Spam’s off the menu

There are 250 billion spam emails floating around every day
There are 250 billion spam emails floating around every day
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Tech Talk: David Behrens looks at today’s improved email options.

YOU’D have thought that with so much technology around, someone would have come up with a way to stop junk emails from reaching your inbox. At he last count there were still more than 250 billion around every day.

However, some email services are better than others at blocking them. And as more of us migrate from desktop PCs to mobiles, some services are proving themselves more portable, too. All of which makes this a good time to take a fresh look at your email provider and think about moving.

A few years ago, nearly all of us used Outlook Express, hooked up to the email server of our internet company. Messages were downloaded to our PCs and stayed there until we deleted them. But with the need to access mail on our phones and netbooks as well, that system has been rendered obsolete. Instead, web-based services like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail have taken over. These store messages on their own servers, so you can access them from anywhere – and they’re also better (though still far from perfect) at filtering out those junk emails. There’s another benefit, too: once you’ve migrated, you can change your internet provider whenever you like without also having to change your email address. Gmail is the best of the newer services at stopping junk, placing suspicious “spam” messages in a separate folder that you see only if you go looking for it. You can also mark other messages as spam and have the system remember your choice if the same sender emails you again.

Gmail lets you import your library of old messages, too, and – best of all – can send and receive messages from any other email account you’ve ever had. This means you can continue to use your existing address and have all your messages delivered automatically to the same folder and filtered for junk. Yahoo and Hotmail will also check other accounts this way. It’s all a step up from Outlook Express, but even if you choose to stick with that you can still reduce your spam count by following a few simple rules. Most importantly, never reply to a spammer, however tempting it may be. Your message will never be read but you will have “validated” your address and you’ll receive more junk as a result. Clicking an “unsubscribe” link has the same effect. It’s also good to keep a second “disposable” email address for use when you buy online or post messages on forums. You don’t need to check it regularly and if it fills with junk you can abandon it for another.