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Published 06-Mar-2003

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  eMail woes  

Here are some suggestions to help minimise the amount of junk mail that lands in your inbox.

Check if your Internet Service Provider has a web-based email facility (for example, Origin and Bigpond do). Connect to the 'Net and, before you start Outlook Express, use your browser to go to your ISP's homepage to log into their webmail service. Note you must do this before using Outlook Express otherwise OE will download all your mail from your ISP's server.

Now you can select all the junk mail to delete before it can get to your computer. Some junk mail is easy to recognise (the subject line will tell you), other you'll recognise by the sender not being someone you know.

An important rule is not to read any junk mail and click on an unsubscribe button, or worse, post a reply with a vehement message not to send more! Junk mail is posted on the chance your email address is valid and, as soon as you reply, the sender knows your address is live. So you get more, not only from that sender but others as well.

For Hotmail users, make up your contacts list, either by adding each person's address when you first send an email or sit down and enter each address. Then go to Options (it's on the right of the tabs), under Mail Handling choose Junk Mail Filter and set it to Exclusive. While in Options, under Your Information check you have not ticked to be listed on the Member Directory.

Another precaution you might want to take, particularly if your ISP doesn't provide a webmail service, is to download and install a free tool called MailWasher. It basically does the job of deleting any posts that you would otherwise do manually for webmail.

  Modem hijacking  

Internet dumping or modem jacking is the process used by 'Net scammers to log you off your normal connection and dial up to an international phone number or premium 190 number. You don't know too much about what's happened until you get your next phone bill!

Firstly, these scams don't happen by themselves. So follow the rule that, before you click OK, Yes or a subscribe button on a web page, you know exactly what you're agreeing to. That's not all; who are these people that are asking you to agree? If you don't know, don't!

What to do if your computer already has one of these internet dumping connections? How do you get rid of it?

Begin by downloading a tool called Ad-aware which is designed to rid your computer of spyware (unscrupulous marketeers would call it market research). Ad-aware Standard is free and, after installation, will scan your system for any signs of spyware and scumware. Some of the items it will find aren't as serious as others and, looking through the list, you'll see a large number of cookies; they're not the serious ones. Move onto the next step and let Ad-aware delete all the spyware elements it has found.

The next step is to check the internet connections on your computer. For Win95/98/ME users, right-click on the Internet Explorer icon on your desktop and from the menu, choose Properties (it's at the bottom). On the tabbed box that comes up, choose Connections and see what's in the list. You should only have your ISP's connection; any others you can highlight and delete.

Windows XP users can check the Connect To item on the Start menu; hover the mouse over Connect To and you should only have your ISP listed. Right click on a connection that shouldn't be there and delete it. Or, on the Start menu, choose Control Panel - Network and Internet Connections - Network Connections. You should only have your ISP's connection.

The next time you restart your computer, check the spyware connection is not there. Sometimes Ad-aware will only find one entry to remove but there may be older entries. Run Ad-aware again and work through the above checks.

If Ad-aware is not successfully removing this type of rogue connection, try Spybot's Search and Destroy. It works slighly differently when detecting spyware and scumware and may do a better job in some cases than Ad-aware.

Even if you're successful in removing Internet dumping connections from your computer, the best way to guard against future intrusions by someone using your computer is to ring your telco and tell them to install a bar on international and premium 190 calls.