What is junk email or spam?
Many of us use the terms “junk” email or “spam” interchangeably. But some argue that there is a difference. Junk email, they say, is email from legitimate companies that you may have signed up with once but are now bombarding you with news or promotions that you are just not interested in. Spam, on the other hand, is sent by criminals who want to steal your identity or money or both by gaining your trust/fooling you and accessing your personal information.
Whatever the differences over the definitions of “junk” and “spam” email, everyone agrees that they don’t want it to clog their inboxes.
Why do I get so much spam email?
You aren’t alone. Spam comprised 54% of global email traffic in March 2020. The good news is that the amount of junk email being sent globally has been reducing over the years – it was 69% in 2012 and 55% in 2018.
Did you know?
Spam costs American businesses and customers almost $20 billion a year, according to a 2012 study on the Economics of Spam.
How can I stop getting spam and junk emails?
- Use spam filters such as Spamdrain:
Spamdrain is a spam filter that stops junk email or spam from entering your inbox. While several email service providers also offer inbuilt spam filters, they have varying levels of efficiency. Spamdrain, however, can be customized to be really strict about filtering unwanted emails. For a start, it will block most marketing emails as standard practice. If you want to read these emails, you will have to tweak the filter with just a few clicks to teach Spamdrain about what you want in your inbox. Better still, Spamdrain works with all types of email providers, and across devices such as iPhone, Android, Mac, PC. It costs less than a cup of coffee a month. Simply connect and we do the rest.
- Train your spam filter by marking email as spam:
The best way to prevent spam from reaching your inbox is not to delete it, but mark it as spam. When you do this, you train your anti-spam filter – whether an inbuilt or third-party one – to automatically send such messages to the spam folder where they will be deleted unread after 30 days or so. This will help reduce the amount of junk email you receive in your inbox.
You must similarly train your spam filter to unblock emails it may have mistakenly blocked. For instance, Spamdrain users can view a list of blocked emails. If you find an email you want to read on this list, simply tap on it and select “allow”. Spamdrain will then send this email straight to your inbox the next time. It learns from its mistakes! Gmail and other email providers have a ‘Not Spam’ button or similar that you can click.
- Avoid unsubscribing to spam emails:
This sounds counter-intuitive but sometimes pressing the “unsubscribe” button on spam emails from people or entities you cannot identify just confirms to the spammer that yours is a valid and active email account, and can even send them further information about your browser, device or even location, say experts. All this information adds to the profile the scamsters are building of you. The “unsubscribe” button from these unidentifiable sources can also take you to a malicious site where a malware can download onto your computer, accessing all your information. Having said that, clicking “unsubscribe” to an email from a well-known e-commerce seller or retailer is safe.
- Avoid publishing your personal email on a public forum:
If you have to do it, mask it or publish it in the form of an image so that it cannot be scraped by bots.
- Keep two email addresses:
Keep one email for your personal use and the other to give out in any public forum – such as when you sign up for newsletters, updates, promotions, campaigns or with online retailers and so on. This trick, however, may be viable only for your personal email. To stop receiving junk email in your business email, you could sign up for a spam filter service such as Spamdrain.
Is spam only annoying or can it also be dangerous?
While most spam is annoying, some can be outright dangerous. Spam or junk email such as those peddling miracle drugs, lottery tickets or even porn sites are annoying because they clog up our inboxes, forcing us to waste valuable time looking for emails that we want or need to read.
What is phishing?
“Phishing” is a cybercrime in which scammers fish for their target’s personal details by impersonating a trusted source such as a bank or credit card company via email, and trick their targets into revealing sensitive financial details.
The emails sent by scammers usually coerce the targets to pay a (fake) invoice, reset banking passwords, verify bank or credit card accounts or update billing information. The emails can even ask you to click on a link or attachment that downloads a malicious software that accesses all the information on your computer.
These emails usually come with subtle threats that your bank account will be blocked or credit card cancelled if you do not do _________ (the action the scammer wants you to do). Once they have your financial information, scammers transfer money out of your bank accounts or run up huge credit card bills.
Some scammers also groom vulnerable people to gain their trust and then extract money or personal details from them, sometimes even stealing their identities. These scams inflict significant damage on the target’s finances as well as physical and mental health.
How do I protect myself from phishing?
To protect yourself from email scams such as phishing, you need to have your wits about you all the time, but here are a few golden rules:
- If an unsolicited email offers you something that sounds too good to be true – such as an inheritance from an alleged long-lost relative, a lottery payout, or if you are offered a share of a fortune if you help someone transfer some money out of their country – it’s most likely a scam.
- Remember, banks or financial institutions NEVER ask their customers for sensitive financial information such as passwords or ATM card PINs.
- Any emails asking you to drop everything and do something RIGHT NOW OR ELSE (such as update your bank details by clicking on the link given or your account will be suspended etc) are to be treated with extreme suspicion.
- Don’t open emails from unknown sources and if you do, don’t click on any links in them.
- Always use a spam filter such as Spamdrain that will block phishing emails from reaching your inbox.
- Update your computer operating system and browser regularly. Have an anti-virus system in place and also update it regularly.