Have an email account? Then you’ve likely received your share of spam emails, which are unsolicited messages sent by companies, or worse, would-be hackers.
According to SpamLaws.com, 14.5 billion spam messages are sent around the world each day, accounting for 45% of all emails. “Like it or not, you’ll eventually get spam to your inbox,” said Nick Bolton, founder of antispam software company Firetrust. “Your email address [could be] sold through a website, or someone you know will have a virus on their PC, which will harvest your email address.”
If you’ve ever wondered how to stop spam emails, there are a number of inbox settings and third-party programs to help users manage the tide of unwanted messages. Here’s how to stop junk email—or at least cut down on the amount of spam you receive.
Tip 1. Create a dedicated email account for website sign-ups
Use two distinct email addresses: one for your friends, family and associates, and another for website sign-ups, e-commerce purchases and so on. That way, you can generally ignore the transactional emails and only check them when you need to, like after making a purchase.
“Some email providers like Fastmail.com and Gmail.com let you add a plus (+) to your email address for signing up to different websites, for example, nick+amazon[at]fastmail.com,” said Bolton. “If you suddenly get spam to that email address, you can block it without blocking your real email address.”
Tip 2. Unsubscribe from mailing lists you didn’t sign up for
Many companies purchase email addresses and add them to their subscriber list without your permission. While laws like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are changing this practice by imposing stiffer penalties, not everyone follows the rules. If you receive a spam email from a mailing list you don’t remember signing up for, scroll to the bottom of the email and look for unsubscribe instructions.
Tip 3. Be vigilant about marking “spam” when it comes through your inbox
While email providers typically have built-in spam filters, they don’t always catch everything. If you receive an email you believe should be marked as spam, train your email provider’s filter by letting it know. Usually, you’ll find a button that says “Report Spam,” “Mark as Spam” or something similar.
Tip 4. Use a third-party email filter
Just as spam filters don’t catch every junk message, they also occasionally mark a legitimate email as spam.
“A lot of spam filters tend to be hit-and-miss, and you don’t want to lose an important email ever,” Bolton said. “Some people have success with Gmail’s spam filters, while others don’t.” Look into a third-party email filtering software, such as MailWasher or SpamBully, which allows you to filter all emails before they reach your inbox.
Tip 5. Check the sender’s email address
Email spoofing is an increasingly common scam that involves a hacker creating a legitimate-looking email address to pose as a trusted financial institution, delivery service or other organization. The email address is usually just one or two characters off from the real deal, so before you follow instructions from “PayPa1” or “JBMorgan Chase,” double check the sender’s address by hovering your cursor over their name. You can always plug the email address into a reverse email lookup tool to try and find information about the sender.
Tip 6. Never respond to or open links/attachments in spam emails
While it’s tempting to want to send an angry reply to a spammer asking them to remove you from their list, it’s better to simply unsubscribe or block the email address. Responding to spam messages only confirms that your email address is active, which could make you a target for future scams.
More importantly, you should never click a link or open an attachment from a suspicious-looking email or an unknown sender; it could be a phishing or malware scam.
How to block unwanted emails in Gmail
To block a sender in Gmail, follow these steps:
- Open the unwanted message.
- Click the three vertical dots (“More”) in the top right.
- Click “Block [sender].”
How to block unwanted emails in Outlook
To block a sender in Outlook, follow these steps:
- Open the unwanted message.
- In the Outlook menu bar, click “Message.”
- Select the “Junk” option, then click “Block Sender.”
How to block unwanted emails in iCloud
To block a sender in iCloud, follow these steps:
- Log in to your account on icloud.com and open the unwanted message.
- Click the “Show Mailboxes” button (if not visible), then select the gear icon (“Show Actions Menu”) at the bottom of the folders list.
- Select “Rules,” then “Add a Rule.” The sender’s email will automatically populate on the next screen.
- Choose “If a message is from” as the filter criterion, and select “Move to Trash” under “Then.”
- Click “Done” to save your rule.
How to block unwanted emails in Yahoo Mail
- To block a sender in Yahoo, follow these steps:
- In Yahoo Mail, hover over the gear icon and select “Settings.”
- Tap “More Settings.”
- Go to the left-hand navigation and choose “Security and privacy.”
- Enter the sender’s email address in the “Add an address” field.
- Click “Block.”
If a suspicious message does make its way through your spam filters, you may want to look into the sender’s email address before taking any action. If anything looks off, it may be best to report it as spam and send that email straight to your trash folder.