Forget Email SPAM – Find Some Ham!

Rather than frequently skimming your entire spam mailbox for incorrectly captured messages, try searching for specific keywords that are likely to appear in legitimate email.

June 24, 2024

Spam filters work pretty well—99% of the messages in your spam mailbox are probably spam. But it’s frustrating to miss an important message that was caught by an overeager spam filter. Here’s an easy way to find many good messages, also known as “ham,” amidst all the spam. Think of keywords that might appear in legitimate email to you: the name of your city, major employers in your area, nearby colleges, companies whose products you use, their products, and so on. Then search for those terms inside your spam mailbox, either one at a time or, if your email app supports it, as a single search with OR statements for each keyword, like this Gmail search (use your actual town name and so forth): in:spam townName OR employerName OR clubName OR companyName. Of course, your keywords will appear in some spam messages, but if the searches reveal ham messages you would otherwise have missed, they’re worthwhile. Be extra cautious around any message that wants you to click a link, log in, or provide private information. The fact that your spam filter caught a message is a red flag.

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