Spam is a problem that has plagued email users for years. It seems that no matter what measures are taken, spam always finds a way to get through. Whether it’s through sneakily disguised links or promises of free gifts, spam is a nuisance that clogs up your inbox and wastes your time.
The issue also seems to get progressively worse as the number of people with an online presence increases, and more and more businesses use email as a way to reach their customers.
So what can be done about it? Surprisingly much, actually. Although following the steps below doesn’t guarantee a spam-free existence, they can help you mount a formidable defense against this annoying problem:
1. Do not open obvious spam.
This one is easy. Some of the spam will inevitably circumvent protection and end up in your inbox. Do not open it. This will stop the sender from knowing that your email address is active.
If you’re unsure whether an email is spam, you can check the sender’s email address, subject line and the content of the email. If it is from an unknown sender, has a suspicious subject line, or contains spelling or grammatical errors, it’s likely spam.
2. Use an email filter.
This is another thing you can do on your own, since email filters are an option with your email client.
Email filters are similar to spam filters. Instead of blocking all junk email, email filters allow you to block email from specific addresses or domains.
To set up an email filter, you’ll need to add a rule to your email program. In Gmail, for example, you can create a filter by selecting the icon on the right end of the search bar, adding in criteria and then clicking “create filter.”
From there, Gmail will use the criteria you’ve set up to deal with emails that match it. This way you can send all emails that come from a spammer’s domain directly to your trash can. Good riddance!
3. Unsubscribe at large.
Maybe your inbox already receives copious amounts of junk mail? If so, it’s time to take out the big guns. You can do this by signing up for services that allow you to unsubscribe from multiple email lists at once, like Unroll.Me or CleanEmail. Both work with a variety of email providers, including Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud and Outlook.
Unroll.Me is free to use, while CleanEmail has flexible monthly and yearly payment plans and a free trial (cleaning up to 1,000 emails) to get you started. To start using these services, simply log in with your email account and give them permission to access your inbox.
4. Create a “spam” email.
If you’re tired of giving your real email address to companies only to have them sell it to marketers, you can create a “spam” email specifically for signing up for things.
5. Get a software spam filter.
Spam filters are software programs that block junk email from getting into your inbox. You can choose from a variety of programs, both free and priced, including SpamTitan, Mailwasher and SpamFighter.
To use a spam filter, you’ll need to install it on your computer or email server. Once installed, it will automatically block junk email from getting into your inbox.
6. Ask individual senders to remove you from their lists.
If you’re getting spam from a specific sender, you can ask them to stop sending you emails by replying to the email with the word “unsubscribe” in the subject line.
You can also usually find an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email.
Keep in mind that if you unsubscribe from a sender’s email list, you may no longer receive important emails from them such as account updates or order confirmations.
7. Contact the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).
The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is a trade association that represents the interests of advertisers in the U.S.
ANA provides a mail-suppression service dubbed DMAchoice for individuals who want to reduce the amount of spam they receive.
Unsurprisingly, getting on that list isn’t free. Be ready to pay $2 for online processing and $3 if you prefer mail-in registration. Using the DMAchoice won’t make your inbox spam-free, but it should significantly reduce the number of emails you receive from ANA-registered advertisers.
8. Opt out of credit card mail.
If you’re tired of credit card companies sending you pre-approved offers in the mail, you can opt out of them by calling 1-888-567-8688 or visiting www.optoutprescreen.com.
9. Contact the Federal Trade Commission.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the primary regulator of commercial email in the U.S., can help you stop receiving unwanted email. The FTC’s website includes a link to the complaint assistant, which allows you to file a complaint about unwanted email. It also has a number of resources for businesses, including guidance on how to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act
10. Use common sense.
While we’re often required to provide an email address for many services, this doesn’t mean you should give it easily. First, do not post it publicly. Doing so invites spammers and their automated scripts to pick it up and use it to shoot their junk mail your way.
Second, be wary of online contests and gated content that asks for your email in order to participate. If you still wish to partake, make sure to use one of the temporary email services I’ve mentioned above.
Not sure if this needs to be said, but do not reply to spam messages. This will only lead to more spam and might create security issues if someone more malicious than an average spammer is on the receiving end.
Finally, listen to your email client. Gmail, for example, does a pretty good job of keeping your inbox free of spam. While you should go into your spam folder from time to time to ensure that Gmail didn’t throw away legitimate mails with the rest of the junk, you should be very careful when second-guessing your spam filter. (See point 7.)
All in all, spam is a huge pain. But as you can see, there are quite a few things you can do to reduce its volume and make your inbox less cluttered.
Good luck, and may your days remain spam-free!