What Is Spam and How Do I Avoid It?

What Is Spam?

Spam is any email messages that contains commercial advertising. In most cases, spam is unsolicited, sent out on an extremely large scale and a nuisance to email users. It is estimated that as much as 95% of all email messages sent are spam of some type.

Spammers, as those who send the messages are called, typically purchase lists of email recipients or collect email addresses from various places on the web, including information forms as well as public sites with email listings. Additionally, spammers also may use computer programs that randomly "guess" email addresses as well.

Effects of Spam

Aside from cluttering up your inbox and being a time waster and a nuisance, there are other reasons that spam should be controlled. First of all, spam is often a source of computer viruses. Malicious people who create viruses often disguise them as emails from legitimate advertising sources to encourage users to open or download content. Secondly, spam is often used as a weapon of theft, fraud, or scams. Emails that mimic real companies asking for your login information, personal data, or payment information cost innocent consumers' everyday.

Avoiding Spam

The easiest way to protect yourself from the headaches associated with spam is to know how to avoid it altogether. Here are some of the most effective techniques!

Use a Spam Filter: Most email accounts will offer some sort of spam filter. However, it is up to the user to activate this feature and set the parameters of it. Take the time to ensure that a spam filter is in place for all email accounts and review and or adjust the settings to ensure they are effective. Also, as email shows up in your inbox that you identify as spam, take time to mark it as spam instead of just deleting it.

Create A Disposable Email Address: If you must give out your email to sources that will list it publicly, sell it, or that are just questionable in general, it is a great idea to have a disposable email account for this purpose. Basically, this is an email that is only used for spam or sign-ups, and not for important or personal emails.

Have a Unique Email Address: As mentioned earlier, many spammers use programs that randomly generate email addresses based on "guesses". These are typically commonly used emails (like john.smith@emailserver.com). To avoid having your account to be "guessed", use a combination of letters and numbers and make it as uncommon as possible.

Unsubscribe: When you sign up for various things around the web, you are often given a chance to uncheck a subscription box for email. Make it a habit to do this at each signup you perform. Also, many online stores, merchants, and advertisers will have directions at the bottom of emails on how to unsubscribe if you desire. Doing this will help to remove your email address from many spamming lists.

Hide Your Identity/Email Address: Many people become a target for spam because they post to the web, chat, and perform other online functions with their email address visible. When making comments on blog posts, posting in forums, chatting, or other communications that are public, do not publish your email address, use it in a signature, or create a screen name that is identical to your email address. If you must tell someone your email address on a public site, use a disposable email address instead of your primary email.

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