Reducing Scam Email

A while ago a friend lamented that her elderly mom's email account was overrun with scam emails, and she was struggling to figure out a way to protect her mom from scams. At that time, she was checking her mom's email regularly and deleting scam/spam emails. I suggested setting up an always-on computer with an email client that has robust spam and email handling capabilities--Thunderbird is my favorite choice but there are others. While not a perfect solution, this could allow you to create an Inbox that only has mail from kids, grandkids and friends that your parent would normally expect and move everything else to another folder.

Hardware and Operating System

You don't want to spend money on this and you want something that is low power since it will always be on. An unused laptop or Mac Mini is probably the most straight-forward choice, or a Raspberry Pi, though at this writing in 2022, supply chain issues have pushed the cost of a Raspberry Pi to unreasonable levels. Strictly from a power perspective, a Raspberry Pi is the best choice, and it does not need to be a new one. Even an original Pi with 512M of memory would work just fine for this.

If using an old laptop, make sure that the operating system is still getting software updates. If it is not, you can probably install Ubuntu Linux or one of the lower-memory versions (Kubuntu) pretty easily.

Setting up Thunderbird

You can install Thunderbird from the Software application in Ubuntu.

  1. Follow the Thunderbird instructions for setting up an account.
  2. If you have an address book, import that to get a list of contacts that you can use to white-list email. For a personal account, you probably want to set up a link to Gmail Contacts, but for an elder-care situation, you probably only want to add specific people.
  3. In the Account Settings, set up Junk Settings to trust Spam Assassin or one of the other Junk identifiers, and then have it move junk messages to a specific folder.
    Junk settings in Thunderbird can simplify email management.
  4. Click on Tools and go to Message Filters and add rules to white-list email from people in your address book, and perhaps move specific emails to a bills folder.

    Email filters in Thunderbird can help in dealing with spam and scam emails.
  5. You can set up a rule to move or delete email that is not from someone in the address book.

    Thunderbird email filters can handle mail based upon whether or not someone is in your address book.

Reducing Power Consumption

To reduce power consumption, you could set up the BIOS on a laptop to power on the machine at a specific and then set up a CRON job to shutdown at bedtime. If I get ambitious, I'll add that at a later date.