I have an old email address that I don't use any more, say old@example.com. This address gets loads of spam, but also the occasional email from an old friend. I have set up a new address, say new@example.org, that I would like all my friends (but not the spammers!) to use.

I will of course send the new address to everyone I can think of, but I'm sure to forget some. How can I tell the humans who write to old@example.com about new@example.org, while telling the spammers to go away?

One method I thought of is to auto-respond to every email to old@example.com with a reference to a website with a CAPTCHA on it; only if you answer the CAPTCHA do you get advised to resend your email to new@example.org. (One problem with this method is that I'm not sure how to set up the auto-response effectively - if there is a lot of spam, I could use up all my bandwidth responding to spammers again and again.)

Both emails are currently administered by my ISP's mailserver, but I own both example.com and example.org and have a server where I can install software (e.g. a web or mailserver), so I could set up either address to use whatever method is needed. Of course, I'd like a solution that requires the least maintenance possible.


I would push your new email to use google apps, as the interface and settings are better than anything else I've seen.

Then just forward all your old mail to your new one and let Gmails spam filter handle it.

I've never had spam in my inbox since I started using Gmail.

The good thing here is that there is no maintenance, and you don't have to worry about storage on the server etc.

  • +1, I was just about to add a note for auto-forwarding to gmail and using its spam filter. – nik Aug 30 '09 at 13:44
  • as was I. Gmail's spam filter is superb. – Paul McMillan Aug 30 '09 at 15:03

You could set up an auto-reply saying "I am having a hard time with spam - if you are a real person, please reply with the words 'real person' in the SUBJECT to ensure the email gets through to me."

Then set up an auto-forward to your new address for any emails that contain the words "real person" in the subject.

That way, you are not giving away your new address to spammers but you will receive genuine replies from real friends that are trying to get hold of you. Plus, no maintenance once you have set the two rules up. No extra signups required and no additional costs.

  • This is a text-challenge-response. Close to CAPTCHA. – nik Aug 30 '09 at 13:47
  • If I get a lot of spam won't my ISP get annoyed at a large volume of auto-replies? Also, will the spammers be encouraged by getting any kind of reply at all? (I seem to recall the best thing is to ignore them completely.) – Douglas Squirrel Aug 30 '09 at 14:10
  • We have clients who send/receive tens of thousands of emails every hour and their mail provider/ISP doesn't bat an eyelid. Text-based emails take up minimal bandwidth. I agree with what you say though - it is definitely best to ignore spammers 'where possible', just like bullies. – Kez Aug 30 '09 at 17:40
  • Doesn't seem like my ISP has an easy way to forward emails according to a filter criterion. Will try this if other methods e.g. gmail spam filter don't work. – Douglas Squirrel Aug 30 '09 at 23:41

It would be great if you could setup a data-base of all e-mail addresses to which you have sent mail till now (that should cover your set of interest closely).

Then, you need to setup an auto-forward/reply for all addresses you receive mail from that you have earlier communicated with. You could auto-forward to your new address and check if you want to reply or you could auto-reply with the updated id (and keep a CC to your new address too).

This requires you to have a backup of all your earlier sent-mails and the ability to process incoming mails as required. Just an idea since you say working with the mail-server is possible.

  • Unfortunately my friends sometimes change their email addresses too, so that wouldn't necessarily help. – Douglas Squirrel Aug 30 '09 at 14:07
  • @Douglas, yes, I had that thought, which is when I figured gmail spam filters would be a good scheme. – nik Aug 30 '09 at 14:20

I would just do a auto responder with your new address. Most spam comes from forged addresses or unmonitored mailboxes so it is unlikely that they will get your new address.


you're going to an awful length to protect the unprotectable. :)

spammers don't read any reply messages. but to be sure to sure, auto reply with a graphic/captcha of your new email address. that should suffice.

in addition, make it a habit to use dispoable email addresses (e.g. mailinator or guerrillamail, to name but a few) wherever applicable.

and last but not least (a bit OT): if you're looking for a spam filter that works, have a look at MailWasher or defNULLspam, two different methods (you may like the latter as it involves the 'human factor' :) but each highly efficient in their own way and free.

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