What are spam emails and how can you avoid receiving them?

Emails are convenient, they are free, they get delivered within seconds and are therefore a wonderful way to stay in touch with family, friends and business partners all around the world. Unfortunately they come with a rather unpleasant and annoying downside – spam emails. The senders can bombard you with as many messages and unwanted information as they want. In most cases they even work with automated tools, which makes it even easier for them to expand the volume of junk email. In the worst case it’s not just unwanted advertising, you receive but actual malware that might harm you and your data.

You may ask yourself why me and what to do. In this article we show you why and give you five tips on how to react to spam and how to avoid it.

What is categorized as spam and why do I receive it?

Spam emails can be defined as digital junk mail, as an unsolicited message sent online. The purpose of such spam emails is advertising, phishing or spreading malware.

You might wonder why it is you who receives them. In some cases, dubious websites sell their mailing lists to scammers. These scammers sometimes also just make up possible email addresses and just try sending emails to those addresses.

On the other hand you also have emails from trustworthy companies. In those cases it is not spam, it is legitimate marketing and therefore often not sorted out by your spam filter.

How can you protect yourself from receiving junk mail and how do you react if you still do?

1.) Use your email filters and train them

Almost every trustworthy email program gives you the chance to apply filters. With them you can set rules how to proceed with certain emails like newsletters. You can set it up so they get sent directly to specific folders. Many of them also have a built-in junk mail filter. Suspicious emails automatically land here. These filters will work a lot better though, if you train them by letting them know if you agree with their decision or not. You can configure the settings in order to improve the filter’s performance.

If a junk mail snuck by the filter, just click the “Report Spam” button. You can also block the sender of that message entirely, just to be safe. If, on the other hand, a message was wrongfully placed in the spam folder, make sure to mark it as not spam. By doing so, your email program will learn more about which emails you want and which to get rid of.

2.) Unsubscribe to unwanted messages

Many messages that we consider spam are actually meant well and just want to inform you, including newsletters or information about special deals. Nonetheless, these messages tend to pile up nowadays. The good thing about the well-intentioned messages is that they actually give you the chance to simply stop receiving them. By clicking on “Unsubscribe” you simply tell the sender that you do not wish to receive further emails from them. These links can usually be found at the bottom of the email and normally take you to an external page that asks you to confirm your decision. Once confirmed, most sources will respect your wish and will leave you be.

3.) Don’t publish your email

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of having to unsubscribe from several different newsletters and mailing lists in the first place, you should not publish your email. A lot of those unwanted emails make their way to you by creating a profile on a shop website. Here you almost always have to indicate your email address. This automatically signs you up for the company’s mailing list or, in some cases, shares your contact information with advertisers.

Any easy way to avoid the flood of newsletters if you still want to shop online is to come up with an alternative email address. This will keep your main mailbox free from clutter.

4.) Don’t click links or respond to unknown senders

It might seem like common sense not to respond to spam messages or not to click untrustworthy links. Sometimes it’s not that easy to identify, though. Spam emails nowadays, often look quite legit. Popular subjects for mail scams are that something is wrong with your bank account or they inform you that you have won a valuable price. Some clues will give away that it’s spam though:

  • The sender address does not look familiar
  • The subject line makes horrible claims like financial trouble
  • The email is full of spelling and grammar errors
  • The email comes with an attachment: never open the attachment

If you click a spam link or respond to a message the obvious threats are that you download malware, phishing software or viruses. Additionally, if you reply, the spammer knows that they have reached an active email address and that their threat was effective. From that point on, more spam mails can be expected.

5.) Delete your mail account

As a last resort, you have the chance to delete your mail account. It might seem drastic but in the worst case this is the last thing you can do and just start with a fresh mail account.

If you keep those safety measures in mind it will be a lot harder for scammers to get to your information and will save a lot of time and nerves.