Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Junk email clutters my inbox

When I changed jobs in 2012, I inherited an email address that was incredibly popular — with spammers. Going on two years later, I'm still receiving scores of spam and phishing emails every day. I think I must receive every spam message this side of Mogadishu.

These emails suggest some things about the vulnerability of people using the Internet. They suggest that people are overweight — thus, the emails proclaiming shocking photos of people (often celebrities) who have lost weight. They suggest that people have problems with erectile dysfunction — thus, the emails about "Men's Renewal," "male enhancement" and testosterone. They suggests that American men are sexually longing — thus, the emails from "Russian Brides" and "Ashley Madison," who promotes a website advocating adulterous affairs with other married men/women. They suggest that people are greedy — thus all the emails about lottery winnings, bank errors in your favor, and the hundreds of Nigerians who need a friend to deposit millions of dollars in illicit earnings into an American bank account.

And these emails suggest that people are gullible. A recent trend I've noticed involves enigmatic messages such as, "whassup?" or "Where did you go?" or "Why did you leave?" The senders of these messages often have vaguely androgynous names, such as Jordan or Harper.

Some of these emails have gone unchanged since I first logged onto the account. Their persistence suggests that they have been successful in luring in their victims. Unfortunately, the spam filters on my computer and my phone have been unsuccessful in removing these unwanted emails. They keep coming. Every day.

I could take the time to build filters in my Outlook account to corral the unwanted email, but the time hardly seems worthwhile. Deleting them from my inbox takes less time. And the spammers are nimble. If I succeed in removing one message, the spammers will simply modify the subject, the sender or other information that might be rejected by my filters.

Junk email is the price we pay for the convenience — the necessity — of using email. Like junk postal mail, it consumes our time to look at it and throw it away, but in our multi-device digitall world, we have to toss out junk email twice or more times. And your mail server might resend emails you've deleted when it detects that the deleted email is not in your inbox.

Once an email account becomes a target of spam, many people have found, there is no solution short of deleting the account and opening a new email account. I've not resorted to that yet because the email I use is on publicity and in the contacts of dozens of actual people who need to contact me occasionally. I plan to keep the account I have and just move the unwanted emails into the junk folder two or three times a day.

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