Five Tasty Tidbits on How To Rid Your Life Of Spam
Most people have some vague awareness that the term came, at first, from the "spam skit" by Monty Python's Flying Circus. In the sketch, a restaurant serves all its food with lots of spam, and the waitress repeats the word several times in describing how much spam is in the items. When she does this, a group of Vikings (don't ask) in the corner start a song: "Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam! Wonderful spam!" until told to shut up. Thus the meaning of the term: something that keeps repeating and repeating to great annoyance. Generally speaking, spam refers simply to unsolicited email. It's the result of websites collecting email addresses and then selling them off for profit, again and again. One mis-step online and before you know it you're bombarded with ads and profanity from every direction.
What you can do
Helpful Tip #1: Create an "alternate account" with a free email provider such as Yahoo! or Hotmail for those occasions where you need to register with a website or make an online purchase. This way, you'll be able to check for and receive any important messages, but you won't have to see spam in your inbox every time you check your mail. You can then forward those important messages to your primary account if you choose. A few things to remember... DON'T provide your "alternate" (AKA primary) email address when you sign up! They will let you get by without one. And free providers will usually either send you a few advertisements of their own or place large annoying ads on their pages to offset the cost of your free service. They also have strict limits on the amount of disk space you can use, and they will delete inactive accounts. Make sure to check your free account at least weekly and delete junk so your account doesn't get blocked for using too much disk space or shut down for non-use. Also, disable their "bulk mail" or "junk mail" feature if possible to minimize the possibility of an important message getting filtered right into the trash. Free accounts can be very helpful and have many nice features. Get to know these features, like filters, and my personal favorite, "Check all messages." (Using that feature, you can delete tons of messages all at once. So helpful!)
Alternatively, you can call me to set up a new Aire Networks account for you just for this purpose which you can check through your mail client or our WebMail. My number's at the bottom of this page.
Second, realize that spammers are tricky. They will do darn near anything to come up with the largest possible number of valid e-mail addresses to target, including lie, cheat and steal. In other words, they don't play nice. That brings us to...
Helpful Tip #2:
If you don't recognize the sender of a particular piece of mail, DON'T follow the "unsubscribe" or "opt-out" instructions. If you did not specifically sign up with the domain doing the mailing, chances are they bought your address from somewhere. Those "unsubscribe" links are their way of finding out that there is a real person sitting at your computer reading their junk - then you just get more. Just delete that stuff. Basically, if you check your mail and receive a newsletter or advertisement from firstname.lastname@example.org, and you know that you have never visited xyz.com or signed up for their mailings, then one of two things has happened. Either you have visited a website that is an affiliate of xyz.com and authorized your address to be shared with their partners, or xyz.com bought your address from somewhere. So common sense tells us that you need to make sure that those "Feel free to share my address with your partners and affiliates" boxes are UNCHECKED. Make sure that any "your personal interests and hobbies" boxes are UNCHECKED. And read the whole page before submitting any kind of registration, to make sure that you're not inadvertently signing up for something you don't want.
Third, realize that there's a good possibility that your friends have never seen these helpful tips. They may want a free hair care sample and just follow directions like sheep when prompted to enter the addresses of 5 friends on a beauty website. So here comes...
Helpful Tip #3:
Tell your friends NOT to share your address with ANYONE. Ask them, beg them, threaten to kill them if they do it, but make them listen. Show them this page, if you're so inclined.
Fourth, know that there is an answer on the Internet to 99% of life's questions and problems. This area is no different, as there are bunches of programs created all the time to deal with the evil monster we call spam. So that thought takes us to (yep, you guessed it!)...
Helpful Tip #4:
Filter, filter, filter.
Aire Networks' new mail server uses a server-side spam & virus filter that marks the subject line of suspicious mail so you can easily distinguish it from other important mail. You can take this feature one step further by creating filters to direct all the junk right into a special spam folder or even the trash. I've set up a tutorial on how to create these filters for Outlook Express and Outlook. Tutorials for Eudora and our WebMail are on the way.
(This next section of Helpful Tip #4 was written before we implemented our new server, but I'm leaving it in for those whom it may help.)
Use a mail filtering program. I HIGHLY recommend one called Mail Washer - it's free, easy to use and allows you to sort out your mail easily by identifying what's spam and what's not - on your terms. It can even bounce messages back to the sender, making it seem as though your account does not exist and possibly prompting the spammer to take you off their list. The free version of Mail Washer is available at www.mailwasher.net. They also have a Pro version, available from www.firetrust.com for 30 bucks. It has more features than the free version, like a multiple account capability. I don't have much experience with mail filtering programs other than this, so I can't tell you if "SpamKiller" is the best thing since sliced cheese. There are several more out there, for free or for a small fee, but it's hard to know what you're getting when the only opinion is from the program manufacturer. Luckily you can take advantage of the opinions of others who've tried these programs by checking out the ratings and reviews of different programs before you download. The best sites I've found for this are Tucows.com and Download.com. Just remember that the descriptions of these programs are written by the program author, so what sounds like a great program may be just a bunch of hype from the people who want you to buy it. Read the ratings!
Lastly, remember that there are no permanent problems in life. Spam is certainly nothing you can't escape. It's OK to start fresh once in a while, and that brings us to...
Helpful Tip #5:
Start over! If you have a limited number of important contacts and a lot of junk mail bumming you out, you can always set up a new account and delete your old one - just don't forget to notify your contacts of the change (as well as any important websites that you've registered with.) You don't want Aunt Ida getting all weirded out because she can't figure out why her emails to you are getting returned to her saying that your address is invalid. And this is one area where I can personally help you - Just drop a line to email@example.com or call me at (800) 840-6673 and I can set you up a new Aire Networks account any time you need one. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that I can help make your world a less offensive place.
So, ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our lesson on spam and how to live with it - or hopefully, without it. Good luck!