Most of us receive both marketing emails and spam in email regularly. There is, however, one key difference between spam and marketing messages – permission. Spam emails are unsolicited bulk-sent emails delivered to a recipient’s inbox without their permission.
In general, businesses send you legit marketing emails after you opt to receive them. They allow you to:
- Subscribe to a newsletter,
- Sign up for services,
- Read members-only content, or
- Share messages via social media and email.
Most spam messages are sent in bulk from illegitimate email addresses and contain illegal or explicit content. Sometimes Google block those emails from getting to you, but many still manage to go through their filters.
A large portion of them don’t have an unsubscribe link, and if they do, that link may be embedded with malware.
This could allow cybercriminals to gain access to your computer, smartphone, and other devices.
You can slow down the flow of unwanted emails by taking certain steps. So, here are nine simple techniques you can use to filter spam from your inbox.
Mark as Spam
The vast majority of email services, such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Microsoft Outlook, categorize spam and junk email into folders.
However, if you find spam in email in your regular mailbox, mark the message as spam instead of deleting it. Marking an email as spam will send it straight to your spam folder. In the future, the spam filter won’t let through emails from this address.
How to “Mark as Spam” in Gmail
- Sign in to your Gmail account.
- Mark the email as spam by clicking the checkbox next to it (you do not need to open the email).
- From the top menu, click the Report Spam button.
How to Mark Spam in Email in Yahoo Mail
- Sign in to your Yahoo Mail account.
- Mark the email as spam by clicking the checkbox next to it.
- From the top menu, click the Report Spam button.
How to Mark Spam in Email in Outlook
- Sign in to your Outlook account.
- Tick the box next to the email you intend to mark as spam.ccess the Junk button from the top menu.
Set Up Spam Filters
Almost all popular email services allow you to configure spam filters to block spam. Using spam filters, you can automatically label and mark email messages as important or archive them, delete them, forward them, etc.
How to Set up Spam Filters in Gmail
Go to your Gmail inbox.
Access Gmail’s spam settings by clicking on the Down arrow in the search box.
Fill in the search criteria and click Create filter.
How to Create Spam Filters in Yahoo
- Go to your Yahoo inbox.
- Click the Settings icon, located on the right-hand side of the main toolbar.
- Select the More settings option.
- Navigate to the Filters tab on Yahoo’s Settings page.
- Select Add new filters.
- Confirm your filter settings.
How to Set Pp Spam Filters in Outlook
- Go to your Outlook inbox.
- Select the “Settings” option at the top of the page.
- Click on “View all Outlook settings”, then go to Mail → Rules.
- Click “Add new rule”.Confirm your filter settings.
Filters for email spam can be very effective in stopping spam, but they can also catch legitimate emails that meet certain criteria. Because of this, we recommend using spam filters sparingly and thoughtfully.
Use Multiple Email Addresses
Having multiple email addresses for different purposes is a smart idea.
Make sure you have at least one email address for entertainment, online shopping, and other purposes. It would be prudent to only use your primary email address for personal needs.
Having a junk email address that you can use when shady websites ask you to register could also prove useful.
Even if that shady website is a source of spam, you can create a new junk email address and toss the old one.
There are a number of email services today that offer gigabytes of free email storage, but Gmail is by far the most popular.
Other options include Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail, Zoho Mail, AOL Mail, Yandex, etc.
Bear in mind that not all email services are equally resistant against spam.
Consider switching your email service if you suddenly find that one of your inboxes is overflowing with spam messages without apparent cause.
Hit the Unsubscribe Button
The law requires that marketing emails give you the option to unsubscribe, which you should use whenever possible.
Upon unsubscribing from a company newsletter, you will no longer receive marketing emails.
You will, however, continue to receive emails from other departments and employees.
This alone makes unsubscribing from spam marketing emails a better option than blocking them completely.
If you don’t feel like manually unsubscribing from a pile of different email newsletters, you might consider using an email automation tool like Mailvio.
Mailvio’s list cleaning feature will remove all unwanted subscriptions and clean your list from invalid email addresses at a press of a button.
Set Up a Temporary Email Address
Many online services allow you to create a temporary email address and use it instead of your primary one.
These so-called “disposable email addresses” are perfect for registering on sites known for sending spam emails.
Why? Because they are automatically destroyed after a while.
Keep in mind that web administrators occasionally blacklist domain names associated with temporary email providers.
This means you might need to try multiple temporary email services before you find one that works.
Our recommendation is Tempail.com. It has a clean user interface, works well with most websites, and is available in multiple languages.
Don’t Reply to Spam in Emails
Responding to spam in emails is a waste of time. All your efforts to get them to stop emailing you will only make the situation worse.
The thing is, you are automatically “flagged” as a responder the minute you respond to a spam email.
Spammers will then attempt to continually communicate with you and will try to get you to click on malicious links or send them money.
To be on the safe side, move the message to the spam folder rather than responding to it.
Unfortunately, not all spam emails can be identified as quickly as those advertising erectile dysfunction medications.
In some cases, spammers go to great lengths to make their emails appear authentic.
They may even attempt to impersonate people you know, such as an office colleague or a close family member.
As you can see, spotting a spam in email can be tricky. However, there are a few things you should look out for to see if an email is legitimate or not.
