How to Stop Spam Emails
Spam emails can range from the mildly irritating to the unpleasant and harmful. Advertisers send out unwanted and unsolicited marketing messages in bulk to promote products and services. But although marketing spam consumes your inbox space and can be annoying, it’s usually harmless.
However, some spam can also impact your security, privacy, and mental wellbeing. Fraudsters use spam emails to carry out scams, phishing attacks, and other nasty schemes. Some spam emails[AB1] can also carry different kinds of malware like viruses, worms, and Trojans.
By tweaking your behavior on the internet and by utilizing some tools and settings, you can lessen the amount of spam emails you receive.
Read this in-depth guide to learn:
- How to stop getting spam emails in your inbox.
- How to report spam emails.
- How to recognize spam emails.
Why am I getting so many spam emails?
The primary reason you’re getting so much spam email is because of the nature of email itself. It’s cost-effective and safe to send an email from any corner of the world, and sending millions of unsolicited messages a day is a low-risk high-reward scheme for a bad actor.
Marketers can promote to countless people with the click of a button, while scammers only have to trick a few out of the many people receiving their malicious spam (malspam). Cybercriminals sitting on the other side of the world can send malware, knowing that law enforcement is unlikely to come after them.
Some spam targets the email addresses of prominent organizations for extra high rewards. The objective of such emails is to take over official email accounts for a business email compromise (BEC) attack. BEC attackers can make off with millions in a single scam.
Although BEC is highly lucrative for scammers, law enforcement is fighting back. In early 2023, they recovered 800K from a BEC attack, stolen from a construction management company.
Your email address was exposed
There are several ways spammers can obtain your email address:
- Bots: Spammers use bots to find email addresses. Bots crawl the internet, checking websites, message boards, and public social media pages for your contact information.
- Subscriptions: If you signed up for a mailing list or promotion, your email address may have been sold to a spammer. Opening scam emails can also land your address on more spam lists, because scammers will know it’s a live email address and that you tend to open emails.
- Dark web: Authors of spam emails can purchase email addresses on the dark web for low prices.
- Brute force: Spammers can leverage brute force attacks like dictionary attacks to generate different combinations of email addresses.
- Malware: Some viruses, worms, Trojans, and spyware can steal email addresses. Ultimately, some of these email addresses end up on spam lists.
- Data breach: A data breach at a website you’ve signed up with can expose your email address to bad actors.
Spammers are getting smarter
Although spam filters have steadily improved since the early 2000s, the percentage of email spam keeps rising. Not only are spammers sending out more emails but they’re finding ways to outsmart spam filters.
11 steps to stopping spam emails
It’s almost impossible to completely stop receiving spam emails. Even if spam doesn’t land in your inbox, it should go to your junk folder. However, there are some tools and practices you can utilize to manage spam.
With the following tips, you can minimize the amount of spam directed to your inbox:
- Use an up-to-date virus scanner and antivirus software: Regularly scan your computer with a virus scanner and use antivirus software to protect your system from malicious software that can steal email addresses.
- Install browser protection: Protect your browser with Browser Guard to block malicious websites like phishing websites.
- Use spam filters: Activate your spam filter to stop getting spam emails in your inbox.
- Never reply: Avoid replying to spam emails or opening any links inside emails as this may encourage spammers. Additionally, steer clear of unsolicited attachments.
- Report suspicious emails: Report spam emails to your email provider to improve their spam filtering system.
- Block unwanted senders: Block the email address of unwanted senders.
- Change privacy settings: Update your privacy settings on social media to prevent your email address from being exposed to bad actors. Share your email address carefully.
- Unsubscribe: You can unsubscribe from newsletters and marketing emails to prevent reputable companies from emailing you. However, you should be careful when managing emails from unknown senders. Scammers can use the unsubscribe button in an email they’ve sent to confirm your email or direct you to a malicious website.
- Use multiple email addresses: Create separate addresses for work and personal emails. You can also use a temporary email address when signing up for a promotion.
- Disable auto load: Spammers can embed a tracking pixel in emails to invade your privacy. Prevent your email from automatically loading images to stop many of these trackers.
- Create a new email address: If spam is out of control despite the remedial steps you’ve taken, consider creating a new email address.
