Combating vBulletin Forum Post and PM Spam

One of the most frustrating jobs for any vBulletin forum admin or moderator is the never ending fight to stop post and PM spam. There are spambots that specifically target vBulletin forums. vBulletin has helped by adding Akismet spam protection, captcha protection, simple question and answer or reCaptcha to help combat post spam. This was effective until the vBulletin captcha was cracked. The Q&A, in my testing also doesn’t seem, to be effective. These are the measure I’ve taken to help combat the fight against spam.

To stop the post spam I use reCaptcha.  It seems to be the most effective against spambots, but, for the low life spammers that still do things manually even reCaptcha doesn’t help. The main purpose of these spammers is to get backlinks to their sites and services. What I did was create a new usergroup called Registered Members. The new group has the same privileges as the default Registered Users group.

Read on to see how to set up the registered users group and the new registered members group permissions to help combat vBulletin forum spam.

First thing we do is edit the registered users group. Disallow usage of the link bbcode. If a spambot or a low life spammer that is doing things manually registers the first thing they will do is post some spam. When they try add a link to a post they will get the no permission error. This stops them in their tracks. This is not completely fool proof. If they check the option to not automatically parse links the spam links will be posted they just will not be linked. Akismet will even let the post in since no links are actually posted.

Some of these spammers know it isn’t as easy as it used to be to post spam in threads so they have come up with a new type of spam. Private message spam. A spammer signs in and the first thing they do is head to the control panel and proceed to PM every user except for admins and moderators. I’m not sure this is automated since the bot would have to know who is an admin or mod. Either way it is the most annoying type of forum spam and has caused many forum owners and users pain. This is very easy to stop.

Open the usergroup page and edit the registered users usergroup again. In the private message settings use these settings.

  1. Maximum Stored Messages:  0
  2. Maximum Recipients to Send PMs at a time: 1

Those settings disallow sending private messages for Registered Users.

Now we don’t want to disallow PM’s for everyone except mods and admins so we create a new uer group called Registered Members. Create that group and give the group the default permissions that an unedited Registered User would have. Turn on bbcode and setup private messages. For private messages I use this.

  1. Maximum Stored Messages:  10
  2. Maximum Recipients to Send PMs at a time: 2
  3. Message Throttle Quantity: 2

This will allow the new group to have a max of 10 PM’s stored in their PM folders. Will allow them to send 2 PM’s at a time and will not let them send another 2 until the time limit set in options is expired. You can set it up any way you want. After all if the users meets the requirements to be promoted to this group they aren’t there to spam.

Save your changes. You’ll need a way to move users to ths new group without doing it manually. This is where the vBulletin promotion manager comes in to play.

In the usergroup menu in the left frame click the promotions link. Select add new promotion. Set up the promotion like this.

  1. Reputation Level: 0
  2. Days Registered: 30 or more if you choose
  3. Posts: 3 or any number you choose
  4. Promotion Type: Primary User Group
  5. Promotion Strategy: Posts
  6. Reputation Comparison Type: Greater or Equal to
  7. Move User to Usergroup: Select the Registered Members group

After a user has 3 posts they will be promoted to the new Registered Members group with full posting and PM permissions. This will stop 90% of all post and PM spam.

Why is this effective? A drive by spammer is only interested in one thing. To post links to to their wares. They use a bot to register or do it maunually. Once they register their only goal is to post spam. This will not allow them to do this. They will try and fail. When they fail they move on to another forum. Sure you’ll have a user that will never be seen again, but, your community will be spam free. It’s munch easier to prune users then to contantly clean out spam posts.

If you have any question or think this post was helpful post a comment. No need to regisiter to comment. I use a very effective anti-spam measure on this site.

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16 Comments on "Combating vBulletin Forum Post and PM Spam"

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Great post, I retweeted it for you, hopefully a few more see it 🙂


I’ve implemented the PM settings you suggest, many thanks. I think my main concern was that a spammer might not spam the board but might just spam my registered members with the PM system which, as an admin, I wouldn’t get to know about.


But the “Allow Link BBCode” option is in the “Signature Permissions” sections so it only applies to signatures. Disallowing those won’t avoid spammers to post links in posts, right?


Great informations


The vBulletin Anti-Spam system can be effective in identifying and deleting spam.vBulletin 3.7 hack to prevent simply and easily remove such PM spam. Forum spamming can be a real problem, but luckily there’s a great mod for vbulletin.


Spammers Suck

@seoblogcentral01, you’ve got a lot of balls to post your spam here, too, on a topic about spammers. I’ve seen your posts on several other forums now and you suck.

Go away.


I’ve read a lot on digital point forums and disabled and enabled this and that, it helped for a while, but then another wave came around like they found another way to register. I’ve been testing the anit spam plugin and it has cut a of the registrations down a lot, i like the post mod feature too. Just another one to add to the tool belt. david


What do you do if you are implementing this with 2000 users already in the registered user group?

Does the promotion system allow for this and automatically detect the current scenarios for the current users?


@AWS – Thanks a lot of that last explanation. I had already considered this now when my PM spam has increased, but was afraid I’d have to move over thousands of users manually.


Is there any way I can do this but allow a registered member to PM admins ONLY?


Thank you very much. I’m just starting a forum and this post was a big help


Is the 3 posts limit created threads too or only replies?
How would you have a promotion that makes sure they can’t create a new thread until they have replied to a set number of threads?