The Junk Mail Trip Wire

What’s in your email inbox that should not be? Most of your email. Catching up on email messages in the inbox is not fun. Fortunately, 90-percent of email is junk and easy to spot.

If you’ve been using the internet and email as long as me, and have as many old email addresses as me, then you’re getting plenty of junk mail.

Most of it is junk, right? What have you done to filter all the junk mail from the good mail?

It’s a process and there’s no perfect solution other than my unpatented “I Wish I Had Patented This Two Step Process” process.

I set up filters, trip wires, wherever I can, on whatever mail servers my mail comes from. I also set up trip wires, filters on my mail applications (mostly Mac OS X Mail).

This process is simple. The good email messages make it to the inbox, so I check that first. The filtered messages get moved to the junk mail box, and I check that, too. See? Two steps. Simple.

Most of my mail servers use Spam Assassin to filter and flag incoming junk mail. It’s very good and seldom catches real email, and almost always catches bad email.

Some of my mail servers use Postfix and I set up filters a year or two ago and that prevents even more junk mail from reaching my inbox. Those messages I never even see.

The junk mail that comes through gets flagged by Spam Assassin and my mail application moves it to a junk mail folder which I check from time to time.

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I have Spam Assassin set at two points to trip the flag. Two points is very aggressive. Five points is recommended.

Points are awarded by Spam Assassin based on a variety of configurations; malformed mail headers, black lists, message content, and so on.

Some legitimate mail gets flagged with even 2.1 total points. Junk mail is almost always six points or higher. Sometimes much higher.

As I was searching through mail of the past few weeks (I’m awake—can’t you tell?), I came across a special message that deserves some honor.

35.5 points. Remember, two points gets the message flagged as junk mail. 35 points deserves some kind of prize.

All of my filters went off on this message. All the blacklists, all the header problems, all the content markers, everything. Ding, ding, ding. More ding.

What was the message? In part…

“Your cre dit doesn’t matter to us! If you OWN real est ate
and want IMMEDIATEB cash to spend ANY way you like, or simply wish
to LOWER your monthly paym ents by a third or more, here are the dea ls
we have TODAY (hurry, these ofers will expre TONIGHT):

$488,000.00 at a 3.67,% fixed-rateR
$372,000.00 at a 3.90,% variable-rate6
$492,000.00 at a 3.21,% interest-onlyW
$248,000.00 at a 3.36,% fixed-rate9
$198,000.00 at a 3.55,% variable-rateR

Hurry, when these deals are gone, they are gone Simply fill out this one-min ute form…

Don’t worry about approval, your cre dit will not disqualify you!”

I’m sure you’ve had a few like that. Notice that the trip wire word “credit” is actually “cre dit”, clearly modifed so spam detection software would not notice.

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Still, 35 points is a whole lot of tripping.

Until accused spammers are castrated in public, junk mail will be around for years to come. The only defense is a good offense, and that requires effective trip wires; those filters which flag and mark incoming messages.

Regardless, it’s still a two step process. Check the inbox for legitimate email messages, then check the junk mail box for anything legitimate.

Do you have a better, more effective, less painful solution? Let me know. I have weeks of email messages to sort through and I’m short on time.