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What Are Spam Emails and 5 Ways to Stop Them

5 ways to stop spam

Curious about spam emails and how to stop them?

Spam emails are unsolicited messages sent to a recipient who hasn’t agreed to receive them. They’re usually sent as bulk emails and contain advertising or malicious content.

In this article, I’ll explain what spam emails are, why they’re bad for you, and how they reach your inbox. This guide will also help you understand how to stop spam emails.

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Let’s jump right into it.

What Is Spam Email?

Spam emails (aka junk emails) are unwanted messages sent to people who haven’t agreed to receive them.

Spam emails are generally promotional emails used by advertisers to promote products or services to customers who haven’t agreed to receive those emails.

Additionally, cybercriminals use spam emails for fraudulent reasons like scamming money or delivering email viruses.

For example, you might receive unsolicited emails announcing that you just won $100,000. To get paid, all you must do is deposit some money to an account as a bank transfer fee, which is most likely a trick to scam you out of some cash.

How a Spammer Finds Your Email Address

I know what you’re thinking: how does a spammer find your email address in the first place?

It’s not like you’re out there trying to get them to notice you, right?

A spammer finds your email addresses in different ways:

  • They can use email address extractor software to harvest email addresses by looking for email IDs published on websites or social media channels.
  • A company that to which you have subscribed may have sold your email addresses to a spammer.
  • You’re one of many victims in a mass data leak, and a spammer stole your email address from that information supply.
  • Your email address was stolen from a colleague’s or friend’s contact or email list.

Why Spam Is Bad for You

Here are three reasons why unwanted spam emails are bad for you:

1. They Clutter Your Inbox

It’s already hard enough to stay on top of the relevant emails from colleagues and services to which you subscribe. Adding unwanted spam emails into the mix just makes things worse because you’ll have tons of irrelevant emails to sort through each day.

This can result in you missing out on important conversations — it affects how quickly you respond to important emails.

2. They Are Dangerous

Spam isn’t just something that clutters your inbox and leaves you feeling frustrated.

Spam is also a method that cybercriminals use to spread malware.

For example, let’s say you receive an email claiming to contain confidential information, and it comes with a file attachment.

If you were to download any attachments from senders who might be malicious, it could install Trojan horses on your system. And from stealing sensitive information to damaging your computer, these viruses can cause several serious problems for spam recipients.

3. They’re Difficult to Eliminate

Mailbox providers like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo Mail try to reduce spam with email security measures like spam filters. They usually check where spam emails come from, what the email subject is, and how many people receive the same mail.

Read more about spam filters here.

Additionally, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) might set up spam traps to bait any domain, mail server, or IP address that sends suspicious emails or phishing emails. They later store these addresses to a list of blocked senders.

However, even with all these measures in place, a spammer or blocked sender can always come up with new methods and tactics to invade inboxes.

It’s one of the reasons we all still receive spam!

That’s why once you start receiving spam, it’s very hard to get rid of it.

How to Stop Spam Emails: 5 Easy Ways

Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to stop spam.

Why?

Because spammers are resilient and keep coming up with new ways to get into your inbox.

Funnily enough, Bill Gates once predicted that all spam would be eliminated in 2006, and yet here we are in 2020 — still facing the same issue!

But don’t worry, there are some strategies to help you limit the number of spam emails you receive:

1. Don’t Respond to Spam

If you suspect an incoming email from a sender is spam, try not to open it.

And even if you do, don’t respond to it. Ever.

Opening a spam email could trigger tracking pixels embedded in the email, which tell the spammer your email account is active — making you a potential target for more spam emails.

Additionally, never click on a link or button, or download any attachments inside a spam email.

If the spam message looks like it came from one of your contacts, or a person who’s your friend, immediately take action by sending them a notification — alert them that identity theft has occurred, and their account could be compromised.

2. Train Your Email Filters

You can also report or mark emails as spam when you receive them.

