SANDY BERGER: There's Nothing to Lose With Web-Based E-mail
Are you afraid to give out your e-mail address for online subscriptions and purchases?
Or are you missing out on good Web sites and newsletters because you fear that if you give out your e-mail address you will be inundated with spam?
There is an easy way to solve this problem. Just get a special e-mail address that you use only for online forms and subscriptions. This is easy to do, and it doesn't cost a penny.
Just surf over to one of the Web sites that offer free e-mail. The two most popular are Microsoft Hotmail (www.hotmail.com) and Yahoo!Mail at http://mail.yahoo.com.
These are web-based e-mail programs. Although each program may be slightly different, you will find that they look and feel similar to the e-mail program that you are currently using.
The biggest difference between these Web-based accounts and the Netscape, Outlook Express, Outlook or other e-mail program that was set up when you got your Internet access is where the mail is kept. If you are using the e-mail program that you received from your Internet Service Provider, your e-mail is downloaded from the Internet to your own hard drive.
With programs such as Hotmail or Yahoo!Mail, your mail is kept on the Web servers of the company that provides the program.
These services are just as secure as other e-mail programs, and they offer the added value of being available from anywhere in the world.
You simply access the Internet and log on to the service with your user name and password. Your mail and your personal address book are available whether you are at home, at work or on an African adventure.
You can use your new e-mail account anytime you are asked for an e-mail address. You have only to check this e-mail box occasionally for newsletters, purchase confirmations, and other miscellaneous information.
If you distribute your regular e-mail address only to friends and acquaintances, your personal mailbox will be more private and less of a magnet for spam. If your regular e-mail has already become spam infested, you can get an extra Web-based e-mail account and use it as your more private personal account.
If you are careful to give your new address only to people you want to get e-mail from, that account will be less prone to spam. All of the Web-based e-mail accounts have spam filters that also lessen spam.
If you want to go one extra step, you can get a free Gmail account from Google. The extra step is that you have to either get someone who already has a Gmail account to invite you to join or you have to give Google a cell phone number.
They use the cell phone number to send you a text message code that you then use to set up your account. This may sound a bit convoluted, but it does limit spam. I have a Hotmail account, a Yahoo!Mail account, and a Gmail account, and the Gmail account is the most spam-free.
You can get a free Gmail account at http://mail.google. com.
Web-based e-mail accounts are useful and they are free. Try one out. You've got nothing to lose.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compu kiss.com/ckmessageboard.
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