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Prevent your email from hitting the "junk folder"

Question

Someone sent me an email with an attachment and I found the message in my junk mail folder. The message was there, but the attachment was gone. Why is this happening?

Answer

Unfortunately, we live in a world of electronic junk mail. A world full of it. Because of excess of mail, our mail programs try to get smarter and smarter to weed out the junk and keep the good stuff. But, it’s not perfect.

The reason your attachment was gone was because your mail filter decided it was junk. Partly because it had an attachment. Spammers and hackers make a habit of emailing files to unsuspecting recipients that include advertisements, spyware, or viruses. Your mail filter thought perhaps it was unwanted or unsafe — so it deleted the attachment.

Usually landing in the junk mail folder is causes by multiple instances in a single email. Your email program (or email provider) gives your email a score based on how many red flags it receives when being scanned. Red flags are points. These are “bad points” like the ones on your insurance or driver’s license. If you get enough points, it goes in the spam folder. If you get less than the allotted points, you receive it in your inbox.

You get points for lots of things, but here are a few:

  • The person who sent it is not in your address book
  • The email has an attachment
  • The email has very few characters
  • The email could have contained words in the subject like “Urgent”, “Important”, “Free””, “New car”, “Loan”, “Insurance”, “investment”. These are all words that indicate “spam”.
  • Subject lines are in ALL CAPS.
  • Emails with HTML
  • Emails with links
  • Emails with background colors
  • I read recently that an email containing “Dear Sir/Madam” will cause your score to go up since that is how all the Nigerian email scams start out.

But, how can I prevent it?

  • First, go to the email in question and see if you have a “not spam” button. Selecting this will put that address on the “good list”.
  • If using Outlook Express: right click the subject line of the email and select Junk E-mail –> Mark as Not Junk.
  • Make sure that the recipient is in your address book.
  • Visit “Office Update” regularly to keep your Outlook updated with the latest spam filter software.
  • If using a program other than Outlook to get your mail, keep it updated regularly.

If all else fails

  • Check your junk mail folder periodically
  • Turn off your junk mail filter
  • Turn off your junk mail filter and purchase a good piece of software to give you more control over your junk mail. I have used Spam Sieve and it works really great with a bit of training. However, there are lots of programs to choose from that work heaps better than the built in ones that come with our free mail programs.

 

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Lena Shore

Lena is a full-time freelancer and nerd that specializes in web development, graphic design, and illustration. She enjoys building things, learning new things, pursuing creative endeavors, and giving free advice.

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