This way, you’re training your email client’s spam filter to do a better job recognizing future email messages that could be spam.

Sometimes important emails might end up in the spam folder as a result of this.

In such cases, you can open the email and specify that it isn’t spam.

This ensures that legitimate emails from that sender address still make it to your inbox.

Here’s how to report spam and mark legitimate emails as not spam in Gmail:

A. How to Report Spam in Gmail

Here’s how you can report spam emails from your Gmail inbox:

  1. Open gmail.com and sign in to the Gmail account with your login credentials.
  2. Click on the checkbox next to the email you suspect to be spam.

What Are Spam Emails_Report Spam In Gmail 1

  1. Now click the Report spam icon on the top to mark spam.

What Are Spam Emails_Report Spam In Gmail 2

  1. From the dialogue box that opens, choose to Report spam & unsubscribe (to stop receiving any messages from this particular sender) or just Report spam.

What Are Spam Emails_Report Spam In Gmail 3

The unsolicited mail will now be moved from your inbox to the Spam folder.

If you want to, you can also delete emails from the Spam folder. They’ll then end up in Gmail’s Trash folder, from where it will be permanently deleted by the mail provider in 30 days.

B. How to mark an email as Not Spam

Here’s how you can mark a mail within Gmail’s junk folder (Spam folder) as not spam:

  1. Click the Spam folder from the left-hand menu.

What Are Spam Emails_Report Spam In Gmail 4

  1. Click on the checkbox next to the mail that was wrongly marked as spam.

What Are Spam Emails_Report Spam In Gmail 5

  1. Now click the Not spam button on the top to mark this mail as not spam.

What Are Spam Emails_Report Spam In Gmail 6

The mail will then be moved from Gmail’s Spam folder to your inbox.

3. Keep Your Email Addresses Private

People can’t send you spam emails if they don’t know your email address.

So try to keep your mail addresses private.

Don’t post them publicly on social networking sites, online forums, chat rooms, or webpages.

But what if you’re running a business?

You can’t keep your email address all to yourself, right?

Sometimes you’ll have to provide your email address to companies so that potential customers can reach you easily. In situations like these, it’s better to give them your business email address while keeping your personal account protected.

This ensures that your primary email addresses remain private, and you can maintain a clean email inbox.

4. Use an Alternate Email Address

When you’re browsing the web, you might subscribe to a few products, services, or blogs.

And that’s okay; it’s part of the experience.

However, you can’t always know for sure if the website/service you’re signing up for won’t share your email IDs with spammers.

An excellent option is to use an alternate or secondary email address for online activities and use your primary email address only for things that truly matter to you — like any services you use on a regular basis.

This way, you get to route spam emails to a disposable email address while keeping your primary email account’s inbox free from clutter.

5. Use Anti-spam Solutions

You can always go for a third-party spam filter that specializes in anti-spam and spam-blocker solutions.

Use these as a last resort for spam protection and junk mail filtering when built-in spam filters just aren’t enough.

This additional layer of protection prevents spam mail from getting into your inbox using a set of protocols that help determine unwanted messages and junk emails.

Such software can also:

  • Block malicious email communications.
  • Help quarantine unwanted spam emails.
  • Create a personalized whitelist of select senders.
  • Execute automatic updates to counter new types of spam and malware.

Some popular anti-spam software solutions are Comodo Dome Anti-spam and Zerospam.

How to Spot Spam Emails: The 8 Different Types of Spam

Now you know what spam emails are and how to limit them.

But how do you spot them?

There are multiple types of emails that can be used to send spam to your inbox:

1. Ads

Unwanted mail advertisements are the most popular type of spam email.

They flood your inbox with product or service advertisements you never really wanted. Sometimes, an email might even include an affiliate link to a partner website.

For example, every time you register a new domain, you’ll probably receive several fraudulent emails from companies offering to help you build your website at affordable prices.

What Are Spam Emails_Ads

2. Email Spoofing

A spammer might impersonate someone you might know or a company you’re involved with when sending a junk email.

