The Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Newsletter
A Selected Article from the September 2002 Issue

That @$%#*&^^!! Spam

©Copyright 2002 by Eileen Phelps

      Spam? This is not your salty canned meat, made popular in World War II. This is that infuriating stuff that clogs your mailbox with porn, get-rich-quick scams, low-interest loan offers, work-at-home offers that don't work anywhere, and other advertising you didn't request. It's bad enough that our snail-mail boxes are full of the stuff and our phone lines are set to ring several times a day. Now it's estimated that 30% of all E-Mail is spam. At least the Postal Service gets paid to carry the junk mail around. With E-Mail it's the Service providers and the phone companies who have to pay. This cost trickles down to our own pocketbooks.

      Most of us would agree that it should be considered a nuisance and people ought to be able to control what they receive. However, blocking or filtering out spam E-Mail is not always simple. Some spammers put confusing or deceptive subject lines, sender names and clusters of random letters a number of spaces after the rest of the text, all designed to fool the filters. There are some software programs that will block your genealogical newsletters because they're blocking all mass mailings. Dick Eastman writes about this problem in his Online Genealogical Newsletter, saying a lot of his readers have written to him and complained that they were dropped from his list, when it was really their own Internet Provider that cut them off. Some E-Mail users have found that they had fewer problems when they chose an address like hotmail or yahoo for their contacts with merchants or mailing lists, and saved their default address for personal and family mail.

      Should Spam be illegal? There are already some laws in place or in the works, but such laws can be difficult to enforce, and would have to be carefully written so as to hold up in court. The First Amendment has to be kept in mind. To see what the law is in Utah, see: You can see that this address is part of a Web site that archives a host of legislation.

      Do you want to become involved? See: TRAC is a dues-paying organization of anti-spam activists, among other things. At their Web site the current press release reads, "The Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC), the nation's oldest and largest telecommunications consumer group, along with the National Consumers League and Consumer Action join to fight the junk mail epidemic by asking the FTC to 'Ban the Spam' "

      Do you want some serious tips? See: This article by Kaitlin Duck Sherwood has some tips and links I've never heard of. She's even got a book, with helps for reducing the E-Mail workload.

      Do you want to try Anti-Spam software. Here's one that's free for personal use. It can be found at: One of the nice features of this program is that you can create a friends' list so that mail from RootsWeb, Ancestry and your favorite relatives don't get deleted. This would work well for young people you want to supervise and for older people you want to protect.

      As the editor of three newsletters, I'm nervous about anti-spam software. I couldn't begin to create a list of all the people I want to hear from, and I get many mass mailings that look suspiciously like "advertising," because that's what they are-ads for new genealogical products, software, hardware, and services. If I filtered them all out I would lose a large chunk of the news that fills the PAFology, the UGA News, and the Taylor Times. So I grit my teeth and delete, delete, delete. Now and then I figure out something to pass on. Here's my latest discovery:

Clean Up Your Inbox

      If you have the habit of leaving E-Mail messages in your Inbox for a while (in case you need them later) the chances are your mail is dirtier than you think. Here's one way to get rid of some spam in a hurry. It works for Netscape, and probably for other E-Mail readers as well.

      Click on the Date column heading, to arrange all your undeleted messages chronologically. When I did this I found several dozen spam messages, sent with dates as early as 1969. The fake dates are a way to keep the spammer's message at the top of your incoming mail (if you arrange it in order of date). Since I usually put the latest dates at the top, I don't discover these messages, which come in at the bottom of the thousands of messages I leave in my inbox.

      Was I surprised to see so many? You bet, but I simply highlighted the top one, held down the Shift key and used the Down Arrow key until all these nasty messages were highlighted. Then I kept the Shift key down and pressed the Delete key. Away they all went, bypassing my Trash.

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