How to Spot a Spam in Email
There are several telltale signs that will let you know if you are dealing with spam email:
There Is Something Fishy About the Email Address
Organizations and companies don’t use public email servers like Gmail and Yahoo to send emails. When you receive an email from, say, firstname.lastname@example.org, you can be certain that it is spam. In that case, you should mark the email as spam without a doubt.
Poorly Written Email Copy
Most spammers come from countries where English is not an official language, and their emails tend to reflect that.
Always be wary of poorly written emails, especially if they are coming from someone who claims they are from an English-speaking region.
The Email Includes Suspicious-Looking Attachment
Spammers use email attachments as a vehicle to spread dangerous malware. This is exactly why every unsolicited email that contains an email attachment smells of spam.
Make sure to never open any executable files (such as .exe) or archives (.rar, .zip) because they are almost certain to contain malware.
Even if an attachment seems legitimate, we still recommend you run it through an online file scan tool like VirusTotal to be sure.
Emails Like This Try to Create a Sense of Urgency
Spammers know that if you’re in a hurry, you’re likely to make regrettable decisions. They often try to convey a sense of urgency by sending emails with time-sensitive offers.
Another one of their favorite tactics is to send emails saying something bad will happen if you don’t follow instructions.
Do not be fooled by these shenanigans and simply mark these emails as spam.
The Email Is Trying to Extract Personal Info From You
Banks and other reputable institutions will never ask for your password or social security number over email, right?
So, make sure to keep your personal information to yourself.
Keep Your Email Address Private
Publishing your email address in too many places is a bad idea. That’s why you should use a web contact form as an alternative to simply posting your email address on a website.
Spammers use smart bots to continuously scan the web and scrape email addresses. When they find one, they enter it into their database.
In fact, some spammers sell entire lists of scraped email addresses on “the dark web”.
Whenever possible, try to obscure your email address on the web. Rather than writing email@example.com, try writing something like my (at) email (dot) com. Although you won’t trick all bots, this is still better than nothing.
Buy Only From Reputable Online Sellers
Especially if you are about to provide personal information.
A large number of websites sell all the information about their customers to third parties without giving a damn what they do with it.
Also, be wary of pre-selected checkboxes during the checkout process. Why? Because that is how websites convince their customers to agree to things they wouldn’t willingly agree to.
Walk away if a website doesn’t let you finalize your order without revealing your personal information to third parties.
Do Not Forward Chain Emails
In a chain email message, your email address becomes part of the chain, so you no longer have control over who sees it.
That is why it is best to avoid forwarding Chain Emails altogether.
However, If you decide to send a chain message to someone, be sure to remove all other recipients beforehand.
Likewise, ask that person to do the same before forwarding it to someone else.
What Are the Most Common Spam Email Security Threats?
Getting spam emails is annoying in itself, but some of these spam emails can also pose a danger to your digital safety. These spam messages contain viruses, malware, and other cyber threats that can cause all sorts of problems for you.
Here are a few to keep an eye on.
Trojan horses disguise themselves as legitimate programs to get past your defenses. Even if you have a good understanding of how to verify a legitimate email, a trojan horse can be a sneaky foe.
For instance, they can hide inside a free software download or appear as an email attachment, perhaps from a friend.
Once you open the email, the trojan will install spyware or viruses designed to give you some sort of headache.
For instance, it may allow someone else to gain control over your computer and lock you out of it. That “someone else” will then easily steal your data, email addresses, or account information.
You might be able to catch these trojans by installing anti-malware software.
A zombie is a type of malware that is also “distributed” via email attachments. It basically transforms your computer into a server and uses it to send spam to other devices.
If compromised, your computer will slow down considerably or drain its battery quickly. This is because it is “working hard” to generate waves of spam or infect web pages with viruses.
A good way to avoid zombie attacks is not to open attachments or click links in your spam folder.
The purpose of phishing emails is to emulate legitimate financial companies or other firms whose services you may be using
Typical spam phishing emails ask recipients to visit a fraudulent website to re-enter their credit card details or verify their passwords.
Lottery Scams and Fake Offers
Cybercriminals sometimes use old-school tricks to scam you by offering something that appears legitimate on the surface.
These tactics usually prey on your desires or your good nature: You’ve either won millions or someone needs your immediate assistance.
The sad truth is, you are not going on a free vacation in Hawaii. Nor are you getting $15 million from a benevolent African prince in exchange for your bank account details.
Phrases of urgency such as “Act Now” or “Immediate,” in the email’s title are a red flag for spotting fake offers and lottery scams.
When it comes to emails, nothing is 100% secure.
The sad truth is, spam emails are here to stay.
However, by taking simple precautions, you can significantly reduce your risks.
If you don’t want your inbox to turn into a spam graveyard, be sure to follow the tips we shared in this article.
You should also make use of tools like Mailvio to keep your inbox usable and well-organized.
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Vladimir is a passionate content writer and digital marketing enthusiast. With over 3 years of experience in the field, he loves sharing his insights on topics ranging from content marketing and SEO to social media strategy. When he’s not writing, you can find Vladimir exploring the great outdoors or experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen. Connect with him on LinkedIn to stay updated on his latest articles and adventures.