It’s very likely you’re used to seeing or maybe being overwhelmed with unsolicited messages (spam) advertising fake medical products, adult services, dodgy loans, click for malware buttons, and phishing attempts.
Did you know that over 45% of all emails (more than 14.5 billion emails per day) on the Internet are spam? Only 2.5% of spam emails are scam/fraud-related, while phishing attempts account for over 73% of spam emails.
That translates to the majority of sent emails being spam. Needless to say, it’s a good idea to know how to read and suss out emails carefully.
Spammers use several methods to obtain email addresses where they can send unsolicited messages to:
- Via online forums and newsgroups
- Through email addresses posted directly on websites
- Internet services or online retailers that require your email address
- Any free service or product that requires your email address
Luckily, if you take some precautions, spend time training spam filters and blocking addresses – you can reduce spam significantly.
Nowadays, there’s no way to completely eliminate spam unless you cut yourself from the Internet, but you can reduce the amount you get.
Why is it called spam, though?
The expression comes from an old Monty Python sketch where a couple in the restaurant tries to order anything other than spam (the once traditional meat product), and a group of Vikings in the background starts singing about spam. Soon, the only word you can hear in the sketch is spam.
The same thing happens on the Internet, where you are likely to receive a massive amount of unsolicited emails so you can’t focus on the legitimate ones. That’s how the term was coined.
Here are some of the strategies you can use to combat spam messages:
Newsletters and emails about the deals are not spam per-se; however, they have a habit of adding up, which results in a cluttered inbox. This can become stressful, and rather than removing them every day – find the unsubscribe link (usually at the bottom of the email) to unsubscribe from the service. Senders don’t want you to unsubscribe from their emails, so try to hunt down the link. Once you click it, you should be directed to a page that allows you to confirm your decision, and once you do – all respectable senders will remove you from their mailing lists. If they don’t – you should mark their emails as spam and eventually block all emails coming from them.
Unsubscribe confirmation pages are being clever too, sometimes when you unsubscribe, it only unsubscribes you from one particular list. If you see an Unsubscribe from all option, make sure to select it.
Gmail and iOS’s Mail app detect the unsubscribe link in the email body and put them on the top, so it’s noticeable. It’s quite handy.
You can also seek help from third-party services such as Unroll.me. It scans your email inbox for mailing lists and provides you the option to unsubscribe in one click. In addition to that, Unroll.me can group all newsletters into a single daily email, so you still keep receiving updates, but in a way that’s easier to digest.
Unroll.me service is free, but please note that it collects anonymized data on shopping trends.
There are three simple rules:
- Never open a spam email or click on any links
- Never reply to the spammer
- Never buy anything from a spammer
If you open an email or click on a link, you’ll likely end up with malware on your computer. In addition to that – by replying to a spammer, you let them know there’s a real person on the other end, and they’ll send even more unsolicited messages.
Email marketers also use a technology called “tracking pixel” which will let them know each time you open an image in the email message. We recommend turning off automatic image loading, so you have to click them manually for them to load.
Also, never buy anything from a service you don’t trust. If it sounds too good to be true – it’s likely a scam. By doing this, you’re compromising your security and rewarding/encouraging them to keep on.
Use spam filters
Nowadays, all respectable email platforms (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) have spam detection available out of the box.
If you’re a Skystra customer, we automatically red-flag spam messages for you and move them to a separate folder (Spam Box) for you to review when you have time.
However, your email platform can have additional spam filters, and you can train them to work better with the emails you receive by marking emails as junk or clean.
For example, in Outlook, you can mark a message as spam by right-clicking and choosing the Junk -> Block Sender option. If you want to mark it as clean, find it in the Junk Email folder, right-click it, and select Junk -> Not Junk. Outlook provides many anti-spam options you can configure via the Home tab (in the ribbon menu) -> Junk -> Junk E-mail Options option.
If you’re using Gmail, every message contains the Report Spam button at the top menu, which you can use if the message managed to sneak past Google’s filters. Once you mark spam one or a couple of times on a specific sender, it’ll always skip your Inbox and fall into the Junk folder.
Protect your primary email address
Whenever you subscribe to a service, order a new product, or sign up for a newsletter – the company may automatically enroll you in their unwanted marketing updates or distribute your contact information with the advertiser. This can cause a lot of unsolicited emails to your inbox.
We recommend setting up an alternative email address for hotel bookings, online shopping, online services, webinars, etc. That way, the unwanted messages will appear in your inbox, but they won’t clog up your primary email account.
As to your primary email address – try to keep it hidden as much as possible. Please don’t use it on public forums or your social media accounts, where bots and crawlers can easily pick it up.If you have to display your email address publicly, use a different format, for example:
my email address at Gmail dot com
That way, bots can’t pick it up, but it makes sense to the human reader.
Use a third-party anti-spam extension
If you still receive a lot of spam, you can use a third-party service to filter emails for you. That way, they can catch spam before it reaches your inbox.
One of those services is MailWasher, which has a free tier. All you need to do is put in your login details, and MailWasher uses intelligent filters to identify spam messages. It allows you to review caught emails on the web before they land in your inbox. MailWasher also has a Pro plan if you need more features or have more than one email account.
The last, most drastic option is to start over and create a new email address to use. Of course, it’s a lot of work, and you’ll need to let your contacts know about the change, but you can keep using both emails for a couple of months until everyone is updated.