Spam is one of those things that nobody wants, but probably has plenty of. If there happens to be anyone out there unfamiliar with spam, we are not talking about the luncheon meat, but the unsolicited, junk e-mail that clogs our inboxes. And in case you are curious, according to some sources, the junk mail version of spam earned its name from a Monty Python skit regarding the luncheon meat of the same name. Care to sing along?
From offers for prescription drugs, to mortgage refinancing, to sexually explicit content, spam can leave us having to sift through mounds of trash to find the few messages we actually care to read. Although eliminating all junk e-mail may be impossible, there are several steps than can be taken to all but eliminate spam from your inbox.
1. Protect Your E-mail Address:
One of the best strategies for avoiding spam is to protect your personal e-mail address. Your best defense is for the spammers to not even know you exist, but this is a difficult task to accomplish.
Many spam mailing lists are created by harvesting e-mail addresses from websites where your information may be displayed. Newsgroups, bulletin boards, and chat rooms are just a few examples of places where spammers may run scripts to collect anything that resembles an e-mail address. Many sites, such as bulletin boards, have safeguards to protect their members, but it does nothing if these members post their personal information in one of their posts, their signature, or somewhere else that puts the information in plain sight. In addition, signing up with unknown sources for online contests, mailing lists, and similar occasions where you need to provide an address as part of the registration process may also expose your address to spammers.
Using your best judgment is your best defense. If you want to keep your mailbox clean, keep your address private, only giving it out to trusted parties.
2. Create a Spam E-Mail Account:
Protecting your e-mail address is easier said than done, and if you find that it is impossible to keep your personal e-mail address completely private, a separate account may be the solution. Referred to by some as a “throw-away” account, this e-mail account doesn't have to cost you anything, as suitable e-mail accounts are available for free from places such as Hotmail and Yahoo.
This throw-away account is the best choice when you are unsure that your privacy will be protected. Use it when registering with newsgroups, bulletin boards, sweepstakes, or in any other situation where you’re not quite sure your privacy will be protected. You have to use your better judgment, as signing up for something from a trustworthy source, like the Computer Geeks mailing list, is much different than many things we'll just leave to our imaginations.
Since you are not expecting any important mail at this account, if it becomes over run with spam, you do just as the name suggests and throw it away for a new one.
3. Message Rules in Outlook / Outlook Express:
Most people use either Outlook or Outlook Express as their e-mail client, but all of these people may not be familiar with creating message rules in the "Tools" drop down menu. Rules allow you to manually filter the delivery of e-mail, and can be created to analyze the sender's name, subject line, and message body before processing. For example, a rule can be created so that any message with a particularly offensive word in the subject line is automatically moved to the Deleted Items folder, or even better, just deleted from the server before download.
Another option provided by Outlook and Outlook Express allows the user to add senders to their "Blocked Senders" list. No rule needs to be created, and in a few clicks, a sender of unsolicited e-mail can be added to your personal blocked senders list. Whenever mail arrives from this sender in the future, it will skip the inbox and go straight to the Deleted Items folder.
Windows XP with Service Pack 2 provides even greater security in a variety of areas, including Outlook and Outlook Express. Many spam e-mails have images in the body that are coded to identify receipt of the e-mail. If the individually coded image has been viewed, the spammer knows that you have seen the e-mail, thus confirming your address as valid. With SP2, images are blocked to prevent your computer from being identified, thus keeping the spammer from confirming they have a valid address to continue mailing.
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