Freeola posted on Monday April 3rd, 2017

Spam is an absolute nuisance, but unfortunately it is a by-product of having an email address. Having to wade through a mass of spam emails is extremely frustrating. It is basically the electronic form of junk mail; although annoying the vast majority of spam is not malicious - it's just annoying unsolicited emails. However there are phishing emails which are malicious and designed to obtain personal details, as well as emails with links that contain trojan horses. You can find out more about phishing and spoofing emails in our blog post What Is Email Spoofing? There are of course scammers to watch out for too.

Unfortunately you are unlikely to ever be completely free from spam, however there are some things that you can do to avoid spammers and reduce the amount of spam you receive. Here are our top 15 tips for avoiding spammers & scammers:

  1. Never respond, responding will show that you have a live email address. Some spammers will even collate lists of live email addresses and sell these on to more spammers.

  2. If you did not solicit an email, then do not reply (regardless of how legitimate the email seems). Some scammers even pose as a charity, asking for donations - if you have not had any dealings with the organisation, look them up and check that they are genuine.

  3. Never make your email address public. It's not a good idea to post your address in a forum or on social media. If you have a website, it's a good idea to not publish your email address and instead use a contact form. Our easy website builder InstantPro makes it quick and easy to build contact forms. Contact forms mean that your visitors can get in touch, without you having to expose your email address to everyone. Bots are able to crawl sites and harvest email addresses, if you really feel you must add your email address, then use a different format (such as replacing the @ symbol with at).

  4. Check a company's privacy policy before submitting an email address. Reputable companies will be open with you about how they plan to use your details and will not sell your details on. Always be careful what you sign up for. Freeola & GetDotted's privacy policy can be found here.

  5. Block images, some spammers include an image, if you open an email with an image that automatically downloads, it will inform the spammers that the email address is live. You should only choose to view images when you receive them from a trusted source.

  6. Don't respond to any emails requesting personal information. Phishing emails will often pose as a legitimate company (such as your bank). Also be wary of any links in the email. If in doubt look for the organisation's official website and contact them, never use the contact details provided in the questionable email.

  7. Always be wary of attachments (unless they come from a trusted source). These emails may be trojan horses, they look like a pretty innocent email, but opening the attachment can install harmful software onto your computer. This software is known as malware, and can be anything from viruses to spyware, including things like keystroke logging. Keystroke logging can enable others to obtain passwords and other sensitive information (like your online banking information).

  8. If you have the option, use advanced spam filters. With Freeola's premium email service EmailPro, you can adjust your level of spam filtering with a simple slider. Just move the slider up to filter out spam more aggressively to your Spam folder. You can always check your spam folder for any messages that are filtered incorrectly, or whitelist addresses that you would always like to receive mail from.

  9. Block problem email addresses and domains. If you find that a particular address or domain is emailing you regularly, blacklisting them can be really helpful. EmailPro also has this functionality, you can set for emails to bounce (send an email explaining that the address has been blocked) or drop (no email sent out), with spam dropping is the best option, as again it doesn't confirm you have a live account.

  10. Use security software. Here at Freeola we both use and recommend ESET Internet Security; it includes anti-spam protection and can protect against malware that tries to find its way onto your machine. You should also choose complex passwords and change them regularly, check out our Password Security blog post for more tips on creating a strong password.

  11. Be cautious of using auto-responders, again these will confirm that the address is active. If you are publishing your address on your website and auto-responding to enquiries, you are opening yourself up to spammers.

  12. Be careful of forwarding emails, forwarding chain emails or funny emails may just seem like a bit of fun, however, you are inadvertently sharing email addresses (not just yours) with a lot of other people, pretty early on you can lose control of who sees your email address.

  13. If you own a domain, you may want to add Whois Privacy. When you register a domain you are added to a publicly available database, despite it being illegal the database is scraped by individuals looking to sell on details. Check out our post Why Am I Getting Spammed After Buying A New Domain? to find out more.

  14. Use more than one email address. You could use a separate email for online purchases, social media and things like chat forums, this one will likely pick up more spam. You can then use another email for your personal and important communications. This means that you have access to both, but you won't have to wade through mountains of spam to get to your personal and important emails.

  15. Beware of "unsubscribe" links. Legitimate companies will provide an unsubscribe button (usually at the bottom of the page) so that you can opt out of their promotional emails or newsletters. However some shady companies and spammers, have realised that this is a clever way of tricking the recipient into clicking on a link, this will then confirm the email address is valid, or in more malicious cases will install malware onto their machine.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, it's unlikely that you will ever fully escape spam. There are multiple ways that spammers can get your details and it's a big business, lists of live email addresses are sold, public databases like Whois are scraped and sometimes spammers will just guess and send blanket emails. However, following some of the tips above may help to reduce the amount of spam you receive. Vigilance in protecting your email address and treating spam correctly (ignoring & deleting it) are your best weapons. It's also worth investing in some good anti-virus software, in case you do happen to open something that is malicious.

Unfortunately spam mail and scam emails have been constantly increasing. Although Freeola (and other email providers) do try to filter out spam before it hits your inbox, eliminating it entirely is an impossible task. Spammers are always finding new ways to bypass filters, unfortunately any active email address is a target.

Check out our other posts on Internet Security.

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