Author: Yogi Schulz
The deluge of junk e-mail or spam is taking over my life and undermining my e-mail experience. I’m tired of being pitched bootleg software, dubious medicines and worse.
Over 80% of my Inbox and over half of all e-mail traffic is now spam. To help us all counterattack this annoyance, I’m devoting this article to the counter-measures you can employ to reduce the time that spam wastes. I’m hoping that spammers will start to recognize that what they’re doing is futile for them and building worldwide rage.
E-mail Anti-Spam Configuration
First you need to turn on the anti-spam defenses of your e-mail software. In Outlook 2003, navigate to Tools >Options >Preferences >Junk Mail >Options. I’ve set my filter to High. I have not experienced any legitimate mail being tagged as Spam in error. You can check for this mis-identification problem by scrolling through the messages that accumulate in your Junk E-mail folder.
When spam appears in your Inbox (some spam will invariably escape the clutches of the spam filter), right-click the message and then left-click Junk E-mail and left-click Add Sender to Blocked Senders list. That will be the last time a message from that sender will annoy you.
It’s also necessary to occasionally clean out the Junk E-mail folder by selecting all the messages and then right-clicking to display the menu. Select Delete from the menu and shift left-click to permanently delete the spam. If you forget to press shift, all the selected messages will be transferred to the Deleted Items folder and you will have to delete them one more time.
E-Mail Client Rules
Second, because the spam filter is limited to checking e-mail addresses, you may need to set up some additional rules for processing incoming spam. In Outlook 2003, you can set up various rules using the Tools >Rules and Alerts function. Click on E-mail Rules >New Rule and pick “Move messages with a specific words in the subject to a new folder”. Click on “specific words”, enter the offending words, click on “specified folder” and select the Junk E-mail folder. Click Finish.
Since spam is often sent to a list of undisclosed recipients, creating rules that look for specific words in the subject line is a good place to start. More sophisticated rules can search for undesirable originators or selected properties of documents.
The limitations of the client e-mail filter approach are that the spammers are fully aware of the features of the Rules Wizard and can send messages with misleading subject lines and document characteristics that bypass your rules. Also, these rules are not as sophisticated as the add-on software discussed below.
ISP Anti-Spam Configuration
Third you need to turn on the anti-spam defenses that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) offers. At Telus, you select the account, click on “Enable Spam Filtering” and click OK. In my experience, the Telus filter is blocking considerable amounts of spam but has deteriorated in effectiveness since it was installed in September 2003. This deterioration is probably attributable to the spammers becoming more sophisticated in their efforts to bypass the spam filter. As David Shrimpton of Telus Technical Support says, “It’s a continuing game of cat and mouse.”
I applaud the efforts of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) and AOL Canada Inc., who recently sent a letter to its members, asking them to participate in an effort to crack down on spam sent from Canadian mail servers. While this action is worthwhile, it is limited in reducing your spam because much of the spam originates outside the borders of Canada.
Fourth, we can reduce spam in our Inbox further by installing anti-spam software on our PC. The marketplace offers a wide selection of such software. I have installed MailWasher Pro that is available at www.firetrust.com for a free 30 day trial. The advantage of MailWasher Pro over Outlook 2003 is that it deletes the spam on the server of the ISP. Most of the spam never even reaches your PC. Also MailWasher Pro will let you block an entire domain; a feature that Outlook 2003 lacks.
The down side of anti-spam software is its expense and ongoing management effort.
Quite a different approach to controlling spam relies on disciplining your behavior. You must resist the temptation to participate in surveys, contests and “free” offers. All of these ask you for information that greatly increases the likelihood that you will be spammed.
Don’t ever click on the Remove button of spam e-mail. Rather than removing yourself from a list, clicking the Remove button actually confirms that you exist. Now the spammer will gleefully subject you to more mountains of spam.
Don’t ever, ever buy anything from a spammer. Aside from the potential for fraud, you are only encouraging more spam.
Don’t complain. In my experience there’s no satisfaction to be gained. We’ll only raise the level of our irritation meter. Move on. Life is too short.
Implementing these ideas will significantly reduce but not eliminate spam from your Inbox. These ideas will help you win the battle against spam by making spam an ineffective communication channel. For more information, surf to support.shaw.ca/emailfilter.