For example, let’s say you’re in business with company XYZ, and they have an email address – customersupport@xyz.com. A spammer might use something like customersupport@xy-z.biz to send you an email message, impersonating their customer service executive.

Alternatively, they could try impersonating someone at your company:

What Are Spam Emails_Email Spoofing

If you’re not vigilant, you might open the spam email and end up informing them that your email account is active.

This can result in your email inbox receiving constant spam or even a phishing attack (a hacker pretends to be a trusted sender and tries to steal sensitive user data like login credentials or credit card numbers).

3. Hoaxes

Hoax emails are another common form of spam.

Chances are, we have all received email messages containing unbelievable deals or some form of scandalous information, like a conspiracy theory.

For example, you might find emails talking about amazing weight loss journeys that “blew away doctors’ minds” in your inbox. And apparently, all you must do is buy a bunch of pills, and you’ll end up losing 30 pounds magically.

What Are Spam Emails_Hoaxes

Always be on your guard against such fraudulent claims of miracle cures — and especially of exclusive discounts that seem too good to be true. They are only trying to steal sensitive information, like your bank account details.

4. Money Scam

These emails come from misleading domain names (like in email spoofing) and usually offer a massive reward. All you have to do is give them your bank account details to make the supposed “transfer.”

For example, you might receive an email or text message from a junk email address claiming you’ve won $500,000, and you can claim it as soon as you provide your credit card or social security number to initiate the payment.

Or maybe they ask you to make a relatively nominal deposit at some bank account to confirm that you’re serious about getting the money.

What Are Spam Emails_Money Scam

Don’t fall for such scams that make fake offers of vast rewards in exchange for confidential information. It’s most likely a phishing scam.

5. Malware Warnings

Sometimes, you could receive emails from businesses you don’t know, claiming that they’ve found malware on your computer.

They’ll even say their systems performed a “thorough analysis,” and they have the solution to help you eliminate the malware. And all you have to do is click on the link included in the message, and they’ll take care of the rest.

What Are Spam Emails_Malware Warnings

It’s probably a trick to redirect you to an affiliate website, or even worse, to install actual harmful malware onto your computer.

6. Adult Content

Another popular type of spam email is adult emails spreading pornographic content.

An email service provider or inbox provider is usually capable of intercepting emails with adult content and sending them to your spam folder.

However, on the off-chance they do make it to your inbox, be warned that these emails advertise explicit content — offering “exclusive” links to pornographic material.

What Are Spam Emails_Adult Content

Be very wary of opening these as it’s probably another phishing attempt.

7. Educational Offerings

Educational offerings are another common type of spam.

You might receive an unwanted email containing links to seminars, a virtual event, and so on.

Or they could be used for promoting “top-ranking” degrees in different countries.

What Are Spam Emails_Educational Offerings

Always remember that you never asked for these emails — even if they seem helpful. It’s best if you don’t open or interact with them as they could contain malware or phishing attacks.

8. Anti-spam Solutions

Ironic as it sounds, people actually send you spam emails offering anti-spam solutions.

They make their point by telling you: if they made it to your inbox, other malicious senders can too.

The email tries to convince you why you must implement anti-spam solutions within your inbox, and why their spam blocking service is the best solution.

What Are Spam Emails_Anti Spam Solutions

As interesting as their approach might be, don’t give in to such gimmicks as you never know what will happen when you access their offers.

Wrapping Up

Spam emails are unwanted messages that are sent without your explicit permission.

Spam invades your inboxes, exploits cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and are difficult to eliminate completely.

Luckily, it’s not impossible to limit the spam you receive.

To prevent junk mail, keep your email address private and use an alternate email ID while browsing the web. You can also defend against junk mail by not responding to any unwanted message, training your spam filter, and using anti-spam software for your computer.

Additionally, never click a link or download an email attachment from a mail you suspect to be a spam message, and always be wary of any unknown sender.

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