Ten Tips on Reducing Junk Email on AOL
By Vincent Yau

Is your AOL email box drowning in a sea of junk email, online scams and unsolicited offers? Follow these simple tips and greatly decrease the amount of spam, unwanted emails, you receive:

1. Don’t publish your email address.

Spammers use search spiders that scan web sites for email addresses. By listing your email address publicly on the Internet, you are greatly increasing the chance of having your email address added to a list for spamming.

2. Use a different screen name to chat.

The main method of obtaining emails on AOL for spammers is through the online chat rooms. Whenever you enter a chat room, your screen name is added to the list of people currently in that chat room. Spammers have programs that read those lists and save the screen names into their email lists.

America Online provides you with seven screen names. Dedicate a screen name for chatting. If you meet someone in a chat that you would like to email, tell him or her to contact you with your real screen name. For example, you talk with your chatting screen name, Love2Talk, so that you do not have to reveal your real screen name, SkyDiver123, to strangers.

To create a new screen name:

• Sign on to AOL with your master AOL screen name.
• Go to keyword: names.
• Click “CREATE a Screen Name” under Screen Name Options.
• Enter a new screen name (i.e. Love2Talk).

3. Fill out online forms with care.

Many online forms that request your contact information on web sites have checkboxes that allow you to opt in or out of special email promotions. Make sure these are unchecked before clicking on the “Submit” button.

If you must provide a valid email address, use an alternate screen name (you could use the one you created for chatting) to avoid the chance of having your real screen name passed on to mass marketers.

4. Use AOL Mail Controls.

You can setup your AOL preferences to accept only messages from certain email addresses. Through Mail Controls, you can choose whether to accept messages only from other AOL members, to accept messages only from certain email addresses that you list, or to block emails from certain email addresses (ex. annoying@garbagemail.com) or domains (ex. any messages from garbagemail.com) that you list.

To enable mail controls:

• Sign on to AOL with your master AOL screen name.
• Go to keyword: mail controls.
• Read the brief intro then click “Next.”
• Select the screen name to set the controls for and click “Customize Mail Controls for this Screen Name,” then click “Next.”
• Select which sources you want to accept messages from and which sources you wish to block. Click “Next.”
• Choose whether you want to be able to view pictures or download files from your email box. Click “Next.”
• The last screen lists your previous choices for confirmation. Click “Save” to keep your changes, otherwise click “Cancel.”

5. Do not reply to junk email.

If you receive an unsolicited message that instructs you to send a reply if you do not wish to receive more messages, do not reply. By returning a response, you signal to the spammers that you actively read their junk email, which may make you the target of even more unwanted messages.

6. Add Trusted Email Addresses to Your Address Book.

If you read an email message from a friend or associate, click “Add Address” on the right of the message. With the new AOL version 8.0, you can filter your messages based on whether the sender is in your address book (People I Know), sent the message to more than one person (Bulk Sender), or is not in your address book (Unknown Sender). This feature allows you to quickly scan whether known friends have sent you any new emails.

To view messages from friends:

• Click “Read” on the AOL toolbar.
• On the right side of your mailbox, click the “Show me mail from” list and select “People I Know”

7. Report Spam to AOL

In the event you receive a junk email message, you can report the message to AOL. While reporting does not immediately remedy the problem, it does notify AOL of the issue so that they may delete the account if sent from an AOL screen name for violating the “no spam” clause of AOL’s Terms of Service (TOS) or potentially cause AOL to blacklist emails sent from the sender’s Internet address. You also have the option of blocking the address from sending you messages in the future.

To report spam to AOL:

• Click “Read” on the AOL toolbar.
• Select the offending message by clicking once on it.
• Click “Report Spam” at the bottom of your mailbox.
• Enter comments (optional)
• Click “Send Report” to only file the complaint or click “Send and Block” to file the complaint and block the sender from sending future messages to you.

8. Unsubscribe to Old Newsletters and Email Groups.

If you signed up for an online newsletter or an email group that you no longer wish to receive messages from, there is usually a link at the bottom of the message with unsubscribing instructions. Unsubscribing usually involves sending a reply to a certain email address with the subject “UNSUBSCRIBE” or visiting the web site you signed up on and opting out of the newsletter.

9. Write to Your Congressional Representatives.

Anti-spam legislation is being proposed in Congress to greatly curb the amount of unsolicited email and impose fines as heavy as $11,000 per message against spammers. Writing to your congressional representatives concerning supporting initiatives against unsolicited email may help stop a majority of spam in the future.

10. Use email-filtering software.

There is a third party spam-blocking program available for America Online. Garbage Man, created by WaveOp, enhances America Online’s mail sorting capability and allows users to block messages based on keywords in the message subject and body content. The program is free to try for 15 days and voluntary registration is only $8.

For more information, visit: http://www.waveop.com/garbageman.

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