Stop the Spam!
Tired of junk e-mail? Keep your inbox clutter-free with these six Spam-fighting Solutions.
"Slash your insurance rates in half!" "Lose weight the easy way!" "Enhance your performance!" Sound familiar? As the volume of unwanted junk e-mail, or "spam," expands from a trickle to a flood, what was once a minor annoyance has become a major hassle. Spam clutters our inboxes, wastes our time and hogs down the whole e-mail system.

We genealogists are easy targets for spammers. All over the Web, we post queries containing our e-mail addresses. Marketers harvest these addresses and then bombard us with messages hawking everything from cheap Viagra to work-at-home plans to bogus coats of arms. E-mail marketing costs far less than direct-mail, radio or TV advertising, and even a small success rate yields a handsome profit for the spammer.

Legislation could help control spam. The federal Can-Spam Act of 2003 requires senders of unsolicited e-mail to identify themselves accurately. That means they can't use misleading subject lines or disguise the e-mail's origin. They also must provide a reply option, so recipients can specify whether they want to receive mass mailings from that sender in the future. This legislative effort is a step in the right direction, but unlikely to have much effect. Many spammers operate from abroad, and others could move offshore, outside the jurisdiction of American laws. And by opening an attachment to send a reply, you still run the risk of downloading a virus.