8.3 Slamming Spam
If you have a desire to enlarge certain body parts , want to make a mint at home in your free time, or expect Nigerian strangers to shower you with several million dollars in exchange for a modest investment, then you love spam. Otherwise, it's one of life's biggest annoyances.
The following section helps you to stanch the flood.
8.3.1 Hiding Your Email Address from Spammers
The best way to avoid unwanted mail is to keep your email address out of spammers' hands in the first place. There's no foolproof way to do this ‚ no matter how hard you try, some spammers will track you down ‚ but there are several things you can do to minimize the risk.
Opt out of mailings . Web sites frequently ask when you register at them whether you want to receive email offers from the site's sponsors, or from the site itself. Just say no! Although some sites post privacy policies explaining how they use or share their email lists, often the best defense is to completely avoid sharing your address.
Use a different email address for registering . Another strategy is to use a separate email address when you sign up for things online, so your main email account doesn't get overwhelmed with junk. (You can set up a free email address through sites like http://www.hotmail.com or www.yahoo.com; also, many ISPs let their customers use several email addresses on one account.) Use this alternative address when you register with a Web site, enter a contest online, or need to give your email address to a company you don't know. That way, if your address gets passed on to spammers, it won't affect your main email account.
| || |
Figure 8-8. You can attach vCards to all outgoing email, as well as any messages you post on Internet discussion boards . To leave your digital calling card with your discussion board posts, turn on the box next to News, and choose your contact information or name from the drop-down list.
Spell out your email address if you post it on a discuss group or display it on a Web site you've created . Many spammers use "harvesting" programs to collect email addresses posted on Web pages (a favorite target is Internet discussion groups because posts remain online indefinitely). When these harvesting programs find email addresses, they add them to their spam lists. So if your email address is going to appear online, spell it out ‚ for example, use "jay at lo dot com" rather than firstname.lastname@example.org. Real people can figure out how to reach you, but harvesting programs won't.
8.3.2 Built-In Spam-Fighting Tools
Your next line of defense is to use the anti-spam tools built right into your email program. These tools won't completely stop spam, but they can at least blast out an unhealthy chunk .
220.127.116.11 Spiking spam with Outlook
Some of the spam out there is enough to make a longshoreman blush. Outlook's reaction is similar: it can scan incoming messages and then display junk mail in gray and messages with adult content in maroon. To activate this spam patrol, select Tools Organize and then click the Junk E-Mail button. Then click either (or both) of the buttons that say Turn On. Now you can easily scan your inbox for messages in either gray or maroon and delete them manually.
Note: This section covers versions of Outlook released before Outlook 2003; for Outlook 2003, see Section 18.104.22.168..
You can also manually add domains and addresses to Outlook's anti-spam list as a more robust way of fighting spam. When you receive a message you consider spam, right-click it and choose Junk Email. From the menu, choose "Add to Junk Senders list" or "Add to Adult Content Senders list."
| || |
Figure 8-9. From this screen, you can turn Outlook's spam filters on and off, and add new names to the junk mail list. Outlook differentiates between regular spam (which it considers "Junk" messages) and pornographic spam (which it calls "Adult Content"). So make sure to turn on both types of filters.
Note: When messages are labeled Junk ‚ either by you or by Outlook ‚ Outlook sends them to a Junk folder, and you can delete them from there. The advantage is that you can easily sift through the Junk folder and look for legit email, then delete the rest wholesale. It's a lot easier than picking through your inbox for the bad apples.
Another way to add senders to either list is to click the Organize button on the Outlook toolbar, and choose Junk E-Mail. The screen shown in Figure 8-9 appears. To add a sender to either list, click the link that says "For more options click here," then select Edit Junk Senders or Edit Adult Content Senders. Now add addresses to either list.