How to mark email as spam on different platforms
- Open Gmail
- Select the spam email by checking the box next to the email’s title
- Click the icon with the exclamation mark on top to report spam in Gmail
- Start Outlook
- Right-click on the spam email
- Look for Security options
- Click Mark as junk
If you’re wondering how to report spam emails on your iPhone, the answer depends on the email app:
- Open the Mail app on your iPhone > Swipe left on the email > Tap More > Tap Move to Junk
- Open the Gmail app on your iPhone > Open the email > Tap the three dots on the top right > Tap Report spam
- Open Gmail
- Open the message
- Click More on the top right
- Click Block “<Name of sender>”
How to block spam emails on Outlook
- Start Outlook
- Select the message you wish to block
- From the top toolbar select …
- Block > Block sender > OK
- Start the Mail app
- Select the message you wish to block
- Click the arrow next to the sender’s name in the header and select Block Contact
- Open the Mail app on your iPhone > Swipe left on the email > Tap More > Tap Block Sender
- Open the Gmail app on your iPhone > Open the email > Tap the three dots on the top right > Tap Block “sender name”
For Apple device users that are inundated with annoying spam calls and texts, we suggest using a spam blocker for iPhone. The iOS software will block spam and ads, filter suspicious texts, and protect you from scam websites.
While activating your spam filters, improving your internet privacy, and using cybersecurity software can protect you from spam emails, learning to recognize them is also essential. These could be signs of spam emails:
- Suspicious discounts: Spam emails often urge you to click with suspiciously high discounts or low prices in the subject lines.
- Urgency: Malicious spam may try to trick recipients by creating a sense of fear or urgency.
- Unrecognized senders: Spam is unsolicited. If you don’t recognize the sender, it might be spam.
- Unprofessional: Some spammers don’t take the time to remove spelling or grammatical mistakes. The graphics in a spam email may also appear skewed.
- Attachments: Spam emails can carry attachments such as files disguised as malware. The email may claim that these files are free software.
- Phishing links: Spam may try to convince you to open a link. While some of these links look legitimate, others are poorly disguised and may appear as a string of numbers. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to not click the link at all.
Malicious spam emails usually leverage social engineering tactics, where they try to deceive the recipient by manipulating them psychologically. Phishing is a type of social engineering.
Malspam may carry malicious attachments with viruses, worms, Trojans, and other threatening files that can harm your system or steal your data. Alternatively, they may carry links infected with malware.
Spam emails sometimes inform users of fake lottery wins. The goal of such emails is to either steal sensitive information or deceive users into paying money for “taxes” or “lottery fees.” After sharing their data or paying the scammer, the targets receive no further contact and realize there is no lottery win.
Tax refund scam emails will inform you of an unutilized tax refund. Usually, such emails will lead you to a fake government website designed to capture your sensitive information. After gaining your data, the scammer can the use it in identity theft.
Bad actors will send fake emails from establishments like government agencies, credit agencies, banks, PayPal, or retailers that demand confidential information. The tone of the email will have a sense of fear or urgency in order to manipulate the reader’s emotions.
Like the fake account verification email, the fake invoice creates a sense of fear or urgency. The email usually appears to be from a trusted organization like a tax agency or retailer and carries a fake invoice. The email may state that the time to pay the invoice is running out. It may even threaten the user with account closure or law enforcement.
Should you be worried if you get spam emails?
There’s usually no reason to worry about receiving spam emails. But you should avoid engaging with spam emails. Malspam can carry all types of nasty files that attack your security and privacy. Spam emails may also try to trick you into sharing confidential information or lead you to scam websites designed to copy your private information, such as your password or credit card number.
You should only be concerned if you have engaged with a malicious spam email. Depending on the scope of the threat, you may need to:
- Change your passwords and the answers to secret questions.
- Run an antivirus scan.
- Monitor your credit cards, bank accounts, and next credit report for unusual activity.
- Monitor your social media, email, and other accounts for unusual activity.
Another situation to be wary of is a spam attack. Sometimes threat actors send many junk emails to a target to flood their inbox, so they get frustrated and ignore security alerts. Scan your email regularly for security alerts if you notice an unusual spike in spam in your inbox.
Regardless of the amount of spam email that you receive, make sure you have strong password in place - use our free password generator to create strong passwords for all your online accounts.
As mentioned, you may be getting spam emails because you subscribed to a mailing list or posted your email address on the internet. But you may also be receiving spam emails through no action of your own. For example, spammers can use dictionary attacks to generate variations of email addresses, including yours. Bad actors can also purchase email lists from different sources. Your email address may also be on such a list due to a data breach.
Spam email is not defined by content. Spam email is any unsolicited email sent out in bulk. Marketing spam emails usually carry promotions and offers, while malicious spam email (also known as malspam) can carry viruses or links to different types of scams.
While deleting emails may feel like the fastest way to deal with spam, it may be best to report it as spam instead. Your email client will usually automatically shift reported junk to your spam box. Reporting spam also helps improve anti-spam technology.
As mentioned, there is no way to stop spam emails permanently but you can use some of the tips shared above to manage spam.