You too huh? I would wager that just about anyone with an email account is getting some volume of spam. I think the question we need to ask ourselves is how much spam can we live with? There are some methods to reduce how much spam you receive, let’s go over some!
Email lists can be bought and sold
Be extra careful when signing up for services online, filling out forms, or giving your email out. I recommend that everyone has a ‘primary’ email address, and a ‘secondary’ email address. The primary should be used for your day-to-day communication, while the secondary you can use to sign up for stuff, put in contact forms etc. At the very least this helps keep your primary email from being exposed.
Encrypt or mask your email on your website
It’s normal to have a contact email posted publicly on your website, and I am a firm believer that you should do so. But, know that this practice exposes your email to bots who scrape websites looking for email addresses. So, follow rule #1 and post a secondary address – many business like to use ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. And, as an extra step, have your web designer or developer mask the email. I would like to point out however, that bots are getting pretty smart, and this practice might obsolete. Computers can do millions of calculations in an instant, and I doubt it will slow them down at all.
Unsubscribe from stuff you don’t need
I get emails from a bunch of services I signed up for that hardly use, or have no real desire to receive email from. I recommend unsubscribing from their emails, most are required to post an unsubscribe link in their email, usually found in small print at the very bottom. BUT be careful! Many spammers, especially from a service you don’t recognize or never signed up for, use this knowledge to trick people into clicking their unsubscribe like. Long story short – unsubscribe only from mailing lists you recognize.
Train your spam filters
Spam filters are smart, and they learn too. By marking mail as spam you can help train your mail server to recognize email that should have been marked as spam, or blocked outright. By doing this, you also help the networks at large in the fight against spam.
Tune your spam filter
Spam filters work by scanning incoming mail against patterns it knows about (those internal to it, and those you have trained it for), the senders reputation, and host of other metrics, before assigning a spam score. That spam score determines what the spam filter should do with it, and you can tighten or loosen your spam filters threshold to better suit your needs.
Never click a spam email. Better yet, never open one
Spammers live and breathe by those small conversion rates – those one in a thousand people who click on their garbage. Don’t be one of them! If something looks suspicious it probably is. You’re best to mark it as spam and/or delete it without a second thought. IF you have to open an email to make that assessment, and the option exists to not ‘download images’ or otherwise fully open the email, while allowing you to read it – please do so. By fully opening an email, or by downloading images, you may be indicating to the sending party that there is a person on the other end. In the spammers eyes your email will jump in value immediately.
Never download suspicious attachments
Another favourite for spammers is to send a virus as an attachment. If an email looks in the LEAST bit suspect, don’t download the attachment and certainly do not open it. Viruses can embed themselves in almost any type of file. These emails usually come in two flavours; the first is an unknown company claiming that you have an unpaid invoice, or that they have that file you’ve been asking about. To spot a suspicious attachment take a look at the file extension – many viruses will embed themselves in archive files (zip, tar, etc), while others as seemingly normal Word or Excel documents.
I can’t tell if its spam or not
Sometimes however, the spam looks so convincing that it’s difficult to tell if it’s a trick or not – often they will mimic an email from a legitimate corporation – the CRA Spam is a great example. If you find yourself in this situation, try inspecting the links before actually clicking on them – if the destination URL doesn’t match the company, or looks obviously spam-like, you can certainly write it off as spam. Otherwise, connect directly with the companies customer support regarding the matter over the phone or by their support email, and report the suspicious email you have received. The company may have deeper insights, and at the very least you’ll make them aware!