Stop Spam and Unwanted E-mail

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Experts estimate that around 90% of all e-mail is spam, with some placing the figure even higher. Now consider that statistics, extrapolations and research by the Radicati Group estimate the number of emails sent per day (in 2010) to be close to 300 billion.  If that much of these millions and trillions of message are indeed spam and viruses, this means that more than 3 million spam e-mails were sent EVERY SECOND of the day – and that was two years ago, before smartphone and tablet PC usage became meteoric. Needless to say, learning how to stop spam, phishing and unwanted emails is becoming an increasingly vital topic.

But first, a bit of background info: The goal of spammers is to get their unsolicited messages in front of as many people as possible, increasing the chances that some of them will click contained links and expose their personal information, make junk purchases or fall for whatever other scam they’re pushing.  And just as companies such as McAfee and Norton work to stop it, so too are spammers working hard to create new ways to circumvent any spam filters or other restrictions. On the bright side, a growing number of e-mail programs such as Yahoo! and Gmail are doing an increasingly good job of filtering out a lot of  junk e-mail automatically.

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL and Facebook further recently announced that, despite the fact they are corporate rivals, they’re uniting to fight spam and phishing. Working together with major companies like Bank of America and PayPal the e-mail providers announced the formation of a technical working group called Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC). The idea is that these e-mail providers will work with major companies on the back-end to make sure that any e-mail that says it’s from them really is. However, for those hoping to keep their inboxes free of junk in the interim, here’s how to give spam the cold shoulder.

10 tips to help identify, control and stop spam and unwanted email

  1. When you first set up an e-mail account, protect it and use it only very selectively.  Although companies promise not to give out e-mail addresses to others, it’s amazing to see the amount of spam an e-mail address can generate once spammers know it’s active.
  2. Don’t post your e-mail address in its normal form on a publicly accessible Web page.  Instead, post something along the lines of jane (at) doe DOT com.
  3. Luckily, most major e-mail programs offer a great level of basic spam protection, so use a reputable online mail program for your workplace or home which should be able to catch most of the unwanted e-mail.  
  4. Be aware also that spam exists outside of e-mail as well.  Whether in the form of direct messages on Twitter or likejacked stories on Facebook, users need to be on guard when using social networks, as well.  If something seems fishy or weird – don’t click it!
  5. Resist the urge to attempt to “unsubscribe” to spam.  Replying to messages will often do nothing more than confirm that your e-mail address works for the sender, leading to more spam.   Instead, remember to use (and teach kids to employ) the “Report” or “Mark as Spam” button from their e-mail program.
  6. Remember that you should be leery of any e-mail or other communication received from someone that you don’t know.  If you don’t know who an email’s from, don’t click it!
  7. Check the To: and From: fields in an e-mail if you think it might be Spam.  If there are other addresses on the To: line, it’s likely spam.  Additionally, e-mails sent from addresses that contain large strings of numbers in them may be a good indicator that spam is present.
  8. Hover over links to make sure their destination leads where it says it does.  And just because links match doesn’t mean to click on them – or that you can verify if it’s a legitimate site by doing so.  If you have questions, instead of clicking the link, input the URL into Google and see what comes up, and – if supposedly contacted by a business or service provider – surf on your on to its official website (don’t click on the contained link!) and contact representatives using the number on actual corporate HQs.
  9. If friends’ e-mail addresses are suddenly sending you spam, make sure to contact your friend via a different method and let them know their account has been compromised.  This seems to especially happen with Hotmail users, and often simply changing the password puts an end to the unwanted e-mailing.
  10. To help the Federal Trade Commission control spam, forward it to spam@uce.gov.
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About author

Johner Riehl

Johner Riehl is a freelance writer focusing on families, technology and online safety. As founder and editorial director for FamilyFriendlyApps.com and FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com, sites that provide reviews and recommendations geared towards families, he examines hundreds of family-friendly games and apps every year. He’s also host of Parent Savers, a podcast aimed at helping parents of newborns, infants and toddlers. TWITTER: @FamilyTechDad

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