Spam is unsolicited email, usually of a commercial nature, which is mass distributed to newsgroups, multiple mailing lists and individuals.1 If you are tired of dealing with unsolicited junk mail clogging your email accounts, follow the steps in this guide to learn how to stop spam email.
Here are some simple things that you can do:
- Don't Open Spam: Don't open messages, don't click on any of their links, and don't buy anything from a spam-advertised site. People get tricked every day into opening spam messages, clicking on their links and buying what they're selling.
- Don't Respond to Spam: Responding to a spam email in any way just proves to the spammer that yours is a working email address and that you actively check your emails. Many spammers are actually just looking for email addresses that work. Don't click on any link that says "Unsubscribe" or "Click Here if you Don't Want to Receive Any More Emails". These are just ways for spammers to confirm that you have read the email.
- Delete and Mark Spam: It is always a good idea to delete spam emails as soon as you get them. But before you delete them, make sure you mark them as Spam in your email client. Most email clients will allow you to mark certain emails as Spam. This helps the email client identify similar emails in the future and prevent them from finding their way into your inbox.5
Step 2: Set Up A Disposable Account
A disposable email account can be used as a dummy address for when you have to fill out registration pages online or enter your email address in order to access or sign up for a specific website or service. While many of the websites and services that you access online will claim to be secure and promise not to let your personal information get into the wrong hands, it is nearly impossible for them to ensure complete security.
Using a disposable email address for registering online will ensure that your regular email address does not end up in the hands of data mining services or spammers. You can set up your disposable email address to forward your registration emails to your regular account. As soon as your disposable email account starts receiving spam emails, simply delete your account and start a new one. There are a number of email services that offer disposable email accounts for the sole purpose of helping to fight spam.
Step 3: Use Your Email Client's Spam Filter
- The most common method of battling spam is through the use of spam filters and software that are designed to automatically recognize and filter out spam messages. Since many ISPs and email clients have spam filtering software built into their services, a lot of the spam filtering that goes on within your email account is done without you even noticing it.
While your email account may be working silently to help keep spam out of your inbox, there are a few things that you can do to help it better recognize and filter spam:
- Mark Messages As Spam: One of the best ways for you to help your email client recognize spam is to mark any spam messages that do get through. Most email clients will have an empty box next to each email that you can use to mark messages that you think are spam. Spam filters can use that information to block similar emails from getting into your inbox.Identify False Positives: One of the drawbacks of aggressive spam filtering is that it will occasionally mistake a real email for a spam one. This is called a False Positive. Every so often, it is a good idea to go through your spam folder to make sure that there aren't any in there. If you do find a false positive, go ahead and move it into your regular inbox. This will let the filter know what to do with similar messages in the future.
- Adjust Your Filter Settings: Go into your specific email client's spam filter settings and make that sure they are configured correctly. Some email accounts will let you specify certain domain names to automatically mark as spam, or look for specific keywords and phrases in emails to do the same. You can usually specify what you want done with spam email such as have them deleted immediately or leave them there for a certain amount of time.
Step 4: Be Smart When You're Online
Here are some things that you should always do in order to prevent your address from getting into the wrong hands.
- Disguise Your Email Address: If you have a personal website, blog or other online presence, chances are that you'll have your contact information displayed somewhere. Since spammers will often use computer programs to search for anything containing the @ symbol, it is always a good idea to spell out "at" in your address, rather than writing the whole thing (i.e. andy at yourdomain.xxx).Don't Enter Online Promotions or Contests: Be wary of online promotions and contests that ask you to enter in your email address or other personal information in exchange for being entered into a free drawing. Signing up for free trial software is another way for spammers to find and use your personal information.
- Avoid Multi-Forwarded Emails: We've all received funny or amusing emails that have been forwarded to us by a friend or colleague. While some of these may be harmless attempts at amusement, some can be a simple way for spammers to collect large amounts of working email addresses. You can usually tell that an email has been forwarded multiple times if it has "Fw:Fw:Fw:" in the subject heading.
Step 5: Report Spammers
You can help by reporting spammers and their activities to the proper authorities. Here are a few ways to do so:
- In order to report spam, read through the United States Justice Department's website regarding how to report unsolicited e-mail.6 This page will give you information on how to report different types of spam email.
Email the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to report spam. The FTC then uses that information to help find and prosecute suspected spammers.
- Make sure to include the full email header of the spam in your complaint along with the full email message and IP address.
- If you've been scammed by spam, you can also file a formal complain with the FTC.
- You can also report spammers to your Internet service provider. This can help them identify people who are sending spam through their system.
Use Spam Reporting Services
You can also use some of the independent spam reporting services. By signing up for an account with these services, users can quickly and easily forward spam messages to them. Those messages are then analyzed by the services and the proper actions are taken to stop the spammers. Here are a couple of the most popular spam reporting services:
- SpamCop: While signing up for a basic account and reporting spam is free, SpamCop also offers premium email accounts that make use of their extensive databases to provide users with spam-free email.
- Spamhaus: Spamhaus is an International non-profit organization that works to stop spam by compiling lists of known spammers and their IP addresses. They also provide anti-spam services for large organizations and businesses.7