I finally found a purpose for email auto-responders. It used to be that I would just cringe when someone’s email sent me an auto-responder and honestly I still do, but there is actually a good use for something like this.
Let me back up a bit. Recently we were having trouble with spam. That’s what happens when you send emails to people for years and somewhere along the line one or more of them gives up their email list to a virus, hacker or something else.
But what do you do when your primary email is being pounded by spam in volumes high enough to interfere with your ability to use the address? What we did was set up a web form where people could request the newer email address and then set up an auto-responder on the old one to notify people of the form. Spammers don’t check their email replies so they won’t know how to request the new address, and you can also control who gets the new address by simply ignoring requests from people you don’t want to have your new email.
It was a great plan, but then we noticed something. Once we turned on the auto-responder a large amount of the spam stopped.
Don’t get this confused with ‘all of the spam stopped’ because that didn’t happen, but a large amount of it went away. The problem is, once your email begins to be passed around it probably won’t ever be clean again. You may remember an earlier post where we set up an auto-forward to firstname.lastname@example.org well that was useless. We were sending over 200 per day and each day sent more which means that the problem was getting worse.
Then there was another side effect. The old email address was being signed up for new mailing lists that had auto-responders of their own. This caused a massive feedback loop, each email resulted in an email and it was quickly a problem. Five Thousand emails showed up in less than two hours. Hopefully it was filling up the spammer’s mailbox as well.
That’s when I realized that dumping an email address is really no big deal as long as you stick an auto-responder on it first. You can create a loop for your spammers which slows their email servers, and also get your email dropped from some lists. So hopefully someday you can reuse the email again.
There is a trick. Your auto-responder has to do it’s job for the people you want to continue to email. Here are some rules for a good auto-responder:
1. Send them to a form on your web site or give them your phone number in order to request your new email. (then only give it to the people you want to)
2. In the Auto-Responder tell them their message has been deleted/destroyed/etc. and you don’t check this email anymore. (even if you still do)
3. Make sure the subject is good. Something like, “I have a new email address”
4. Tell them that if they respond to your auto-responder they will just get another copy of it.
After setting everything up, stop checking that email address and just let it fill up with whatever it receives. Trust in people’s ability to either ask for your new address or stop emailing you. Then, maybe, check it a few months later to see if it is usable again, but from past experience it can take years for an email to fall off of the spam circuit.
So don’t be afraid to dump an address and switch it to an auto-responder. If we all started doing this instead of trying to filter spam it would be too much trouble for spammers to keep up. Email reporting, unsubscribe links and all of that other stuff is a waste of effort. Making spammers call you to get your new email would shut them down cold!
That is the beauty of the email auto-responder!