One of the more popular topics for complaint among PCA readers is spam. And, given the level of spamming that we suffer ourselves, we can’t say we’re surprised.

This column appears in the July 06 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents.

Despite most of us being savvy enough to set our email preferences appropriately, blocking email from unapproved addresses means we risk missing out on potential business leads, or on mail from associates whom we know but haven’t added to our approved-sender list.

For businesses, email-filtering software is a boon. It can grab inbound email mischief-makers by the scruff of the neck and stick them in detention every bit as quickly as a headmaster with lightning reflexes.

But for home users, email protection isn’t quite so clever. ISPs provide basic filters, but still the spam keeps on coming.

When AOL decided to introduce a two-tier email service and charge for priority delivery of bulk mail, it ended up with a flea in its ear. While pay-to-send email affects only AOL users, campaigners for a free internet are not happy. In the US, an online campaign at www.dearaol.com claims it’s an ‘email tax’.

A better bet may be email certification – and CipherTrust may have the answer. The company has built up a pattern of typical spam that gives each email a reputation ranking. TrustedSource is its free toolbar, which provides a visual alert if an email is dodgy. Smileys give you the go-ahead to read trusted emails; the opposite if it’s spam.

While this won’t see off spam, it should cut the rate hapless users get caught out. Initiatives have already cut the amount of traffic, making spamming less lucrative – and in a few years, it may be consigned to technological history. What a lovely thought.