How I Deal With Spam

I wrote a post last week about how to deal with corporate spam, which is the same thing as regular spam but with fewer carbs. Just kidding on that part. Spam is a worldwide epidemic that is making telemarketing seem less annoying by comparison. It is disgusting to me to think that spammers sell lists of our email addresses back and forth to each other for millions of dollars. Spam is taking over the web. Spammers are starting to put up blogs and visit discussion forms. Another blog of mine, routinely gets spam trackbacks from spam blogs on Blogger. I’m not sure how prevalent the spam trackbacks are, but I’m suddenly happy that Blogger doesn’t have that feature.

Have you ever used a so called spam filter? I’ve tried several. I had one a friend gave me. I’ve tried Spam Bayes, and I even used the Norton Anti-Spam that came with my laptop (it has long since been uninstalled along with Norton AV and Norton Internet Security). I don’t know if anyone has successfully used a spam filter, but I’ve never had much luck with them. They are supposed to be able to identify messages as supposedly spam and put them in a spam folder. They’ve never been very effective, however. Real spam gets let through and legit messages get put in the spam folder, no matter how many times I’ve told the program that anything from that email address, or even domain, is not spam. I normally uninstall spam programs and I’ve given up on them altogether.

I have found a way to deal with Spam that takes less time and doesn’t cost anything. You can use Microsoft Outlook or not. What I’ve found is fairly effective. The first thing I recommend is to get Google’s Gmail. Gmail has the absolute best server-side spam filter I have ever seen. I don’t even use my Comcast email account anymore. Yahoo is horrible at filtering spam. I will get the exact same spam message from 1000 spammers, hit the spam button every time, and yet Yahoo still will not filter it out of my email list as it comes in 20 times a day. Gmail, however is an amazing spam filter. It’s not 100% effective but it’s at least 99%. One out of 1000 spam messages might get by it, and that is something I am willing to live with. You can use Gmail all by itself. When I had laptop problems from Office 2007, I couldn’t download email to my laptop through Gmail’s pop access so I just read my email online. I came to like this and now that I have Outlook working again, I’m not so sure I want to continue to use Outlook for email.

The next thing I do in my spam strategy is set up Outlook. This is less essential if you are using Gmail, but it it still useful. This strategy does require a little bit of patience up front but it will pay off in the end. In Outlook, click on Tools->Options and you should open to the Preferences tab. If not, click on the tab. Then select Junk-email. You can set the tolerance to any level that you like, but I’ve found the best way for me to do this is to click the radio button for Safe Lists Only. This is where the time investment comes in. Every single email that is downloaded to Outlook will now go into your junk email folder. When you see that you have messages in your junk folder, go to that folder. I normally use the preview pane when reading email because I don’t like to mark a message as read until I’m absolutely sure that either no action is required by it or that I have taken any and all actions that are required by it. However, do not use the preview pane in the junk email folder. Turn it on and off as the message requires, for instance, if you’re sure the message is safe but you want to view it to verify. If you’re satisfied with the message, click "not junk" on the toolbar. You’ll get a pop up message asking how you want to deal with the message. You can tell it to add the sender to your safe senders list. Once the sender is on the safe sender’s list, any email from that sender will automatically go to your inbox. You can also set up rules. For some reason, some newsletters never seem to come from the same email address twice. Microsoft likes to use a different address for every newsletter, making it very hard to keep their newsletters out of a spam folder.

This strategy is not 100% effective, but over the years I have found it to be the best way to handle spam in my Outlook inbox.

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