Get a lot of spam?  My personal address, noah@coad.net, gets about a 1,000 a week, but I don't see a single one of them.  If you don't mind getting spam, this isn't for you.  If you find junk mail annoying, and the viruses, identify theft (from phishing), and flooding of your inbox that comes with it, read on...

The Problem
We're rapidly approaching a state in which we're getting so flooded by junk mail that it makes working with e-mail almost unbearable.  A recent inspection showed that my mother's e-mail box was receiving 99.8% junk mail, rendering it practically useless.

The longer you have an e-mail address, and the more you share it, the more junk mail you get.  There are businesses that comb the Internet for e-mail addresses and sell them.  I've had the same personal e-mail address for over 10 years and use it everywhere, so I'm probably on most the major spamming lists, but don't see even any junk mail.

The Solution
I originally learned about this app from Carl Franklin who was using it a few years ago.  It is very simple really and highly effective.  It does take just a little knowledge of how e-mail works to use.

ChoiceMail One (the personal home edition) works simply by verifying that the sender is a real human, or some automated system you allow to send you mail.  How does it do this?  It acts as a gateway between your e-mail server (POP3 account) and e-mail client (Outlook, etc).  When you get an e-mail, here's what happens:

How it Works
If the sender is preapproved, their e-mails are always let through.  If it is a new sender, ChoiceMail holds the mail and sends an automated email reply asking the user to click a link which the user verifies they're a real person via a Turing test (the classic "enter the code below" question).  If they verify, their original e-mail and all future e-mails are always let through (they never see the automated response again).

Anyone in your contact list is preapproved.  Anyone you send mail to is preapproved.  You can see recent senders and approve any of them.

In my case of receiving almost a 1,000 junk mails a week, this has cut down on 100% of e-mail and let through essentially 100% of the e-mail I want to see.  Once in awhile, when I sign up for some new online service, I need to manually approve the sender since they typically send automated mails.

What it Looks Like
Normally you just leave it running in the background and don't have to touch it.  Occasionally I like to see what mail is being blocked or need to manually approve a sender (like when I give my e-mail address to a new online service).

I was playing around and I've also blocked a lot of domains that are known for sending junk mail, so my actual "Unknown Today" and "Total Spam" is at least twice as much as reported here.  Before blocking the domains, 98% of incoming mail was spam.

Testimonials
Let's just say I've been using it, some industry leaders like Carl Franklin use it, my mother loves it, I've got my sister going with it, my wife, and other friends and family are rapidly adopting it.

Using ChoiceMail (Getting Started)
The Personal Home Edition is a onetime cost of $40.  They have a timed trial edition too.  It is some of the best money I've ever spent on software.  It is really easy to install and start using it via their setup wizard.  It may take awhile of use to get comfortable with its many setting and options.

One of my favorite options to enable is automatically approving anyone who replies to the Turing test.  By default, when a human responds to the automated reply, they are in a "waiting for approval" state that waits for you to thumbs up or down the request.  I don't find this additional approval step necessary.  To enable automatic approval, from the "Options" menu, under "Preferences...", check the box "Automatically approve senders who respond to a challenge".

It does support some HTTP web clients, like Yahoo and Hotmail, but works best if you're using an e-mail client on your computer (like Microsoft Outlook 2003, Outlook Express, Eudora, etc).  ChoiceMail will check your POP3 e-mail account and your client will be configured to check mail through the ChoiceMail localhost server.  It takes some time to feel comfortable with all the settings.

The Ugly
So it sounds all great, right?  But what's the catch?  Why isn't everyone using this type of system?  People don't like getting an automated response asking them to do one verification step the first time they send you mail.  I've had family tell me this.  I tell them it is a one-time only step and it cuts back 100% of spam, and they can't deny the small cost to achieve results like that.  It will block mail from automated websites (like your PayPal account, bank statements, etc) unless you periodically check your ChoiceMail box for these types of mails and let them through.

I've found customizing the automated response mail (via the "Options" / "Preferences" menu, "Message customization" tab) to something more personal from me, helps people feel more of a personal connection in the verification process.

Conclusion
If you try it out, let me know via a comment below.  Bill Gates has said that e-mail spam is one of our #1 consumer problems with technology today.  It causes countless viruses and identity theft from phishing, introduces porn to children, and embarrass us with obscene topics and subjects.  It doesn't have to impact your life and waste your time.  ChoiceMail is a tool that puts the power in your hands to stop it now.

P.S.  I realize this tool endorsement is quite positive.  I am in now way affiliated with DigiPortal, just a happy consumer sharing the news so others don't have to feel the same junk e-mail pain I've experienced. :)