Surging Spam

If spam is overwhelming your e-mail inbox, you're not alone. A just-published Consumer Reports survey found many of us are getting more junk e-mail than legitimate e-mail. That's driving people to cut back their use of e-mail. This month's cover story, "Protecting Yourself Online," spells out the steps you can take to regain control of your inbox.

Spam pushing cheap loans. Spam selling prescription drugs. Spam for Viagra.

Consumer Reports' Dean Gallea and his team collected more than 1000 spam messages then investigated the best ways to stop junk e-mail.

Most important of all, Dean Gallea, Consumer Reports, said, "Don't buy anything advertised by spam. And don't even click on a link to get yourself removed from a list. That will just let them know your address is valid."

But even if you never click on any spam you can still be overwhelmed by it. Dean set up this account with MSN a year ago. He never used the account, but he was still bombarded with almost 1000 junk e-mails because spammers cracked his address.

Gallea, said, "When we set up an email address that was a simple first name and a couple of digits the spammers guessed it and the account got all kinds of spam."

To thwart spammers, choose a harder-to-guess address, with numbers and letters mixed together. On top of that, be sure to use whatever spam controls are offered by your Internet service provider.

And if that's not enough, consider buying a spam-blocking program. Consumer Reports tested AntiSpam, Spam Catcher and five others.

"A program ideally will catch all the spam you don't want but leave all your legitimate e-mail alone."

Though none of the software was perfect, the best proved to be MailFrontier Desktop, which costs $30. And remember, no matter what don't buy anything advertised by spam, even if you get an e-mail like this one.

Gallea, said, "This is spam, selling you a spam filter. Don't fall for it."

The spam-catching program Consumer Reports recommends is available from Mailfrontier.com. In addition to the $30 fee, there's an annual charge of $9 for updates.

You can get a complete checklist on how to curb spam and protect your computer from viruses and spyware by going to ConsumerReports.org.


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