What can I do about spam?
Now, how can I ignore those spam emails? How can I keep them out of my Inbox? You need a spam filter!
We’ve all tried the old way — using a "block the sender" function. Basically, this is a specific filter (called a "rule" by some programs) that says "if an email comes from him, put it in the spam folder." Whether you use Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora (like I do), Mozilla Thunderbird, or some other email program, they almost all provide a way to block or trash emails from specific individuals or domains. But, that doesn’t work any more…
Your ISP’s spam filter
Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have some form of optional anti-spam software on their mailservers. Note that I said optional — sometimes they make you turn the function on. Almost all ISPs will let you turn the function off. This anti-spam system is not meant to catch out-going spam (they use other tricks for that) — it is designed to identify incoming emails by their characteristics and classify them as spam if appropriate.
You may have to look around to find the "preferences" settings location at your ISP’s web site. At Cox.net, the settings are in the section "Customer Tool Box" on the right-hand side of the local cox.net homepage. The ISP systems do a pretty good job, but no system is perfect.
You should have alternatives to "label it as spam" or "identify spam and delete it."
While many people have told me that they let their ISP delete the spam emails, I recommend that you use the "label it" option and allow it to come to your computer. Then, use the "filters" or "rules" capability of your email program to put these in a folder you call spam.
I’m sure you know Murphy’s Law: "If something can go wrong, it will." Murphy’s Law applies with a vengence to email systems.
My First Law of Email"Some spam will get to the Inbox. You can’t block all spam without blocking legitimate emails that you really want.".
My Second Law of Email"The more important an email, the more likely that a spam filter is to mis-classify it as spam.".
Running your own spam filter, the much better option
One of the first things you can do can prevent spam from ever reaching your mailbox. Mailwasher Pro lets you log into your mail account, view the sender, subject, size and more. You can also preview the email itself in a safe manner, from within the Mailwasher Pro program. Mailwasher Pro will learn what you think is spam and will pre-classify the emails. You can tell it to delete the spam, phishing and virus emails. Alternatively, you can make Mailwasher Pro bounce the message back, as if your email address was no good. The goal of this bounce-back is to get your name off the spammers’ lists! Mailwasher has a free 30-day trial.
You can also use a third-party anti-spam program that automatically pre-screens and handles the spam on your computer. If you use a third-party program, you use it to identify and label the spam, and then set the rules/filters in your email program to take the appropriate action — this might be "delete," but I recommend transferring them to a "junk" or "spam" folder so you can review them occasionally.
You should review the contents of the junk/spam folder occasionally to see if there is anything important in it. No anti-spam system is perfect. Unfortunately, they make errors both ways. Sometimes, hey fail to identify spam as being spam. Other times, they mis-identify good emails as spam. If you let your ISP delete them, or if you delete them without checking, you’ll miss some important emails.
Watch the Fallout!
My number one rule of email is: if I am expecting an important email, check the spam folder. It might be there. Murphy’s Law of Email says "the more important the email is, the more likely it is to be classified as spam."
Your Email Program’s Spam Filter
What anti-spam programs can I use on my computer?
First, some email programs have built-in anti-spam functions. If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, it has an anti-spam system built-in, plus you can use the "rules" function along with filtering by your ISP. If you’re using Outlook Express, you might want to consider a third-party anti-spam program — just pay attention to what you are downloading or buying. Many anti-spam programs are designed for Outlook, not Outlook Express. They may install, but they won’t do a thing.
If you are using Eudora, the old "paid version" included a junk mail filter, while the "sponsored" and "light" versions did not. Eudora went freeware, but the junk filter still only applied if you previously had the paid version. Now, Eudora has been redone as Eudora OSE (Open Source Edition), which is a derivative of Thunderbird.
I use Mailwasher Pro 2011 with my email programs — Eudora OSE for most of my emails and Outlook 2007 for occasional use.
Separate Spam Filter Programs
POPFile can also be set to force the classification answer under certain circumstances. I use this to make sure that emails from certain people will never end up being classified as spam. At this point, I’ve used POPFile for about 8 months, and I get 150 or so spams per day.
The free email & news program called Mozilla Thunderbird has a built-in anti-spam filter. Thunderbird’s slogan is “Reclaim your Inbox!”
You must train almost every anti-spam program to recognize what you consider to be spam. At first, it may identify very little. After a couple days of training, it will be pretty accurate. After a couple months, you should occasionally see a spam email in your Inbox.
Mailwasher Pro takes a different approach to the anti-spam challenge. You can use Mailwasher to look at email headers before actually downloading the emails, let Mailwasher make its initial classification, review that, and download only the good emails. You can even "bounce" the spam emails back as if your email address is bogus. Some people swear this works. In my opinion, most of the spam is coming with fake "from" addresses, so all you would be doing is adding to the junk email problem!
There are also a number of anti-spam programs from the standard set of utility program manufacturers.