Q: I have been receiving an increasing number of e-mail requests to participate in financial schemes that are clearly bogus and illegal. Many of them claim to be officials from...

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I have been receiving an increasing number of e-mail requests to participate in financial schemes that are clearly bogus and illegal. Many of them claim to be officials from other countries. I delete them immediately. Is there a law-enforcement entity that might be interested in collecting these e-mails for possible evidence for prosecution?

Why am I being targeted? I never respond. Do the sources of these e-mails have information about my finances that I should be concerned about? Why am I receiving them in increasing numbers? Why am I receiving them at all?

— Toby Hurlburt


You are not alone, I’m afraid. There are a lot of scams going on over the Internet, and you’re wise not to buy into them.

Obviously, I can’t say for sure the spammers know nothing of your finances. But I’m getting them, too, and there’s certainly nothing in my financial portfolio to attract anyone. Seriously, though, I wouldn’t worry that you’re being selectively targeted. These are spam scams.

As for where you can report them, the University of Oregon Web site offers a useful list of federal government sites where you can report various kinds of Internet scams. For example, you might want to report a stock-related scam to the Security and Exchange Commission (www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml), or general Internet fraud to the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complain Center (www1.ifccfbi.gov). You can find more options at cc.uoregon.edu/cnews/fall2002/spamreport.html.


I may have a solution for sorting through the junk e-mail cluttering Outlook’s Inbox that you might want to share with readers. First, create a new folder under Outlook Shortcuts called Sorted Mail. Then, use the Rules Wizard to create a rule directing all mail from people in your address book to the Sorted Mail folder. Now, whenever you receive any mail, the Sorted Mail rule will place all the mail you actually want (from your address book) into the Sorted Mail folder, leaving mail you don’t want, presumably junk e-mail, in your Inbox. Now sorting through the Inbox will only take a moment as you search for mail you actually want to read.

— Phillip Brugalette


I guess it’s one of those “half full” or “half empty” things. I find it works pretty well just to let Outlook do the filtering. You can have all the suspected junk mail sent automatically to a Junk E-mail folder where you can check it for any “mistaken” throwaways.

If mail has been identified as junk that you want to keep, you can tell Outlook not to treat mail from that sender as junk mail in the future. Likewise, if Outlook lets mail through that you don’t want you can mark it as junk and prevent mail from that sender from getting through in the future.

Your option, in short, allows users a way to look through the Inbox for e-mail you want to keep, while Outlook’s built-in method has users looking through a Junk Mail folder the same thing.

Your method, however, might be a little better at dealing with spam that gets through junk-mail filters. On the flip side, your method requires more management of “approved” e-mail addresses.

Either way, thanks for offering readers another choice of methods in battling the onslaught of spam.


You periodically write about reformatting the hard drive but never describe the process. For example, do you enter the format command in Windows or DOS? Then, after reformatting, how do you reboot the computer to reinstall Windows?

— Paul Brown


There are several ways to reformat the drive, but the easiest is to do it as part of the installation process for Windows. When you follow the installation process and it asks if you want to install a new version of Windows (rather than install over an existing version), you answer yes.

Next, when the installation routine asks where you want to install it, the program also offers options allowing you to delete the partition in question. After you do so, you create the partition anew and select it for installation. Then the installation routine will automatically format the drive prior to installation.

Bear in mind that you may need to boot your computer using the Windows installation disk to perform this operation. And to do so you may need to reconfigure your BIOS to boot from the CD drive before trying to boot from the hard drive. You’ll also need a full version of Windows, not an upgrade version.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.