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Filter Email Spam - What Actually Works?
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If you have an email address, you probably have spam. Your service provider should has something in place to filter email spam, but that doesn't mean it works all the time. Sometimes the filter will send a perfectly innocent message into the spam folder, and other times it will miss things that just seem to scream at you, "I'm spam! I'm spam!" It's a constant battle between the filters and the spammers, and too often it seems that the spammers are winning.

You might have wondered why your service can't seem to effectively filter email spam. What makes for a good spam filter; what actually works? Two things, actually: keywords and lists.

Keywords are words and phrases that filters (and every email reader in the world) have come to associate with spam. Cheap drugs, male enhancement, make millions, lose weight fast, free DVDs, congratulations on your winning lottery ticket, and on and on it goes. Spam filters have gotten wise to most of these phrases and words, and the majority of the spam emails get caught.

Of course, the spammers just got creative. They started making deliberate spelling mistakes, used innocuous titles like "Hello!", proclaimed themselves to be a prince of Nigeria in need of urgent assistance from a kind person from America who would be paid handsomely for his or her trouble. Spam filters were modified to catch these, and so the spammers got even more creative. It's an arms race now, to see who can filter email spam out and who can sneak it through.

The other method filters use is basically whitelists and blacklists. These are based on the sender's past behavior. Legitimate-looking folks get let through, and proven spammers get blocked permanently. Unfortunately, keeping up these lists is a lot of work, and spammers are sneaky. They can act like model citizens for awhile in order to get in one good blast of spam, then switch to another address when that one gets blacklisted. Again, it's a never-ending battle.

You can contribute to the fight to filter email spam in your own inbox. You can set up your own whitelist and blacklist, your own keywords that always mean spam to you. You'll be just another soldier in this endless war, but it's certainly a fight worth joining. It will be a lot of work, though.

Will the war ever end? Probably not. The lure of gullible folks who will give them money in exchange for nothing but empty promises is too strong for spammers to resist. And even if just 1% of readers fall for the endless spam, with thousands and millions of emails going out every day, that's still a good chunk of change. All we can do is just keep fighting the good fight. Maybe someday a perfect spam filter will be created.

Street Talk

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