How to prevent spam
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“Spam,” another name for unsolicited e-mail, is illegal to send. Spam is often used by companies offering questionable products, get-rich-quick schemes or illegal services. Keeping it out of your inbox is easier than you think.
Identify the culprit
The first step in combating spam is to know it when you see it. If the subject line is offering a lower mortgage, a date with Trixie or free $$$, you know it’s spam. But be careful, because spam is often disguised by intriguing or mysterious subject lines, such as “FWD: great punch line” or “Information you requested.” So, even if the subject looks harmless, your best bet is to delete the e-mail if you don’t recognize the sender’s address.
Many spammers fake the identity of the sender by using a common name such as “Bob.” Is this an e-mail from Uncle Bob? Or maybe from your co-worker? You can't know for sure and the spammer counts on your curiosity. But don’t open it. Some spammers even use the names of trusted institutions, such as a bank or well-known online retailer. It’s up to you to exercise appropriate caution.
Handling the evidence
E-mail providers including America Online (AOL), Microsoft® (MSN/Hotmail), and Yahoo! stop a significant amount of spam with e-mail filters, so make sure your filter is on. Check your provider’s “Preferences” or “Tools” menu for more filter information. Once it’s activated, it will funnel unwanted messages into a Bulk Mail or Junk Mail folder. From here you can quickly scan e-mails for any wanted messages and bulk delete the rest.
Never, ever, open the attachment of a suspicious e-mail. It may contain a virus that could destroy the data on your PC, duplicate itself and attack the PCs of everyone in your e-mail address book. And don’t forward unknown e-mail.
Resist the temptation to unsubscribe. Sometimes clicking a link that promises to unsubscribe you lets the spammer know your e-mail address is valid, which means you might be spammed even more.
Handy prevention tips
The best way to fight spam is to keep it from arriving in your inbox in the first place. Here are some tips for preventing unwanted e-mail.
- Don't post your e-mail address on unsecure websites. Spammers scan newsgroups, websites and web forums looking for e-mail addresses.
- Never buy anything advertised in spam. Chances are the services advertised are bogus.
- Update your address book. Make sure the people you want contact with are in your address book—your friends, family, business associates and companies you do business with. Many e-mail systems filter our messages from e-mail addresses not included in the recipient’s address book.
- Activate image blocking through the settings on your e-mail account to avoid potentially offensive pictures in your e-mail.
- Use the filters built into your e-mail programs. If your ISP doesn’t provide filtering, you may want to use a product such as SpamSubtract from InterMute, which allows you to filter and block e-mail.
Remember to report spam to your Internet service provider so they can track key offenders. If we all work together, spam may again become just a canned meat product.