What Everybody Ought to Know About Dealing With Email Spam

Akshata Shanbhag 02-12-2013

Here’s one more reason for everyone to hate Mondays. They’re supposedly the busiest days for email spam, that frustrating stream of unsolicited emails about weight loss, Viagra, million-dollar lotteries, and what not.


It might be next to impossible to stop spam completely, but it’s certainly possible to reduce its flow to a trickle. We have already covered ways to tackle Facebook spam Stop The Spam: You Can Control The Facebook Ads You See [Weekly Facebook Tips] Are you seeing irrelevant ads from Facebook? Here's why Facebook is showing you these ads and what you can do to influence them. Read More , Twitter spam How Should You Deal With Twitter Spammers? Twitter spammers are annoying entities that are an unfortunate part of the service, and it doesn’t look like that they will be going away anytime soon. Until Twitter finds a way to automatically get rid... Read More , and spam from friends Are You Taking Friendly Fire? 3 Tips To Stop Spam From Friends We all get spam and it can't be helped. But when it's our own friends that send some spam our way, things can get sticky. How do you deal with "friendly" spam. Read More . In this post, we’ll tell you how to control email spam.

Unfortunately, the option to stop unwanted emails from piling up in your inbox is not available as a one-click solution. It is more of a bunch of different measures that you can take as part of your Web usage. We have outlined some of the important ones below.


Use Disposable Email Addresses

Some apps let you use a unique address for each website or service that you sign up for. These apps keep your actual email address under wraps and redirect all the mails sent to those different aliases to your main inbox. This way, if you receive spam, you can pin down the sender’s identity and disable the address you’ve linked to that particular service.

With the personalized option provided by the folks at 33mail, you can have unlimited disposable addresses that end with


If you’re registering on a website called, with 33mail, you can sign up using a special alias, say In fact, you don’t even need to create it separately. It’s created automatically the first time anybody tries to send you an email at that particular alias. In future, if you receive unwanted emails from, you can always block the alias associated with it.


33mail comes with a forever-free plan and an annual payment one. The paid plan lets you reply anonymously and use a custom domain as well.

If you’re looking for more options, Yaara’s post on disposable email services Need a Disposable Email Address? Try These Great Services Need to send or receive an email without using your real address? Here are some great services that let you do just that. Read More  has you covered.


Tie Up the Loose Ends

If your email program does not have a built-in spam filter or if the filter isn’t doing a very good job of keeping the spam out, try an external spam blocker like SpamAssassin. It is an open-source option for Windows, Linux, and Mac. If you’re a Windows user, Ryan’s post about setting up SpamAssassin for Windows How to Set Up & Use SpamAssassin for Windows Read More can come in handy.

You can always secure your email further by using encryption for your webmail How to Encrypt Your Gmail, Outlook, and Other Webmail Email accounts hold the keys to your personal information. Here's how to encrypt your Gmail,, and other mail accounts. Read More . Email encryption is defense against bots which harvest email addresses 6 Precautions You Should Take Against Email Harvesters & Spammers Spam has its roots in email harvesting. Email harvesting is the umbrella term for the methods spammers (or bulk email marketers) use to obtain email addresses in volumes. It could be as low tech as... Read More , and prevents also email spoofing.

If you absolutely have to reveal your email address online, be clever about it. Use a trick or two to disguise your email 5 Ways to Protect & Hide Your Email to Stop Receiving Spam Read More and get a grip on spam.

Given the amount of Web activity you engage in every day, you might forget that you signed up for certain updates. When you do get those updates at a later date, you might discard them as spam without thinking twice. Keep regular tabs on the services and newsletters you sign up for to avoid such a scenario.



Sometimes the spam filter of your email program may identify messages from known senders, including friends and family, as false positives and dump them in the junk folder. But you can prevent that from happening by setting up a whitelist of contacts that you want to receive mail from. Similarly, you can block spammy addresses by blacklisting them.

Stay Alert

From the get-rich-quick deals to the you-have-a-missed-delivery notifications, from the disaster-relief sob stories to the too-good-to-be-true loan offers, there are many scams that you need to look out for.

It’s best not to open spammy-sounding emails and those from unknown senders. Even if you end up doing so, do not click on the links inside them. More often than not they lead you to malicious websites or they’re designed to download malware to your computer secretly. In any case, it’s a good idea to keep your antivirus software up to date.


Banks and other payment services will never ask for crucial information like passwords and credit card details in an email. No matter how legit they sound or how authentic they look, never give away any kind of sensitive information in response to emails How Scammers Target Your PayPal Account & How To Never Fall For It PayPal is one of the most important accounts you have online. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge PayPal fan, but when it comes to your money, you don’t want to play around. While... Read More .


Even if the sender’s name is familiar, always check the reply-to address. The message could be a ruse meant to trick you into replying to an unfamiliar address, which is most likely being used to deliver spam.

At times, the subject line of a junk email may appear genuine enough to prompt you to open it. For example, a series of WhatsApp voice notifications in your inbox may make you think that they’re genuine and need an urgent response. In such cases, it’s best to err on the side of caution, because as it turns out, these WhatsApp emails are fraudulent.

You should also keep any eye out for sneaky check boxes that are checked by default when you register for stuff online, because you might unintentionally end up requesting updates that you don’t want.

A simple Web search from time to time will keep you updated on the diverse tactics of scammers. You can also read this 15-minute primer on spam and this post on how spammers find your email address How Do Spammers Find Your Email Address? Spam is the closest thing we’ll ever find to an Internet plague. No matter who you are, spam will one day find you and you’ll have no choice but to put up with its pestilence.... Read More , both of which can help you close any leaks in your email privacy.



