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Program helps can the spam

December 02, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

If you are like me, you are sick and tired of spam, telemarketers' calls and junk mail.

Well, I've been doing some detective work and found and put in place a few solutions over the last few weeks.

I downloaded a free Windows-based program called Mailwasher at http://www.mailwasher.net which blocks unwanted e-mail, known as spam, and some viruses. So far it seems to work pretty well.

When you receive e-mails, you can indicate to the program whether you want to continue to receive e-mails from the sender. If you don't, it will "bounce" the e-mail back to the originator. The person who sent the e-mail will think your address is no longer valid and will, you hope, stop sending you junk e-mail.

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No program will stop all unwanted e-mail but this is helping reduce how much comes my way.

I downloaded a free Windows-based program at www.callwave.com which essentially sets up an answering machine on your computer.

The program informs you when someone has called you when you are on the Internet and, in most cases, that person's phone number.

The caller can leave a short message on the machine.

If you pay an additional $10 a month, a window will pop up on the computer screen telling you who is calling and asking if you want to talk to the caller. Usually it's a telemarketer so I just ignore it.

But if it is my mom calling, for example, I click a button indicating I want to take the call, she is asked to hold on a moment and then the Internet connection is ended and she and I can talk.

Callwave is a good way to deal with calls you may miss while online and avoids the expense of having to get a second phone line.

Then there is the old-fashioned junk mail of the print kind, be it catalogs, credit card offers or celebrities asking for you to help them with a cause.

There is a great Internet site at www.obviously.com/junkmail which provides information on everything from how to stop receipt of mail-order catalogs to how to get America On-Line to stop sending you free discs and how to block the mailing of ads for grocery stores.

The Web site says if you have too much junk mail to deal with individually, you can send a postcard or letter to Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service, PO Box 9008, Farmingdale NY 11735-9008. Include your complete name, address, ZIP code and a request to "activate the preference service."

While this may stop mail you do not want for up to five years, it may also accidentally stop some promotions you would have liked to receive.

Perhaps you would prefer the more radical, threatening approach suggested by Private Citizen (privatecitizen.com), an organization that exists in order to cut down your junk calls and junk mail.

The cost of $20 may deter some, as it did me. But the concept, if you join, is intriguing.

"We will list you in the Private Citizen Directory, a do-not-call list sent to over 1,500 local and national junk call firms and list sellers across America," the Internet site says.

"The Directory notifies them of your unwillingness to be freely junk called or have your name sold, and warns them of your $500 fee if they use your time and your telephone to solicit you. Private Citizen members consider any phone solicitation to be a junk call; including sales, non-profit and survey calls."

Since the caller does not know whether you will follow through with threats to sue in response to being called despite being on the no-call list, members report a reduction in the amount of calls they receive.

Don't fall for a trap junk mail senders set for you when they tell you how to "unsubscribe" to their unwanted e-mail. If you follow their instructions you are actually confirming to the company that you have read their e-mail.

I hope these sites will help you in your fight against unwanted mail and calls.

Scott Butki is a Herald-Mail reporter who covers the City of Hagerstown.

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