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Here are some ways to reduce junk e-mail


May 28, 2001

I was once a junk mail king. The mailings that I created caused more trees to be killed than even Paul Bunyan and his blue ox could have handled. They'd go out — sometimes unsolicited — to mailboxes around the country, complete with blaring headlines like "Free Gift Inside."

In my most guilty moments I reassured myself that the mailings were handy for starting the fireplace and, based on the fact that they produced a lot of income, there was a hidden demand for mail-order pears.

So it's poetic justice that today I write about ways to eliminate junk e-mail. If I was still an advertising copywriter, I would be shamelessly creating some of the offers you receive when you log onto your e-mail account daily.

The problem is so common that readers often write, telling me that they are sick of getting unsolicited offers for porn sites, hair growing tonics and pitches for work-at-home schemes.

There's no perfect way to get rid of all junk e-mail, also called "spam." But there are things that you can do to slow the flow.

The first rule may strike you as contrary to common sense. You should avoid taking up junk mailers on the offer commonly made in the junk e-mail to remove you from future mailings. Usually you are instructed to go to a Web site, or respond by telling them to take your name off the list.

While the legitimate junk mailers do exactly that, those who really abuse the system don't. In fact, when you reply to the e-mail asking to be removed you actually make your address more valuable to spammers. Replying proves that your e-mail account is active and -- when advertisers buy lists of e-mail addresses -- the active accounts sell for more money.

The next step is a bit more logical. Most e-mail programs have settings that let you filter out spam.

For instance, EarthLink customers can use a filter called the Spamilator. If you use Microsoft Outlook, you can use special junk mail settings (you'll find them under Tools). Once you have set up the junk mail feature on that program you can -- as you receive mailings that you don't want -- add those addresses to a special list. From then on, the mailings from those addresses will go into a junk mail folder that you can review from time to time.

Microsoft's Web-based e-mail — Hotmail.com — also has special junk mail features. You can read about them on the Web site www.hotmail.com.

Just keep in mind that no filter will eliminate junk e-mail. Mailers are clever in a weasel-like way and enormously persistent. So they change addresses more often than someone living one step ahead of the bill collectors.

Bill Husted writes about high technology for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

By Bill Husted, News Wire Services, Copyright © 2001, Rocky Mountain News


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