According to a report
from technology market research firm, The Radicati Group, we’re getting more
spam today than ever before.
In 2015, the average number of spam messages received by an average
business person was 12 each day. By 2017, the average number of spam messages
received each day had risen to 16—that’s an increase of 50% in only five
If you count email lists you subscribe to and no longer want, the average number of unwanted junk emails you receive jumps dramatically.
Unwanted email is more than annoying. Spam is a huge problem for businesses, especially when you consider that spam is often a vehicle for phishing schemes and other types of email fraud. It’s also a huge waste of your time—especially if a spam message appears to be legit at first. Plus, all those email subscriptions you no longer want could keep you from seeing an important message that you need.
In this article, you’ll learn seven methods that’ll help you
to reduce the number of unwanted junk email messages you receive each day. In the
process, you’ll save time—which helps you to be more productive.
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Now, let’s look at how to stop getting junk and spam email—with seven ways to quickly reduce the number of unwanted messages you receive in your inbox:
1. Maximize Your Filter Use
Nearly every professional email service offers a filter service. Learn
how to make the most of yours:
In Microsoft Outlook, for example, you can set up rules to
send newsletters you subscribe to directly to a designated folder. This keeps
them out of your main email inbox. That way, you can review them at your leisure. Microsoft Outlook
also has a built-in Junk Email filter that sends suspected spam messages to
your Junk Email folder. You can also change the level of filtering you have set up.
Yahoo Mail sends all email through a spam filter before any
rules are applied. Suspected spam messages are automatically sent to a Spam
folder. They also provide you with the ability to set up folders to receive certain
types of emails.
Gmail includes tools for filtering email and blocking
spam as well. For a complete tutorial on how to filter email messages in Gmail, study
this Envato Tuts+ tutorial:
Spam protection is often included with firewalls and
antivirus software. Check yours to make sure that this feature is activated.
2. Don’t Click Links or Respond to Spam
It may seem obvious that spam messages shouldn’t be responded
to and links shouldn’t be clicked. This isn’t as easy as you might think. Spam
authors often go to extreme measures to make spam email look legit. The subject
line of a spam message may claim that there’s a problem with your bank or it
may announce that you’ve won a valuable prize.
When you receive a message, even a legitimate one, look at
it carefully before you open it. Here are some clues that an email message
might be spam:
- You don’t
recognize the sender address. The sender address may resemble a sender
address you know and trust. When you look at it closely though, you realize it’s off a
little bit. The corporate name may be slightly misspelled. There may be weird
characters in the email address. I once received an email that looked like it
came from a family member. When I looked at the domain name closely I realized
that my family member didn’t have an email registered at that domain.
subject line makes outrageous claims. Spammers hope to lure you into
opening their email with the message subject line. They play upon your fears by
claiming something is wrong (like financial problems or trouble with a password)
or your greed (by offering a prize). The subject line may even include the word:
Urgent. This is designed to get your attention. Don’t let yourself become a
victim of these kinds of attempts.
- The email
is full of spelling errors and poor grammar. Real businesses
typically check their messages carefully for errors before they send them. They
should catch most, if not all, mistakes. Spammers are in a rush and just want
to get the message out there so they can continue whatever scheme they’re
message contains an attachment. Never open an attachment from a sender you
don’t know and trust. Malware is often built into spam messages with
attachments. Opening an attachment to a spam message could expose your system
to a computer virus, worm, or other type of cyber-attack.
So, what happens if you click a link or respond to a spam message.
Besides the obvious direct threats (malware, viruses, etc.), clicking or
responding to a message alerts the sender that they’ve reached an active email.
It also lets them know that their threat or offer was somewhat
effective—either you’re afraid there’s the trouble the email threatened or you’re
hopeful you’ll win an unexpected prize. Either way, you can now expect to
receive even more spam messages.
Sometimes even opening a spam message is enough to alert the
spammer that your mailbox is active and regularly monitored. While there are
legitimate uses of email tracking software that tells email senders whether a
message has been opened or read, spammers sometimes use these same tools for
To learn more about email tracking software, study our helpful tutorial on: How to Know If Someone Has Opened and Read Your Email.
3. Don’t Publish Your Email (+More Security Tips)
Have you ever wondered how spammers get your email address?
Here are some common methods spammers use to get email addresses:
- They find
It online. If you’ve got a website, a social media presence, or just an
online profile—your email address is probably published on the Internet. If your
email is online, scammers can use scanning software to find it.
- They generate random email addresses. The spammer may not have your email
address at all. They may be using software to generate possible email addresses
for a domain name. It would take forever to do this manually, but software can
generate email address possibilities quickly.
- They buy lists.
Some unscrupulous companies and organizations sell lists of email addresses
from their files. While this practice may seem unethical, you may unwittingly
give a company permission to do this when you sign up with them.
Reduce the likelihood that a spammer gets your email by taking
the following precautions:
publish your email online. This can be tricky, since many of us rely on
the Internet for business. But there are ways around it. Have prospects
fill out a contact form on your website, for example. This let’s you see their email
address before they see yours. Also, since email scraping and scanning software
often looks for the @ symbol, describe your email rather than give it to keep it
from getting scraped. Software is less likely than a human to decipher “[my name] at [this
- Limit who
you give your email to. Whether you sign up for a service, make an online
purchase, or enter a contest—you’ll probably be asked to provide your email
address. If it’s optional and you don’t think they need it, don’t provide it.
attention when you do give your email out. When you provide your email
address, study the privacy policies and other notifications. Often, consumers
unwittingly agree to receive messages from “partner companies”
because they don’t read the notifications when they open their account. If you
can, opt out of receiving partner messages to reduce the volume of email
using a disposable email. A disposable email allows you to sign up for
services or other accounts without providing your email information. It also
allows you to send an email or post a comment online anonymously. Usually, they’re
temporary or throwaway accounts. To learn more about disposable accounts review
our tutorial: Beginner’s
Guide to Disposable Email Addresses.
