How to not look like a spammer

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Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2007 7:40 pm
Location: Fort Collins, CO, USA

How to not look like a spammer

Post by JoeStrout »

Because this forum is running phpBB, we get a lot of spammers signing up, with the intent to either post their pornography and drug ads to our forums, or at least increase the ranking of their sites by having them appear in the user list. We get about 20 spammers for every real person who signs up for the forums.

Most of these are instantly recognizable. A few, however, are more subtle, and don't put their porn/drug URL directly in their account profile — those are the smart ones, laying low until their account is approved so that they can post their crap to the forums later.

We try to recognize this type of spammer too, and most of the time get it right. Accounts that we are sure are spammers, we delete immediately. Ones we're not sure about, we let sit for a few days, or send an email message asking about their interest in our topic. Only real people reply (or complain about not being activated yet), so if we don't get a reply in a few days, we delete the account then.

Occasionally, however, a mistake is made, and we end up deleting the account of a real user who simply looked (in their account profile) like a spammer. Here are the red flags we look for; if you sign up for our (or any other) forum, avoid these to avoid looking like a spammer, and you'll have a faster, more efficient sign-up process:
  1. Try to avoid using a gmail address. Spammers love GMail, and about 70% of spammers are using it, while only maybe 10-20% of real people we see do so. I know they're free and their service is nice, but you can use a less spammy email address even if you use GMail as your client. (Yahoo is slightly better, but not much.)
  2. Pick a user name that looks like a real name. Spammers pick random names like "umidburun" , "wessdreq", and "Tdhdnsaaaeyhfuer" (I am not making these up!). They don't pick generally names like "Bill Williams" or "AlicePeterson". Using your real name is generally best (if you're under 18 and worried about safety, try your first initial and last name).
  3. Along with the last point, pick a user name for our forum that matches in some obvious way the user name in your email address. Spammers usually have random email addresses and user names, but they don't match at all. My user name is "JoeStrout" and my email address starts with "jstrout" — and this is typical of real people.
  4. Don't include a URL in your profile to a site that is selling something. We do look at those URLs, and if it's just your personal web site, that's great. But if it's a commercial site whose Google ranking would be increased by you signing up for every forum you can find and sticking its URL in your profile, we will be suspicious.
  5. Include a few words in the "Interests" field that relate directly to the topic of our forum. Spammers don't bother to even learn what the forum is about. Don't fill in something generic like "Discussion" or "good times" or "music" — that's what spammers do.
So that's it! If your account hasn't been activated within a couple days of signing up, it's either because I've been away from my computer for a few days, or you didn't follow the guidelines above. In the latter case, I apologize for the mistake. And in either case, please do email me ( with your account name and request activation; I'm always happy to help.

— Joe
Joe Strout site administrator

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