The volume of junk mail has increased in the last few months, and people ask me all the time why it can’t just be blocked. Implementing a junk mail filter is a difficult problem, prone to error. Here’s an example in the news today: dozens of e-mail messages telling Harvard University applicants whether they had been admitted never arrived last month after America Online’s junk mail filters blocked the messages.

If you’re using Outlook, make sure you’ve turned on its junk mail filter, by the way. It diverts some of the junk mail into a different folder. Clever spam mailers know how to avoid being caught by Outlook’s filter, and you still have to check the junk mail to see if Outlook misidentified something, but it’s better than nothing. Click on Tools / Organize, then click on “Junk e-mail.”

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