With spam accounting for a whopping 70% of email activity worldwide, it’s safe to say that it’s a very serious problem. More importantly, it’s a persistent problem, with spammers finding new ways to trick you every day.

If the spam in your inbox spirals out of control, you can always report it to the right authorities How To Report Email Fraud & Spam To Authorities Read More or get a new email address. But your best bet is to protect your email address right from the beginning, because once it gets on a spam list, there’s no way to remove it.

Be choosy about where your reveal your email id and tweak those spam filters from time to time. And if you happen to get the occasional email that appears to be from Jennifer Aniston or some other Hollywood celeb, keep calm and delete it.

Have we missed something? Any other tricks up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: Spam by Buggolo, Keys on Keyboard by Intel Free Press, Paypal Phishing English by Jurvetson, Spam figure by Dwlocks

Related topics: Email Tips, Online Security, Spam.

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  1. Rod Green
    December 6, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    PayPal say that they will always use your name, never Dear Client, Customer or anything else. WE KNOW YOUR NAME they told in a phone call.

  2. DJ MMiMER (Anthony)
    December 4, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    As you mention before it not just paypal, I got one claiming to be a client looking for a DJ services for a wedding that so far from where my business is located. Needless to say it was a scam that I didn't fall for because I've done my homework researching. It a matter of the person really verifying that the email is really what it is because most vendor like EBay, Paypal... don't email you about your account in question.
    Spammers/Scammers got to live off of other people money and they're the one that's going to pay in the end...

  3. Akshata
    December 4, 2013 at 7:16 am

    I checked out both and they sound interesting. The Other Inbox unsubscriber looks like it requires absolutely no extra work on your part :) Simplicity in apps is always a good thing...

  4. Karlyn Knudson
    December 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    I am so bummed out that you said that because I also was trying to think of effective ways to avoid being high jacked of all the time it takes to go through the mailbox,and how easy it is to loose the important in the mix of all that you talked about, but also I wondered about all the scams that go on. While I hate to admit it, some of the fraudsters out there , are pretty sly with the messages. They sound pretty convincing with the empty promises of wealth wiacth ridiculous amounts of money, then contacting to say someone else is trying to claim it, then they are the FBI and you'll be arrested, cause only a money launder financing terrorists would abandoned an amount of money. Most of us wouldn't fall for it, but a child who has an email may not know to think any better and before they even have anybills their credit could be ruined, and people are loosing their homes , and theirs old people....I don't know, At any rate I was thinking it would be easier to crack down on the se thieves if it wasn't so easy to get multiple /disposable emails. That, and if the major email service providers didn't condone that kind of activity. I guess it really doesn't matter because some people are so determined to rip the rest of us off that they will just keep finding new ways. I can totally see your ideas is much more thought out then mine. Impressive!

    • Akshata
      December 4, 2013 at 4:06 am

      I agree with you that those mails can be quite deceptive at times, especially when they make it sound as if the message is quite urgent or if it's related to a bank account. I guess ultimately any services that are available end up being used for both good and bad. If you continue having trouble with spam, perhaps you can give Mailwasher or Spamarrest a shot, as Bruce suggested above.

  5. Bruce
    December 3, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Mailwasher is very good and free. I use Spamarrest, it works very well also.

  6. Malcolm
    December 3, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I've used Mailwasher Pro since it first launched. It lets you look at all your emails while they're still on the server and delete them there and then. Actually it leaves them on the server for a while but prevents them from downloading to you; instead it puts them in a "recycle bin" in which they appear deleted but from which you can "recover" them if you find you made a mistake. It also learns and starts pre-sorting emails from sources you've marked as spam in the past, but the final decision is still yours: you can uncheck any of those it has marked as spam. Why is it so much more satisfying to zap spam on the server - like freezing an intruder in a security light outside your gate and shouting "Stop right there, buster!"

    • Akshata
      December 4, 2013 at 3:59 am

      Mailwasher Pro sounds useful. I have used both Gmail and for my email, and thankfully I haven't had to deal with spam much on either.
      Deleting spam on the server can be quite satisfying I guess, much like deleting a virus-infected file in the nick of time.

  7. Alex D
    December 3, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I just got the news letter with this as the header. Gmail put it in my spam folder...

  8. Gerry
    December 3, 2013 at 12:21 am

    Why hasn't anyone brought up the fact that the sample PayPal Customer Care email contains some of the most atrocious misspellings and extremely bad grammar samples I've ever seen. IMO, spelling and grammar such as in the sample should be the first clue that the sender is not legit and definitely not even a grade school "C" speller. If you have even a mediocre educational background, you should have no problem detecting crap like this. Buyer be warned!

    • Akshata
      December 3, 2013 at 4:14 am

      The sample Paypal email is riddled with mistakes as many spam emails are, and this should raise a red flag. But there are several others scams that involve deceptively genuine-looking emails and people do fall prey to them because of it.

    • Shmuel M
      December 3, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      Actually, it's not limited to Paypal - most of the "spam scams" which I receive have both atrocious grammar and spelling. But it's not limited to email anymore. I received a phone call from someone who said that he was calling from the United States government and had free money for me. Sheesh!

  9. Thurston
    December 2, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Email spam is a form of paralipsis, and can be combated the same way junk mail was combatted. I belive after reading Malcolm Galdwell's article were he described the ennoia of spam.

    • Akshata
      December 3, 2013 at 4:10 am

      Given its reach, an inevitable paralipsis it would seem :)

  10. Jerry
    December 2, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    I have a big issue with people that forward emails to dozens of addresses with my name included. People should learn to use the Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) function to protect the identity of their friends. Literally hundreds email addresses have been provided to me in innocent emails from friends. Lucky for them, I'm not the type to exploit them.

    An article explaining the importance of using BCC instead of the TO line would be helpful.