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Dartmouth uses a product called SpamAssassin to help filter spam in e-mail accounts. BlitzMail or third-party e-mail applications that are configured to use IMAP can use this filtering system. SpamAssassin does not stop e-mail from getting to you; it simply allows you to have most spam messages go directly into a folder within your e-mail account rather than cluttering up your In Box. You can then periodically review the messages in that folder and decide whether or not to delete them.

SpamAssassin works by assigning a "spam score" to each piece of incoming mail. It checks for a long list of characteristics that are associated with spam: for example, the word "viagra" in the Subject line; the sender information does not contain an actual e-mail address; the sender's IP address is on a blacklist of open relays; etc. Each one of these characteristics that the message contains increases the overall "spam score" of the message.

The higher the score, the more likely it is that the message is spam. A message with a score of 10 or more is very likely to be spam, a score of five is more tentative, and anything lower than that might be legitimate. For a more complete listing of the types of tests that SpamAssassin performs, see SpamAssassin.

Setting Up Your Account to Use SpamAssassin

  1. Create a folder within BlitzMail (or your third-party e-mail client) into which all messages flagged as spam will automatically be directed. This folder may be titled anything you wish, but common choices are "Spam" or "Junk."
  2. Decide what level of sensitivity SpamAssassin should use to filter spam messages coming into your account. Unlike the spam score, the sensitivity setting is a number from 1 (the strongest) to 15 (the weakest). We recommend you start at level 5. Once you save your changes, e-mail that is flagged as spam will automatically be delivered to the folder you specified, rather than to your In Box. You can always adjust the sensitivity strength if you feel that too much spam is still being delivered to your In Box.

Caution: Remember that no filter is perfect. Always remember to check your Spam folder periodically in case a legitimate message has been inadvertently tagged as spam and placed into that folder, particularly if the sensitivity is set at a very low number.

Last Updated: 9/24/10