6 Ways to Keep Spam Out of Your Inbox
More than half of all email traffic is spam, and there’s a good chance that some of it found a way past your email provider’s spam filter. But spam isn’t just annoying; it can also contain dangerous malware or links designed to trick you into giving up sensitive personal information. While it’s unlikely that spam will be eliminated entirely, there are some useful tips you can put into practice to significantly cut down on the amount of it that reaches your inbox.
Train Your Filter
While most built-in spam filters are reasonably effective at identifying and disposing of useless or harmful emails, spammer tactics are constantly evolving, which means that once in a while something may slip past the filter. In such cases, don’t just delete the email; instead, take a moment to mark it as spam so that your filter can learn and catch a similar message the next time someone tries to send it. Likewise, periodically check your spam folder to make sure that no legitimate emails accidentally got caught in the crossfire, and be sure to mark it as “not spam” if so.
There are a number of readily available third-party spam filters that you can use to augment your email provider’s existing filter, but you can also double up on spam protection by linking email addresses from multiple providers in order to combine their spam-blocking technology into an even more effective filter. Gmail offers an especially robust filter, so one way to take advantage of it is to create a Gmail account, go into the settings, and add your other mail accounts under the “Accounts and Import” tab. This means that any emails you receive will be filtered for spam both by your original provider and by Google before reaching your inbox, thereby adding another layer of protection.
Create a Throwaway Account
In many cases, spam that gets past your filter is the result of sharing your email address with a disreputable company that then sold your information to marketing lists. One way to deal with the issue is to create a second, disposable email address that you use whenever you need to list an email address for any business, service, or entity that you don’t need to stay in contact with. All of the spam and marketing material will be sent to the decoy address, allowing your actual inbox to stay clutter-free.
Watch Out For Pre-Checked Boxes
One of the sneakier tactics that many businesses use to reach your inbox is to add a checkbox that is already selected when you are making a purchase, allowing them to send you notifications or marketing material. In many cases, the fine print on these clauses also allows them to share your email address with other marketers. Avoid rushing through the online shopping process, and always take a moment before checkout to scan the page for any pre-checked boxes. If you do miss one, look in any promotional emails they send you for a link to unsubscribe from their mailing list. It is required by law for companies to provide the link, so while they may make it tiny and hard to spot or place it at the bottom of the email, you can make sure they stop pestering you.
Avoid Chain Emails
While they have become significantly less common in recent years, chain emails are still a major vector for spam. Forwarding or responding to a chain email allows the original senders to know which email addresses are active, and thus prime targets for marketers. As well, once an email is forwarded, you lose control over who can see your address, and it becomes trivial for a spammer to simply harvest all the information and bundle it to be sold to a marketing list.
For an even more serious spam filter, consider turning to third-party extensions. Some apps, such as Mailwasher, are available through any browser or operating system, while others, such as SpamSieve, are macOS exclusive. Chrome users can take advantage of the unique and free Burner Emails extension, which automatically generates a custom, unique email address every time you need to provide an email to a company, and then forwards any non-spam messages they send directly to your inbox so that you can access any important correspondence without sacrificing your privacy or putting your email address in the wrong hands.
Spammers are constantly developing new tricks and techniques for bypassing sophisticated filters and impersonating others, so it’s important to remain vigilant in order to minimize the risk of exposure to malware and identity theft. You might not be able to completely rid yourself of annoying junk mail, but by sticking to the practices outlined above, you can significantly reduce the amount of spam that gets into your inbox.