Spam emails can seem like a never ending tidal wave of rubbish filling up your inbox and wasting your time. You can’t stop spam completely because anyone can send you emails, but you can reduce the problem significantly through taking a number of measures outlined below.
Most email systems allow you to block messages from specific addresses or domains. Spam blocking does help but a lot of spammers change their email address frequently. Also, they often fake the email address, even making emails appear to be from your friends or yourself.
So, using a spam blocker is only part of the answer.
Spam filters work by looking not just at where email comes from, but also the content of the email. If it looks like spam, then the email is simply placed in your spam folder instead of your inbox.
If you use web mail, such as Yahoo! then you have a built in fairly good spam filter already.
Most email programs such as Outlook have a spam filter built in and usually enabled by default.
There will be a way to set how aggressive it is in the program’s settings. Exactly how this works will depend on your specific program.
Training the Spam Filter
The spam filter offered by most email services is typically fairly good.
But you can, and should, make it better. You do that by telling the service or program every time that you find spam in your inbox. Mark the email as spam and it will be moved to your spam folder.
This enables the service to refine its spam filter to get better at automatically detecting spam in the future. This could be either globally if enough other people say the same things about emails like that, or perhaps just for you if the system’s spam filter supports that level of personalization.
Keep doing that and the amount of spam that you find in your inbox should reduce over time.
One of the things that worries people is that they may lose email that is incorrectly filtered as spam.
You should check your spam folder every so often looking for email that has been mistakenly filtered as spam. But, instead of just moving that email back to your inbox, mark it as Not Spam instead.
Disposable Email Addresses
The major email providers – Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail and so on plus specialist suppliers offer disposable email addresses. This is for cases where you only want to use an email address once or for a short period or specific to just one organisation or person. A disposable email address will forward all mail to your real address. So if you then start getting spam to that address then you simply cancel it without affecting your real email address.
e.g. say there is a report I want to download but I have to supply a valid email address to get it and I know the organisation will continue to send me unwanted Marketing emails. So I use a disposable email address – get the report then cancel the disposable email address.
There are many free temporary email services available on the Internet. Some provide an address that lasts for a short time only. Others provide an alternate address that lasts until you decide to discard it. Some do not require you to register or provide your real address while others do require registration.
E.g. Guerrilla Mail - Creates temporary email addresses that last 60 minutes then delete themselves. Your real address not required.
Or Maildrop lets you instantly create a disposable address @maildrop.cc
As soon as you get spam through a disposable address, you cancel it, and all messages (and all spam) sent to the disposable address bounce back to the sender instead of your Inbox.
The Unsubscribe Link
The unsubscribe link is a legal requirement on any Marketing email, but spammers ignore the request and instead use it as a way to identify which of the millions of email addresses that they’re using actually belong to real people. Those email addresses are more valuable and as a result, they will then get more spam.
Do use unsubscribe links from reputable providers, such as people you know and mailing lists that you signed up to join.
Do not use the unsubscribe links in emails that you don’t recognize or are obviously spam.
So how do you avoid unwanted email without unsubscribing?
If the message is unsolicited then mark it as spam. Marking something as spam not only deletes the message (or puts it into your spam folder) it also teaches your email software about what you consider spam so that it can better detect and block nefarious messages in the future and adapt as the spammers change their tricks.
This not only helps you, but also everyone else too.
Replying to Spam Messages
It is very unlikely that the spammer will read your message.
1. You have confirmed to the sender that your email address is both valid and in active use.
If the sender is unscrupulous then the volume of email you receive will most likely go up, not down. Worse, now that you have validated your address the spammer can sell it to his friends. So you are probably going to hear from them too.
2. By responding to the email, you have positively confirmed that you have opened and read it and may be slightly interested in the subject matter, whether it’s getting money from a foreign prince, a penny stock tip or a diet supplement. You will get more such spam messages.
Pictures in Spam Messages
The reason that pictures are disabled by default on most spam-filtered email is that the mere act of accessing an image so that it can be displayed can tell a spammer they have a real email address. Expect more spam.
If you take the above steps then the spam in your Inbox will drop dramatically.