Every day when I open my email, I am flooded with spam.
I get messages trying to sell me everything from Viagra to discount mortgages to memberships at adult Web sites.
I even get an occasional message from a "dethroned prince" from Nigeria promising that if only I help him (by giving him my bank account information) he'll be able to get access to his frozen assets and give me several million for my troubles.
It's gotten to the point that out of 60 to 70 messages, only a handful is legitimate.
How is it that I, a computer fixer with decades of experience, can get flooded with spam?
Don't I, of all people, know how to manage this scourge any better? Frankly, no. But, it's not from a lack or trying.
Unfortunately, just about everything I've tried to stem the flow of spam has had either negative or short-term effects. I've found the most effective way (for me anyway) is to just scan the subject headers and click the delete button and nuke all the unwanted emails one by one.
I know what you are thinking. Many of you are successfully using some sort of spam filter and are thinking, "If Sean would just switch to this method, all of his spam woes would be over." All I can really say to that is thanks, but no thanks.
Over the years, as I have tried one method after another to manage unwanted email, I've noticed a common thread; many spam filters are too aggressive and have a tendency to delete messages I actually want.
Many spam filters will look at the sender's domain name and filter the message that way. The problem with that is I may actually want messages from that domain and the spam filter can unintentionally red flag messages that I actually want to read.
An example of that would be the time I was trying to refinance my home. My father, being ever helpful, sent me an email listing the mortgage rates of a certain lender. The spam filter spotted the key words "low mortgage rates" and filtered that message as spam.
Then, since the offending message came from my dad's email address, all future messages from him were filtered. The really frustrating thing was that I didn't know my dad's email was getting filtered, so I didn't know he was trying to email me until he called annoyed that I was, "ignoring his email."
Other methods have had mixed results, too.
One question that always comes up is, "How do these spammers get your email address in the first place?"
It's not like you go to some site and sign up for spam. I've seen cases where people get new email accounts and within a week the flow of spam begins.
There are dozens of ways that email addresses end up as targets for the spammers, but I'll just cover a couple.
Forwarding email messages to everyone in your address book (or actually corresponding with someone who engages in this practice) can expose your address to the spammers, because as the messages gets forwarded on and on, so do all the addresses listed in the e-mail. Then, once out in cyberspace, there are a number of ways that the addresses can get harvested from that email.
Another method is the old "random email address" trick. What they do is use a computer program to generate thousands of email addressed using random letters and numbers before the @ symbol and the domain name. Then, they send out test messages to the randomly generated addresses and the ones that don't get rejected by the mail system as a bad address, they keep. They end up with a list of addresses that they know go somewhere. If you have ever gotten an email with no subject and no message it's possible that that's where that message is coming from and unfortunately, by the time you get the message, it's too late. They already know that the email address is a good one.
Until I find a method to manage the flow of spam that does not have unwanted side effects, I guess I will just continue to just delete them as they come in. At least I don't have to walk out to the mailbox in the rain to get my junk mail.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).