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Week in Geek: The Gmail Spam Filter Failure Edition

Is there anything more infuriating than spammers sending the same exact email dozens of times per day? For weeks the same spam message has been bypassing the Gmail spam filter and driving me crazy. Here’s the scoop.

For reference purposes, I’ve drawn this illustration of the technology behind Gmail’s spam filter so you can understand how it really works.

How Gmail's Spam Filter Works 

My Spam Problem

Every single day, multiple times per day, the same spam makes it through the Gmail filter. Even when I use the “Report Spam” button multiple times per day, they still come through!

It’s maddening. All of these made it into my inbox.

Spammers are pure evil

The Solution?

Unfortunately, there’s no really good solution to this issue. What I’ve done as a workaround is create a new Label in Gmail called “IHateSpammers”, and a new filter that keeps these emails out of my inbox.

First, you can use the “Filter messages like this” menu item, or just create a new filter.

Filter messages like this

Put in the text you want to match, and then click Test Search to make sure it matches.

Create a filter

On the next screen, the most important step is to use the Skip the Inbox checkbox, and apply the new label. You can also check the box to apply the filter to the emails still in the inbox.

Create a Filter, step 2

Now I don’t get any of these emails in my inbox anymore, but I still have a problem: whenever Gmail’s spam filter starts working again, I don’t want it thinking that those messages are fine.

The most important step is to check the IHateSpammers label every so often, and report all of the messages as spam. It’s still annoying, but at least they aren’t hitting your inbox!

I hate spammers!

Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe if you named the label WakeTheHamster the problem would resolve itself… hmm…

Interesting Random Stuff We Found This Week

Here’s a few things that we found this week while wasting our time browsing the web:

Latest Reviews at How-To Geek

We’ve been making lots of progress with our official reviews of various products. We’ve branched out a bit, so we now have some official reviews even for freeware products.

The idea is that we’ll have a nicely organized location where you can take a full look at any software package before you bother buying, downloading, or installing anything.

Portable Apps

The Good: Lots of powerful apps and utilities that run from a flash drive. Can add and customize a lot of other utilities not already included


Read the Full Review…

WINAMP 10th Anniversary Edition

The Good: Easy to use, great audio quality, loads of fun features.


Read the Full Review…

Wondershare Video to Audio Converter

The Good: Fast, good quality audio conversions from video files. Nicely laid out user interface which makes use very easy


Read the Full Review…

Norton 360

The Good: Great all-in-one AntiVirus, Internet, and data protection


Read the Full Review…

This section is still a work in progress… as we build more reviews, we’ll make it easier to browse. For now, you can always hit up the Reviews link on the site menu.

Have You Built Your Own Computer?

How many of you have built your own computer? In case you missed them, we’ve written up a full guide to building a PC from scratch.

The key thing to remember is to get feedback on the list of parts you want to use. One great place to do that is on the How-To Geek Forums.

The Daily Articles

Just in case you missed them, here’s the list of daily articles from the week.

And finally…

One of the Lifehacker readers wrote in with an interesting tip: he uses his password as a way to motivate himself. Silly? You decide.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/1/09

Comments (7)

  1. Scott

    Have you tried contacting Google? Have you checked Gmail forums?

  2. HaRT

    Also, check the “Show original” menu item to see the raw message. I’d be quite interested to see it and maybe it gives some clues why Gmail thinks it’s fine.

  3. Stephen DelVecchio

    Try this one, it works flawlessly for me. Create a filter and put is:spam in the Has the words field. ignore the warning and on the next step, Skip the inbox, mark as read and apply the label Junk E-mail. Once you’ve had this running for a while and your sure nothing is getting mislabeled you could change the apply label to delete.

  4. Ben Broeckx

    Hi, I’ve been using Google Apps with Postini filter for a while now, and it works flawlessly. Perhaps an idea for Google to extend the application of Postini?

  5. Brian

    I have about 1 dirty one get through a day, and also no matter how many times I report it, it still seems to make it through, so you’re not the only one.

  6. Nick

    Most of the spam messages in my gmail actually go to my spam box. The problem I have is with hotmail, where I get many e-mails like you’ve had in the inbox.

  7. redundant

    your filter settings are redundant, no point in archiving/tagging if it’s just going to delete it!

    :)

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