It’s unlikely you’ll get rid of spam for good. Junk email is one of the facts of the web, frustrating as it can be. But there are steps you can take to limit the amount of spam email you receive.
Remember above all, if you find that your Junk Folder is capturing spam each day, that’s good news! It shows that it’s working the way it’s supposed to. If spam messages reach your main inbox, mark them as spam or drag them into your Junk Folder.
How much spam is too much spam?
Some spam will always get through. If you’re only getting five a day, it’s not worth worrying about. If you find your email flooded with a sudden burst of spam messages, it’s worth taking some extra security precautions.
Using your email system’s spam filtering and alert tools, mark the suspicious messages as Junk or as Phishing (scam) emails. This should alert your email provider to filter out similar emails or emails from the same sender, or warn that a friend’s email has been spoofed or hacked.
Be careful with spam
To prevent yet more spam messages flooding your account, treat the messages you’re already receiving with care. It’s best to avoid opening spam emails, or allowing them to load pictures. Don’t reply to the messages – this can validate your email address as an active one, leading to more spam.
Never click on links in spam emails, and don’t download attachments. Emails can include web beacons, web bugs or tracking pixels that tell spammers you have accessed an email and that your account is a live one.
Don’t share your email too widely
The secret to keeping your email account mostly spam-free is to limit how widely you use your email address. This can prove impractical if taken too far – for instance, you’ll always need to share your address with your contacts. But you aim to use your address with as few services as possible.
In particular, don’t post it online where it can be harvested by would-be spammers. This includes using your email address on message boards or forums on the internet.
Watch what you sign up to
Don’t give your email address to companies that you don’t trust. And when you do share it, make sure you are not opting in to marketing emails, newsletters and other filler.
Reputable companies should always provide a simple way to unsubscribe from their mailing lists, if you change your mind about receiving their updates.
Consider a new email address
Though it can be a pain to create a new email account, you’ll see less spam if you got a new email address. First, your new address would not be on any of the mailing lists used by spammers – at least for a while. Second, you could use a service that blocks more spam, such as Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Outlook.com. Different email services have levels of spam blocking features in place, and you may find your new account does a better job at filtering out the dross.
Many Which? members suggest using two email addresses (or more) to limit spam. You could use one for friends and family, and another for websites and services that you sign up to. The latter is more likely to receive the bulk of the spam messages.
Q) My email account is telling me that I am sending out spam emails myself! I keep getting ‘message not received’ errors from emails I’ve supposedly sent in bulk. What can I do?
Cloned email account
It’s possible your email address may have been ‘cloned’. This doesn’t mean that someone has accessed your account, but don’t immediately think the computer or email account has been compromised.
Hacked email account
It’s not impossible that your account has been hacked. Passwords that are too simple can sometimes be to blame for a hacked email account. Changing your password to something complex to include a capital letter and digit is really the only physical thing you can do to try to stop this from happening again.
Extreme option 1 – delete your Contacts
It may help to delete your Contacts list, in case spam emails are being sent to the addresses on this list. Note down the addresses of your contacts manually first, or export the list as a CSV file – this is usually an option within the Contactssection.
Most email programs and webmail suites can auto-generate email addresses based on the mail you receive anyway, so having a Contacts list is less essential. But keeping a backup of your contacts as a CSV file is handy – keep it saved on your computer.
You can always re-import the CSV list into the Contacts section of your email account to return the list again.
Extreme option 2 – create a new email account
If your email account continues to send out spam messages, it may be best to open a new one. You’ll need to let your contacts know that you’re changing your address, and you can import a CSV file of your contacts list from your old account into your new, more secure account.
Stay safe – be wary of unusual emails
If you ever receive an email that you aren’t sure of, don’t open any attachments or click on links within it. These actions can allow hackers to gain access to your account. If you don’t recognise an email, delete it, and don’t click links within it.