Last week I touched on spam; now I’m going to talk about it with a little more depth. Or, to be specific, how to deal with spam. Spam can be better described as junk e-mail. It is sent out by trillions world-wide every year, and is the vast majority of email sent. If you have an e-mail address, you have gotten spam at some point. It is almost impossible to make an e-mail address completely free from receiving spam, but there are definitely steps you can take to minimize the amount of unwanted emails you get.
Spam is pretty easy to recognize. Once you have gotten enough spam, it is simple enough to see that it is spam just from looking at the subject line. I’d provide a list of the more common words, but several of them are inappropriate at best. Look for subject lines involving people trying to sell you something, or trying to get you to watch a video, things like that. Most spam is annoying rather than actively malicious, but should still be properly taken care of.
Most importantly, some spam will have a link to unsubscribe, something along the lines of “If you do not wish to receive any more e-mail from this address, please click here”.
A reasonable (and completely wrong) thought is that clicking on the link will cause you to get less spam. In fact, clicking on that link can make you a target for even more spam. Here’s what clicking on that link does. First, the sender of that spam knows that the e-mail account is an active one; its owner checks it regularly.
Second, the sender knows that you read your e-mails, even if they are spam. Third, the sender knows that you are willing to click links in spam messages. These three things make up one very easy conclusion: send this e-mail address more spam.
Spam wants to be seen, read, and clicked on, and trying to communicate that you don’t want more spam means that you fulfill all three requirements.
The correct response to spam is no response. Do not reply to the spam.
Do not click any link in the message, even if it says you will stop getting spam if you do. Do not even open the message if it is obvious spam. Instead, it should be marked or reported as spam through your e-mail client and then deleted.
A quick word on the spam folder your e-mail client most likely has: most e-mails in it are there for a reason.
Most e-mails. Occasionally an e-mail you are expecting or an unexpected important e-mail will be relegated to the spam folder by mistake.
For this reason, you should make a habit of browsing your spam folder on occasion. You don’t have to open the e-mails, just make sure that there isn’t anything important accidentally lost in the folder. If this isn’t done regularly, it should at least be done before emptying the folder.
If you are very active on the Internet and regularly use your e-mail address for different services, it would be a very good idea to set up a second e-mail account. Whenever a website or a stranger requests an email address, you can give them your second e-mail account. Whenever a friend or someone you know requests an e-mail address, you can give them your main e-mail account.
Your second e-mail account should receive the bulk of the spam you get, keeping your main e-mail account’s inbox much cleaner.
This article is the ninth in a series devoted to Internet security, and learning how to keep you and your information safe.
Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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