Manage Your E-mail

Odds are, your e-mail program has an "out of office" function. When turned on, this feature automatically responds to any e-mail your account receives with a preprogrammed message. But think about this from "Spam Boy's" perspective: You're sending a reply back to EVERY E-MAIL MESSAGE YOU GET.

Odds are, your e-mail program has an "out of office" (OOO) function. When turned on, this feature automatically responds to any e-mail your account receives with a preprogrammed message (for example, "I'll be out of the office until 12/08. Call 555-1212 for assistance."). From the perspective of a rational, polite, dependable person, this is a fine way to notify customers or colleagues that they may want to pursue other channels for assistance. But think about this from "Spam Boy's" perspective: You're sending a reply back to EVERY E-MAIL MESSAGE YOU GET. That means that besides your legitimate e-mail traffic, every piece of spam you get in your absence will also get an "OOO" response from your e-mail address that confirms your address as "active" to the spammers.

And would you like to guess what they do with your e-mail address once they know it's good? You don't have to be Bill Gates or sell X-10 cameras to figure this one out—they sell it . . . to other spammers . . . and so on . . . .

So, what can you do? For starters, even though you are probably a decent person who looks to do the right thing, you might want to consider not using your "OOO" anymore. As unpleasant as this might seem to you or those you work for or with, it may beat the alternative of perpetuating your turn in the "spam barrel," and subjecting your company and professional life to "spam drain." The "OOO" utilities of most e-mail software programs will allow you to assign certain rules that can help overcome this shortcoming, but they are—for the most part—inadequate.

The best short-term idea for now: Check with your IS department or your Internet service provider, and think before you use your "OOO."

For a longer term solution, visit Cloudmark Inc. at www.cloudmark.com, and read up on its product. Actually, what's important is the online, anti-spam community connected by this product, which is called SpamNet. It may be worth it in your battle against spam.