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As the number of e-mail messages you receive grows, it is harder to find the important e-mail message from among all the spam, forwarded jokes, and intra-office memos. 

The first rule of e-mail management is to “protect your inbox.” What does that mean? Your inbox should contain only important, actionable e-mails. Most of the time, your inbox should be almost empty, not the repository for all your e-mails. Learn to create folders! Then you can move your e-mails into the appropriate folder, i.e. “personal,” “to do, ” or specific named folders for specific account or clients. You would, of course save e-mail messages concerning ongoing files, in those particular files. This way you can deal with uncategorized messages quickly.

Do not ever respond to spam messages, even if it is a request to “take you off their list, or unsubscribe.” Once you reply, you have verified your e-mail address and you will now receive more spam. You may also receive a virus spreading through a spam message.

Do not ever click on any link in a spam message. This can take you to fake web sites that appear to be legitimate or to web sites that pull information off your computer or install tracking or other software in your operating system.

Never open a suspected spam message. Simply delete it. You want to reduce the opportunity for an e-mail to loan a virus or gather information from your computer. In older versions of Outlook Express and Microsoft Outlook, the simple act of opening an e-mail can actually open the attachment. In some cases, even previewing the e-mail can open the attachment. You can usually identify the spam from the subject line. Simply delete it.

Never open an attachment from someone you don’t know. That having been said, today’s most malicious viruses appear to be sent by someone who has your information in his/her “contacts” folders or address book. Today, your biggest danger is more likely to come from an attachment from someone you know than from someone you don’t know. Files that end in the extension “.exe” or .pif” are bad, but they can also be disguised so that the file appears to be a common “.doc or pdf” file. It is always better to err on the side of safety and call the sender before opening an e-mail with an attachment that isn’t a PDF file.

Be sure to have virus protection programs and keep them updated. Set up software firewalls, such as Zone-Alarm by Zone labs. Windows XP has a free software firewall built into it, but it’s turned off by default. You must also protect your computer from spyware which is software that collects and sends out information about you, your passwords, your use of the computer and other information. There are two recommended spyware programs and they are both free and downloadable. Ad-aware by Lavasoft ( and Spybot Search & Destroy (

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