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Stop Spam Yourself - For (almost) FREE!

For the past year or so I've been receiving 60-to-100 spam, or unsolicited emails, daily. And this is despite Mindspring's Spaminator filtering out another 30-50 every day. It got so bad I had to spend 15 minutes or more daily just sifting through my inbox deciding what was worth reading and what should be ignored. Obviously, I'd rather spend my time worrying about other things. As Jakob Nielsen has said, spam is "attention theft."

Unlike many, I am against government intervention to ban unsolicited emails. I really don't want the government messing with my email, and I suspect the serious spammers will find a way around a government ban, anyway.

There is software out there that will begin to help you stop spam. Some works better than others. Mindspring's Spaminator appears to be virtually worthless (thank goodness they don't charge for it!). I've taken a quick look at several software packages that use high-tech algorithms to filter spam--I'm not sure how well they work. Most will cost you in the $39 range. Maybe worth it--maybe not.

I've heard of one approach that works perfectly, but will annoy all your friends from whom you want to receive email. When they send you an email, your software sends them a reply that asks them to confirm that you are sending them a legitimate email--sort of asking you to register as my friend. Effective, but annoying.

I've been using another approach for several months now that is highly effective and didn't cost me a penny. I use Microsoft Outlook and basically set up Rules that move the emails I want into specific folders--everything that's left behind is usually spam. I make one quick scan of the dozens of emails left that were not moved, then I mark them as read or delete them. It takes a few minutes each week or so to update my Rules with new contacts, but the time it saves me is well worth it. And it didn't involve any government intervention!

Here is how you can set this system up on your computer (obviously you need Outlook to do this):

We're going to create a folder in our Inbox into which we'll route the email we do want. Then we're going to create a folder in our Contacts folder for all the e-mail addresses from whom we do want to receive email. Then we'll create a Rule that will move all our wanted emails into our specified folder. Whatever e-mail remains in our main Inbox folder is almost certainly spam. Note that we'll have to update our Rule every now and then when someone's e-mail changes or when we add new emails/contacts to the list of non-spammers.

  1. Create an inbox folder (or folders) for the email you do want.
    1. Right click on your Inbox
    2. Select New Folder
    3. Type the name for your new folder, such as People I Know and click the OK button
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  2. Create a Contacts folder (or folders) for the email addresses of the people from whom you do want to receive email.
    1. Right click on your Contacts folder
    2. Select New Folder
    3. Type the name for your new folder, such as People I Know and click the OK button.
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  3. Create a Contacts entry for each person from whom you want to receive e-mail. There are two ways to do this:
    1. Manually
      1. Click on the new Contacts folder you just set up. At the right (because this is a new Contacts folder you just set up) you should see the text: "There are no items to show in this view. Double-click here to create a new contact."
      2. Either double-click to bring up the New Contact form or right click and select "New Contact."
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      3. Fill out the New Contact form, which at minimum will include the e-mail address of the person from whom you want to receive e-mail.
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      4. When you're finished click "Save and Close."
    2. Automatically from an existing e-mail.
      1. Double-click on a non-spam e-mail sent by someone from whom you'd like to continue receiving e-mail.
      2. In the e-mail's "From:" line, right-click on the sender's e-mail address and select "Add to Contacts."
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      3. This will bring up the New Contact form with your sender's name and e-mail already filled in. All you have to do is click "Save and Close."
      4. However, your new contact will be placed in your root "Contacts" folder. You will need to click on your root "Contacts" folder to open it, then you can select your new contact and drag it into the sub-folder you created a minute ago (i.e. your "PeopleIKnow" folder).
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  4. Once you have your contacts in your new folder, it's time to create the "Rule" that will move these wanted e-mails into the proper folder as they are received.
    1. Click on your "Inbox," then in the menu bar at top, select "Tools|Rules Wizard." This will open the Rules Wizard. This powerful tool is going to separate your spam from the e-mail you want to read.
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    2. Create a new Rule by clicking the "New" button. This will open the New Rule Wizard dialog.
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    3. You can simply click the "Next" button here, since you want the rule to check messages when they arrive.
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    4. At the next screen, under "Which condition(s) do you want to check, scroll down and check "from people or distribution list." In the Rule description window, you will see "Apply this rule after the message arrives from people or distribution list." Click on the blue and underlined text "people or distribution list" to open the Rule Address dialog.
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    5. In the drop-down select box initially listing "Contacts," select the Contacts folder you created a minute ago (i.e. "PeopleIKnow"). You will see all of the contacts you created and moved into that folder. Select all of these contacts, then click the "From" button in the middle. This will copy all of your contacts into the right-hand list. Click "OK."
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    6. Your selected contacts will now appear in the Rule description box. Click "Next."
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    7. Under "What do you want to do with the message?" check the first item, "move it to the specified folder." This text will be added to the Rule description below.
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    8. Click on the blue and underlined text "specified."
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    9. In the "choose a folder" box, click "Inbox" and select the folder you created in the first step (i.e. the "PeopleIKnow" folder-not to be confused with the folder of the same name in your "Contacts" folder). Click "OK"
    10. Your rule is just about done. Click "Next." Since we don't have any exceptions to our rule, just click "Next" again.
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    11. Now give your rule a simple name. And click "Finish."
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    12. If you want to try your rule now, check your new rule and click "Run Now." Otherwise your rule will be applied when you download new email.
Obviously it would be a great improvement it all this was automated, such as anytime you set up a new Contact, Outlook adds it to your rule. That would be a fun projec to work on, but we have a lot on our plate right now. Besides, I suspect that there is something on the market already that customizes Outlook to do this. If so, expect to pay about $39, and it may or may not work. However, my solution is guaranteed or your money back!
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