America Online receives an average of seven million complaints a day about spam — those pesky unwanted e-mails that are clogging our computers. No matter how you connect to the Internet, spam plagues just about everyone. Consumer Reports just tested software programs designed to weed out spam to see how well they work.
Like a lot of people, the Safir family (PRON: SAH-fur) is bombarded with spam. Anna Safir doesn't want her
12-year-old opening the unwanted
"World's most beautiful women, I don't know what that would be. Check out some striking Russian brides."
Consumer Reports says your first line of defense — spam controls offered by your Internet service provider. See if those help.
Your second option, which Dean Gallea (PRON: GAL-ee) just tested, is buying some anti-spam software. These programs have names like SpamKiller, iHate Spam and Spam Sleuth.
He also checked out junk mail filters that come with Microsoft Outlook and Apple's Mac OS X (ten) e-mail program.
To do his tests, Dean collected hundreds of spam messages.
"Here's one trying to sell you prescriptions, make extra cash, get out of debt today, generic Viagra."
He also collected hundreds of valid e-mails from friends. Then he sent both sets of e-mail to his computer to see how well the programs sorted out the spam.
"The best identified almost 90 percent of the spam. The worst — Microsoft's Outlook — only caught about 40 percent."
But there was an even bigger problem — some of the programs weeded out valid
"You might miss an important message if the program identifies good messages as spam."
The worst was Spam Subtract. It tagged one out of five of the valid e-mails as spam.
Based on its tests, Consumer Reports recommends two
easy-to-use anti-spam programs.
The first, from mailshell.com, is called SpamCatcher Universal. It costs 20 dollars.
The second is from bluesquirrel.com. It's called Spam Sleuth and goes for 30 dollars.
Both are easy to install and did a good job of sorting out spam, while leaving valid e-mails in the inbox.
The very best spam blocker Consumer Reports tested is free, but unfortunately you need to be fairly computer savvy to use it. You can get it by going to bloomba.com. The program is called SA Proxy.
If you're an Apple user, be aware the anti-spam programs Consumer Reports tested do not work with Macintosh computers. And people who have AOL, MSN or free
e-mail such as Hotmail, will need to buy additional software to make the anti-spam software run.