Friday, January 26, 2007

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam

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Shades of Monty Python...

As I was working with my email today, I realized that I was not alone in trying to combat Spam! Many others are trying to reduce the space and time it takes to transfer the stuff, in many cases at very real expense since there are a few Service Providers that charge for the amount of data being moved to the subscribers email client.

Some companies, such as AOL and Yahoo, have come up with strategies that don’t really work all that well and tend to cause difficulties for everybody. Others (Hotmail, AOL, etc.) say they have spam filtering, but don’t seem to be able to get it to work at all.

Step One - Being Proactive

So then, what to do to reduce, if not eliminate’ spam in our email inboxes? For the most part, it’s fairly easy, but time consuming, to do. The first step is basically Prevention! Don’t get on the mailing lists in the first place. It is a truth that Spam causes more Spam. On most of those ‘pretty’ advertisements, you will notice a space for you to type in your email address and sometimes even more information such as your name, mailing address, phone number, and other information. Beware of filling out that form! You have no idea where all that information is going to wind up. Yes, it could be used for legitimate purposes, but it could also be used for Identity Theft. It will also be used to subscribe you to a list to receive 'interesting advertisements’ (Spam) that fill your inbox.

Step Two - Unsubscribe When It Arrives

Here in the US, and perhaps other countries as well, it is Federal law that such advertising must include an easily accessed method of ‘opting out’ from the subscription list. In fact, if you do unsubscribe, they must stop sending you ‘stuff’ within 10 days or face substantial fines.

To unsubscribe is, in most cases, a two step process. If you read the fine print at the bottom of those ‘messages’, you will find a paragraph that tells you the procedure you need to follow to remove yourself from their list. Actually, there are two such paragraphs, one for the ad and one for the list owner. Do both! You will be asked to type in your email address, but don’t be too concerned. When you ‘opt-out’ they cannot place you on any list except the removal list. If they don’t, they risk their business. It can take as little as a few hours to as much as 10 days to stop getting spam from them so be patient. Go through the entire list of spam you have received, one at a time, and unsubscribe from both the advertiser and the list owner. You will see positive results by the next day.

I have managed to cut my spam folder contents from 700+ messages a week to less than 15, just by following the two-step procedure, so it really does work. Now, if only I can resist the free laptop ads, I’ll be fine!

Microsoft Gets Involved

In an effort to help decrease spam, Microsoft made some changes in Outlook and Outlook Express that is causing an uproar in the spam ‘industry’. The changes included a reassignment of the way the email clients decode (or interpret) HTML. Instead of using the Internet Explorer HTML Engine to do the work, they decided to use the HTML engine in Word, which is not as ‘complete’ as IE’s. Specifically, it disables the developers’ ability to use CSS (Style Sheets) in emails. The end result being their ‘fine’ work will look garbled and messy which is severely hampering their ability to create eye-catching advertisements to send out as emails. You may have noticed a marked decrease of graphic loaded spam and an increase of textual spam in recent weeks so it must be working.

I suppose you could say, that like death and taxes, Spam will be around for ever. But by using the procedures I described, you should be able to regain control of your email.

Have Fun!