Although the Internet has revolutionized the way we live, it has also created a whole new set of annoyances for savvy web surfers. Spam emails, unsolicited junk messages hawking free porn, cheap Viagra, or discount car insurance, can quickly clog up your inbox. In fact, some experts believe that almost 80% of the email sent each day can be classified as spam. If you use email throughout your workday, dealing with spam emails can seem like an overwhelming task.
Companies that send spam to unsuspecting Internet users have several different methods they use to collect email addresses. Some spammers buy customer lists from large corporations, while others use computers that are programmed to automatically harvest email addresses from websites and online newsgroups. In some cases, spammers will merely randomly generate address combinations in hopes of reaching an active email account.
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Unfortunately, the companies that send spam emails have developed several different tricks to evade even the most sophisticated spam filters and spam blockers. Anti-spam software works by analyzing the text of an email for keywords that indicate the subject of the message. Purposely misspelling words allows spam emails to slip through the cracks without permanently obscuring the meaning of the text. Another common tactic is to use substitutions such as the number “0” for the letter “o” – spelling “free mortgage quotes” as “free m0rtgage qu0tes.”
If you receive spam emails that appear to be complete gibberish, you can assume the message was originally written in a foreign language. The Internet has opened up new opportunities for global entrepreneurs, including spammers. However, most computers in English-speaking countries can’t display the unique characters used in Chinese or Japanese text. Commonly, email software will simply render these spam emails as a jumble of random letters, boxes, sun symbols, and upside down question marks.
While spam emails are almost impossible to eliminate, you can help reduce the number of unwanted emails you receive by taking a few simple precautions. Learn how your email account handles spam so you can take full advantage of available spam filters and spam blockers. Don’t give your work or school email address to anyone online; set up a separate email account to use for answering online surveys or posting on Internet message boards. Turn off your computer’s auto return receipt acknowledgment feature and never personally respond to a spam email, since you’ll only give the spammer confirmation that your email address is active. Finally, invest in a firewall for additional Internet security.