4. Make Use of Email Security Measures
Junk mail often consists of hackers trying to access your
email account using a technique called phishing. By sending a junk email that appears
to be legit, they try to get you to share personal information—such as
your email password.
Believe me, the last thing you want is for hackers to get
into your email account. Hackers and fraudsters target your email account
because it may contain other sensitive information. You may receive bills or
account statements through email that include your account number. Or, they may
use your email to reset the password on other of your accounts—locking you out
and giving them access.
Setting up strong passwords is one of the most essential
email security measures you can take. It ensures that only you can access and
send messages from your email account. The following article discusses Gmail
passwords, but some of the principles also apply to other email providers as well:
If you send a lot of sensitive material or financial data
through email, consider email encryption to keep others from gaining access to
your messages. Some email providers provide encryption as part of their
service, but many don’t. To learn more about email encryption, study our
tutorial series: It’s
Time to Encrypt Your Email.
5. Block and Report Spam
Most email services allow you to block messages from certain
senders. Many also allow you to flag a message as spam.
If your email provider offers these services, take advantage
of them. You may think that deleting a spam message is enough, but all that
does is remove one message from your inbox.
When you block messages from a certain sender, that sender
cannot use that same email address to send you more messages. (Of course,
there’s nothing that keeps them from continuing to spam you using a different
When you flag a message as spam, you may be helping to
strengthen the email provider’s anti-spam filter. Not every every email provider
handles messages flagged as spam the same way. For many providers, if a lot of people
report the same email address for spam, that email account may be
suspended by the provider.
The potential harsh consequences for the sender are one
reason why it’s important to remember that not every unwanted message you
receive is spam.
For example, if you signed up for a newsletter several years
ago, but no longer read it and don’t want to get it any longer, that’s not spam.
That’s a legitimate newsletter you signed up for. Likewise, if you ordered a
pizza and didn’t notice that you opted in to receive promotions from the pizza
company—that’s not spam. The best way to deal with legitimate mailing lists
you no longer want to be on is to unsubscribe. Let’s look at that.
6. Unsubscribe to Unwanted Messages
The laws vary depending on where you’re located, but in many
locations commercial email senders must provide the recipient with a way to opt
out of receiving commercial emails. That means when you get an email from
someone who wants your business, that same email should also include a way for
you to be removed from the list for similar emails.
Commercial email messages include newsletters, promotional
messages, and other messages asking you for your business.
The most common type of opt-out that you’ll see is an
unsubscribe link, which is usually found at the bottom of a commercial email
message. Here’s an example of an unsubscribe link from the bottom of one of the
emails I received in my Yahoo Email account:
When you click on an Unsubscribe link, you’ll usually be
taken to a screen that confirms that you no longer wish to receive emails from
Be cautious about using the Unsubscribe link. Some
spam messages also include unsubscribe links. Instead of unsubscribing you from the
spammers email list, the link may take you to a site the attacks your computer.
Even if you’re not taken to an attack site, the spammer can get a lot of
information about you and your computer when you click on the link.
So, while clicking the Unsubscribe link can be a good way to
stop getting messages from legitimate businesses it can also be dangerous if it
happens to be in an email sent by a spammer. If you recognize the sender and
know for sure that you once signed up to get the messages (such as with a
newsletter), go ahead and use the Unsubscribe link. If you don’t recognize the sender or
suspect the email isn’t legitimate, don’t click Unsubscribe.
There are also tools that can help you to manage your email
subscriptions. One such tool is Unroll.me,
which analyzes your inbox, identifies your subscriptions, and combines them
into a single daily message. You can also use the tool to unsubscribe from
subscriptions you don’t want.
Note: Keep in mind though that while Unroll.me is a popular and easy to use service, it’s business model may involve selling anonymized user data to other companies. This is something to consider carefully before signing up. Learn more about the issue as covered in the New York Times. Also, if you have Unroll.me setup on your Gmail account, but would like to remove it, here’s how.
7. Delete Your Email Account
As a last resort, if your email account has become overrun
with unwanted messages, you may need to delete it.
It seems drastic, but sometimes deleting your email account
and starting fresh is the only thing to do. If the number of unwanted emails
you receive greatly exceeds the number of wanted emails, it might be time to
take this step.
Before you delete an email account, review the messages in it that you want to receive. Be sure to let these senders know of your new email address. Also,
remember to change your email address on any accounts that are linked to your
old email address or you could lose access to those accounts if you forget your
Most email platforms let you delete your account easily. As
an example, the instructions for deleting an email account in Gmail are in this
You now know
how to stop getting junk email. With the methods described here, you’re not
defenseless against spam or other unwanted email messages. Take control of your
inbox to keep from getting email you don’t want.
any more time on junk email. Start using several, or all, of the techniques in
this article today.
Also, review this Envato Tuts+ tutorial on email management strategies or download our free PDF eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery. It’s available for Free with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business newsletter.
Disclaimer: Note that I’m not an information securities expert. This post is based on a compilation of recommended best practices and my own experiences as an email user.