What is email spam and how to stop it

Spam emails (or junk mail) are unsolicited messages sent in large quantities to users without permission. Find out how you can prevent spam emails from flooding your inbox.


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What is spam?

Commonly, spam is defined as emails or messages that are sent without the receiver’s permission. Spam is usually sent in large quantities and contains advertising elements. Spam became an even bigger issue than it already was when crooks started distributing malware via spam emails.

User email addresses are usually obtained via a process called harvesting. A special program scans for email addresses and other information in websites, forums, etc. The program then adds the obtained email addresses to spam email databases.

What is the point of spam emails?

You may wondering what the point of spam is, seeing as most people ignore it. However, it’s all about the money. Since sending emails generally costs cents, even if only one in a thousand responds and gets roped into buying something, it’s worth it. A lot of shady businesses use spam emails to sell things you really should not be buying from shady sellers, but you can also encounter ones offering loans, etc.

Spam is also often used to spread malware or phishing. Nowadays, spam emails can contain trojans and even ransomware. Spam emails are also commonly used to phish user information, such as login credentials, banking information, etc. Currently, the biggest part of email traffic is spam.

How to stop spam

Completely avoiding spam emails is difficult, particularly for those who use their email addresses to sign up to various services. However, there are certain things that can be done to make spam a lesser problem.

  • Use spam filtering and blocking tools. Most email services offer spam filtering services and hide all spam emails in the spam folder.
  • Use anti-virus software. A lot of spam emails have malware attached to them. Anti-virus software would prevent it from running if you were to open it.
  • Do not open attached files in emails sent from unknown senders. If you receive an unsolicited email and it has something attached to it, do not open it, particularly if it’s an .exe, .scr or .com file. .doc, and PDF formats are also common in malicious emails. And even if the sender is familiar, you still need to be careful.
  • Close sessions after you’re done using email on public computers. If you use a computer in a public library, internet cafe, school or any other place where anyone can access computers, always log out of your email and close the window. You should also delete history, cookies, etc.
  • Be careful when registering on web pages. When you’re registering for some web page or app and your email is required, read the Privacy Policy to find out how they plan to use your information. It’s often the case that web services and apps are the ones to leak/sell your email address to spammers. It’s recommended to create a separate email for these kinds of registrations in order to avoid clogging your main inbox with spam.
  • Do not reply to unsolicited emails. Do not interact with the email in any way. Do not reply, do not open attachments, do not click on links or buttons, that includes the Unsubscribe button. Any kind of interaction with the email will let spammers know that you got the email, thus they will continue to send it.
  • When sending emails to multiple recipients at the same time, write their addresses in the BCC address box. If you put in all recipients’ email addresses in the To or Cc address fields, all email addresses will be visible to all recipients. If malware is on a computer on which the email is opened, it can then record those visible addresses. If recipients do not have to see who else received the email, putting addresses in the BCC is recommended, as it would hide the recipients.