What is spam and how can you avoid it?

Email is a fantastic way of communicating quickly, efficiently and cheaply and there’s no doubt that the digital medium has transformed the way that we keep up with our friends and family, administer our lives and do business.

But there is a downside to email and the internet as a whole, and that is the increasing prevalence of irksome – and sometimes malicious and downright damaging – spam.

What is spam?

Spam is another word for junk mail – those emails that you didn’t ask to get, and don’t want to get. You’ll have seen them when you log on – adverts for dubious medical products, dating sites, lotteries and the like.

The term is officially recognised in the Oxford Dictionary, who capture the ‘irrelevant’ and ‘unsolicited’ elements of spam, which often go to large groups of recipients. Spam also comprises a range of categories such as phishing, advertising, malware spreading and so forth.

Phishing spam emails attempt to get personal information from users by pretending to be from legitimate and trusted sources such as banks. This information is then used for fraudulent purposes. Malware is software designed to damage your device – releasing viruses that corrupt it or steal private data. While spam emails are harmless but annoying, phishing emails are dangerous.

How can I avoid spam?

Firstly, check if it is actually spam. You may have signed up to a newsletter or website via a deal or competition, and not realised that you were agreeing to further contact as a result. In this case, hit the unsubscribe link within the email and you should be removed from the mailing list. If you receive an email that looks entirely like junk, select the ‘junk’ button in your email provider and opt to have it deleted and reported as spam.

Then, follow these good practice tips going forwards:

  • Think twice before signing up to websites and read the terms and conditions on all web forms. Select or deselect marketing contact boxes as appropriate.
  • Use the unsubscribe link at the bottom of marketing emails to be removed from distribution lists.
  • Just justdelete.me to delete your account from websites or services that you don’t use, or that you can’t remember signing up to in the first place. This site has plenty of information on how you can close down a range of accounts.
  • Never be tempted to reply to spam. This will confirm your email address to a spammer who has guessed at it. Instead, block the sender in your email account.
  • Never click any links in a suspicious looking email or you could find yourself being phished. Remember, financial institutions will never send you an email with a link to click. If you are unsure of the legitimacy of an email, go directly to the account or website to log-in – don’t click into the body of the email.
  • Have an email address that you use simply for signing up for services and websites.
  • Install security software and regularly update your passwords, making sure they are secure. Google provides information on how to make passwords as strong as possible: https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/32040?hl=en.
  • See if your email provider provides any security software. Most commercial email systems will.
  • Hit the ‘spam’ button on any rogue email that you receive to divert it into the spam folder in your email account. You can keep an eye on it to check that nothing legitimate goes through. You can also use the ‘block’ option to get rid of it completely.
  • Use our dedicated spam filtering software to ensure you never ever see those unsolicited emails.

These good practice guidelines will help to keep you safe online and prevent you from drowning in a sea of unwanted spam emails!