Users of Microsoft's wildly popular e-mail service Hotmail have long had the frequent displeasure of punting various unwanted e-mails from their inboxes -- some 8 out of every 10 e-mails messages sent to Hotmail accounts are believed to be spam. Well, Hotmail users: help is on the way.

Like the Orkin army does against insect pests for homeowners, Microsoft has enlisted the aid of security software specialist McAfee to help battle the deluge of spam flooding inboxes. The Sunnyvale, Calif. security service provider has provided its SpamKiller application to the 110 million Hotmail users who desire to eradicate unsolicited e-mail.

SpamKiller desktop software monitors, filters and quarantines pesky, solicitous e-mail from inboxes. McAfee also took the time to reveal enhancements to SpamKiller, including silent filter updates and a redesigned, "Windows XP-style" user interface.

McAfee.com SpamKiller connects directly to a user's MSN Hotmail account and scans incoming messages for spam with advanced filtering protocols. Spam is immediately removed from the user's inbox and sent to a quarantined folder for future reference if necessary. Users do not have to change how they access and read their email.

Also, as a failsafe against killing legitimate e-mail, users of SpamKiller can now import their Hotmail contact lists into the software's "white list" of appropriate e-mail senders. Along those lines, SpamKiller also has improved Outlook Address Book support which allows users to import SMTP addresses from a wider variety of Outlook sources including contact lists, personal address books, and global address lists.

McAfee.com SpamKiller is currently available for PCs with Windows 9x, ME, 2000, NT 4 or XP operating systems for $39.95. A 30-day trial is currently being offered free.

McAfee went beyond the basic product upgrade and partnership Wednesday. On a day when the Federal Trade Comission met with other groups to discuss cracking down on spam, the service provider claimed that e-mail spam has become a potent weapon for targeting unsuspecting consumers and stealing their money and identities.

To educate consumers, McAfee launched a special site to inform users about the dangers of spam with regards to identity theft.

Just how serious is online fraud vis-a-vis e-mail? The Internet Fraud Complaint Center said some 500,000 to 700,000 Americans fall victim to identity theft each year, with 70 percent of Internet fraud complainants having e-mail contact with the perpetrators.

"The low cost and ubiquity of email usage has made spam the tool of choice among Internet fraudsters and identity thieves," said Srivats Sampath McAfee.com CEO. "Users must learn how to recognize and protect themselves from fraud and identity theft threats through a combination of education and technology."