Firstly, what is spam? (And what isn't?)
Like the junk mail that's pushed through your letterbox, spam email is worthless information that you haven't asked to receive. It's become a fact of internet life and is very difficult to completely get rid of. That's why most email services (ours included) now have spam filters to weed out unsolicited messages before they ever arrive in your inbox.
What isn't spam is a marketing email you might get from a reputable company, like a utility company or retailer. Although you might not want it, it's legitimate marketing info. And it should come with an "unsubscribe" option so you can remove yourself from the distribution list. But you should never "unsubscribe" from a spam email as this only confirms your email address is valid and you'll get even more spam.
Some scammers use messages that look like they're from a genuine company to try and trick you into giving out private information like your BT ID username and password or even your bank details. This is known as phishing. Never click on any links in a suspicious email.
Unfortunately a large percentage of spam emails contain pornographic or disturbing images. While this is distasteful it may not be illegal so there is often nothing the UK police can do. If you believe that the spam (or the web addresses it refers to) contains potentially illegal material such as child pornography, you can report it to the Internet Watch Foundation (we're a member). Find out how to make a report at www.iwf.org.uk >
How to deal with marketing emails you don't want
- Unsubscribe - If you know the sender (if it's a utility company or major retailer for example) you can safely use any "unsubscribe" option. These will often be found towards the end of the email. All EU businesses are obliged to honour your request to be taken off their distribution list. Remember though, never "unsubscribe" to spam
- Opt out - When you register with a site, or put in your email address, make sure you read the marketing small print to see if you're also agreeing to being sent emails. If you're not interested, look for a way of opting out
- Use another email address - When signing up for a website that you don't yet trust, why not use one of your additional ten sub-accounts if you've got one spare. This keeps your main email address free for your important trusted email
Is your inbox overloaded with unwanted emails?
- Create a rule or filter to put unwanted marketing emails from companies you know into a specific folder so they are out of the way
- Use the "Spam" button to mark emails from unknown sources as spam. Although we have our own systems to detect and manage spam, we also rely on you to tell us the kind of things you don't want to get. We base a sender's reputation on what you tell us about the messages you get
- Block unwanted senders and email addresses
What is spoofing?
In general, to reduce your chances of getting spam or unwanted marketing emails, you need to be very careful when giving out your email address on websites, in newsgroup posts and when chatting online. This alone won't stop it happening, you can still get spam because spammers will also just guess potentially valid email addresses by taking common usernames and adding valid domains to them. Chances are there will be a "bob@" on just about any email system.