I hate junk mail. Yet, it appears to be part of being connected to the Internet.
There are numerous solutions to handling junk e-mail. Most commercial systems, however, have one main flaw. They occassionally mistake a legitimate message for one that is junk. And thus, we come to the next email best practice.
EMAIL BEST PRACTICE NUMBER SIX:
Avoid using a commercial email spam filter system. Instead, create rules that move unwanted email to your Junk E-mail box. If you do use a commercial spam filter package, review your Junk E-mail box often.
This rule relates to best practice number four, reply within 24 hours.
Too often I have found important emails have been removed from my inbox by the spam filter days or even weeks after I should have replied to it.
And, with a couple email rules, I capture almost all the annoying spam I receive.
Here is how I setup my rules within Microsoft Outlook®. Please note that your email system may be a different version than mine. As such, I suggest using the Help feature that came with your package. I currently am using Microsoft Outlook 2007®.
In First select ‘Rules and Alerts…’ from the Tools pull down menu.
Next click on the “New Rule…” button. This will launch a Rules Wizard that will walk you through creating a new rule. Next, in the top “Step 1: Select a template” section, highlight the “Move messages with specific words in the subject to a folder” by clicking it. In the bottom half you will see a “Step 2: Edit the rule description”. Here click the blue underline words in the line that states, “with specific words in the subject”. This will pull up a screen where you may enter the words you see in the messages that you consider spam. After you are done adding the words and/or their variations you wish to check, click the “OK” button.
Next, also in the bottom half you will see a “Step 2: Edit the rule description”. Here click the blue underline word in the line that states, “move it to the specified folder”. This will pull up a screen where you may select the Junk E-mail folder. After selecting the folder you wish to move the junk to, click the “OK” button, and then the “Finish” button.
Honestly, with two rules I catch probably 95% or more of my spam. One filters for variations of “Viagra” in the subject line. The other takes emails sent from my primary email address. Both, place those emails the criteria I had set to the Junk E-mail folder, or the Deleted Items recycle bin. I suggest testing your rules before having anything filtered sent directly to the Deleted Items recycle bin. I also empty my Junk E-mail folder quarterly.
Some email packages allow you to block email from various countries. As I am involved in an international graduate degree program through the University of Liverpool (Masters of Science in Management Information Systems), I am not using that feature. Please check your email program help feature for more information on this topic. In my version of Outlook, it is located under Tools > Options > Junk E-mail Options > on the International tab. You then will need to click on the “Blocked Top-Level Domain List…” button. Then you will be able to select the countries you wish to block.
It is also a good idean not to open any note that you suspect as spam as it will go out to a server on the Internet to tell that your email is valid. If you recognize the source of the spam as a legitimate business, then there should be instructions to unsubscribe from their email distribution list.
EMAIL BEST PRACTICE NUMBER SEVEN:
Unsubscribe from email distribution lists you no longer wish to receive email from. Do this for emails you receive from organizations you recognize only.
Most legitimate organizations will include instructions for unsubscribing on the bottom of their messages. If it is from an organization you do not trust, delete the email: do not reply, do not unsubscribe. If you do reply or unsubscribe from a non reputable firm, they will mark you email address as valid and perhaps even sell it to other spammers.
As email software packages vary greatly in using rules to manage messages, I suggest reading through the “Help” options. With a few well written rules, most of your junk email will be handled, and you are far less likely to miss any important emails.
Many large organizations have centralized junk mail filters. It is important for an organization to know what the filtering rules are as well as look for false positives, i.e. emails that are marked as spam but are in fact not spam. Imagine if your organization missed a large sale because an important email was filtered as spam. Similarly, it is often a good practice to have a courtesy email sent to the intended recipient of an email marked as spam or possibly containing malware.
In my next article in this series, I will discuss the danagers of an auto archiving feature. This article is part of a series of articles on Email best practices.