ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
    ( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
    (x) Users of email will not put up with it
    ( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
    ( ) The police will not put up with it
    (x) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
    (x) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
    ( ) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
    ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
    ( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

    Specifically, your plan fails to account for

    ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
    (x) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
    ( ) Open relays in foreign countries
    ( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
    ( ) Asshats
    ( ) Jurisdictional problems
    (x) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
    ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
    ( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
    ( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
    ( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
    ( ) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
    ( ) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
    (x) Extreme profitability of spam
    ( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
    ( ) Technically illiterate politicians
    ( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
    ( ) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
    ( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
    ( ) Outlook

    and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

    (x) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever
    been shown practical
    ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
    ( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
    ( ) Blacklists suck
    ( ) Whitelists suck
    ( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
    ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
    ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
    ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
    (x) Sending email should be free
    ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
    ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
    ( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
    ( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
    ( ) I don't want the government reading my email
    ( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

    Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

    (x) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
    ( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.

  4. Michael:

    Laugh. That form letter was pretty funny, but the real issue (IMNSHO) is that charging 0.1c for something is pretty much impossible today. The real costs would be MUCH higher. The time taken to set it up, for users to configure, to handle actual money transfers, accounting, correcting mistakes etc etc would dramatically outweigh the nominal amount theoretically charged for each email.

    It's pretty much the same reason I generally ignore cheap information on the net. Even if it's only 20 cents, unless my desire for it is very strong, the actual effort involved in registering, finding my credit card, typing all that data into yet another confusing, stupidly designed form, that is even more stupidly spread over 56 million pages, etc etc make it far more expensive than the 20c the seller would actually get. So I don't buy it even though 20c effectively zero money.

  5. Knox:

    The short answer is no... but it is still worth trying SPF.

    SPF is an email anti-forgery technology.

  6. mjh:

    SPF is just one of a number of different email authentication mechanisms. SPF is braindead easy to implement on the outbound side and pretty easy to implement on the inbound side. Unfortunately, in order to be effective, like all of the email authentication mechanisms(*), SPF requires coordination between email senders and receivers.


    FWIW, Warren, what happened to you is called getting "Joe Jobbed".