22.214.171.124 Canning spam with Outlook 2003
With Outlook 2003, Microsoft finally got spam-fighting right. As soon as you turn the program on, it starts fighting spam, and you don't have to do a darn thing. Whenever it encounters what it believes is spam, it promptly moves the offending email to the Junk Email folder. You can then delete it yourself by deleting mail from the folder.
You can, however, fine-tune its spam-fighting features. The program starts off using what it considers a low-filter level, which means it filters out most spam, but it also might miss some. On the other hand, the low-filter setting is less likely to filter out legitimate mail, so for most people it's the best way to go. However, if you want to really beef up your spam fighting, choose Tools Options Junk Email, select High, and click OK. This is Outlook's most aggressive setting.
You can also teach the spam filter to improve over time, by telling it when a particular piece of email is spam or legitimate. Right-click a message and choose Junk Email. To tell Outlook to treat a certain sender's email as spam, select Add Sender to Blocked Senders List. To tell Outlook to treat the sender as legitimate, choose Add Sender to Safe Sender List. And if you find a piece of legitimate email in the Junk Email folder, right click it and choose Junk Email Mark as Not Junk.
126.96.36.199 Canning spam with Outlook Express
Outlook Express's spam-fighting tools are fairly rudimentary, but they can still keep some of the Viagra offers and get-rich-quick schemes from reaching your inbox. Its main drawback is that Outlook Express requires a little bit of effort on your part ‚ at least to get the spam filter setup. Specifically, you need to add spammers' email addresses and/or domains to a Blocked Senders List. (A domain is the main part of an Internet address, or what comes after the @ sign in an email address ‚ for example, moneysinkpit.com.) Then, every time a message comes in from a blocked address or domain, Outlook Express automatically sends it to the Deleted Items folder.
To add an address or domain to the list, choose Tools Message Rules Blocked Senders List. The screen pictured in Figure 8-10 appears. Type the email address or domain you want to block and click OK. From now on, messages from that sender or domain go straight to your Deleted Items folder without cluttering up your inbox.
Note: If you block spam this way, be sure to check your Deleted Items folder regularly, in order to confirm that no unwanted email accidentally ended up there.
| || |
Figure 8-10. Outlook Express fights spam by blocking mail from specific email addresses or entire domains (for example, Microsoft.com). When you block an address or domain, you have a choice of blocking it not only in email, but also when you participate in Internet newsgroup discussions.
8.3.3 Third-Party Spam-Killers
If you use a version of Outlook released before Outlook 2003, or any version of Outlook Express , you'll probably find their spam-fighting tools about as effective as a squirt gun aimed at a house fire.
You can always buy more robust software to stem the onslaught of junk mail, but that often means paying a monthly fee. If you're budget-conscious, another option is to download a free spam-fighting program. SurfSecret SpamDrop, available for free at http://www.surfsecret.com/products/product-SDROP.html, uses the collective effort of thousands of people to kill spam.
As each person uses the program to identify and delete spam from their own inbox, SpamDrop shares that information with everyone else using the software. As a result, the program can now kill the same spam in other people's mailboxes (by adding that sender to a blocked list in everyone's software).
SpamDrop also lets you add email addresses to a whitelist or a blacklist . A whitelist is a list of email addresses it's OK to receive email from, even if the software considers it spam. A blacklist is a list of email addresses you never want to receive email from, even if the software considers it legitimate mail. SpamDrop works with Outlook, and is free for personal use. It doesn't work with Outlook Express as of this writing, although its authors claim they're working on making it compatible.
Tip: Want to get revenge on spammers? Sign up for the free Spam Cop service at http://www.spamcop.net. The site teaches you how to trace spam information back to the sender, and then report on the sender to the Spam Cop site. Be forewarned that tracking spam is not for the faint of heart or time.
Naturally, there are several other effective spam killers besides SpamDrop. Among them is MailWasher, which works with any email program. Rather than operating inside your email program, MailWasher operates before your email software kicks in, identifying spam so you can delete it before it hits your mailbox. You can download MailWasher from http://www.mailwasher.net.