Anyone with an email account will tell you the same thing – they receive far too many spam messages. Spam is an inconvenience. You need to sift through blocks of it to see if any actual important emails are among it and it can be harmful for the security of your computer and your personal data.
Spam is illegal, but that is of no concern to those who are sending it. Sometimes it can just be an aggressive promotional campaign, but it can also be part of something more sinister such as identity theft or attempting to get access to your bank account.
Here’s how to combat it:
Install software to filter or block spam
This is the first logical step – you want to stop spam reaching your inbox in the first place if you can help it. The filter will detect malicious messages and delete them to save you time and effort.
Most free email accounts have a spam filter too so you can mark any emails you receive as such and any future ones from the same sender won’t make it into your inbox.
Don’t reply to unknown emails
Sure, they can look official enough, even bearing the logo of a bank or company, but think. If the bank wanted you to update your personal details would they send you an email and say “click on this link”? No, they wouldn’t, ever. Don’t click on any links and don’t reply to them as this can lead to even more of the same. Even if there is an ‘unsubscribe’ link, don’t be fooled. It’s unlikely you subscribed in the first place and it is more than likely a trap.
Have an alternative email
Set up a disposable email account with a company such as Hotmail or Yahoo for everyday use. Register on sites using this email address to keep things out of your work or business inbox. That way you don’t get ton of messages in your ‘official’ email if marketing companies share your details, and they will. You also don’t want to be that person who has to contact the work IT department because you opened a dubious email on their servers.
Come up with a more difficult username
It has been proven that email accounts where the name includes underscores and digits are tougher for spammers to “guess”.
Use plain text only
Viewing emails that are written in HTML code can lead to you inadvertently exposing your computer to malicious code that is concealed within them. Your email account should have a function to enable all emails to be presented in plain text only.
Don’t publicly display your email address
This might sound counter productive if you have a company website, but spambots are looking through pages to find addresses they can hit. Instead of having ‘[email protected]’ try putting ‘name[at sign]emailprovider[dot]com’ instead. Your readers will understand it, but the spambots won’t.
Don’t say yes to everything
When you sign up for most services there will be an ‘allow us to send you information on promotions etc.’ kind of option. Usually the box next to this is already checked and you would need to uncheck it not to receive any messages. Think about it. Is it something you really want? If the answer is 100% yes then leave the box checked. If not or you aren’t sure then you should uncheck the box. You can always change your mind later and you are at least safeguarding yourself from some spam for the time being.
Report any spam
Email purporting to come from banks, financial institutions or other companies is something the real companies want to know about. They want to combat spam as much as anyone and they also don’t wish to be misrepresented. There is usually a page on their official websites for reporting such things.
Report any spam to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) too and they might be able to track the sender and get them stopped or even prosecuted.
The internet is a marvellous place, but it can be fraught with danger. Always be safe and exercise maximum caution around emails so as not to fall victim to any elaborate scam.