How to Stop Spam Emails: A Guide to Cleaning Up Your Inbox

No matter what email client you use, there are plenty of ways to address spam and get your inbox under control. Let's look at some key ways to identify, filter, and block junk mail to keep your messages organized.

How to Stop Spam Emails: A Guide to Cleaning Up Your Inbox

The chances are good that you've almost fallen for a phishing scam sometime in the past few years. These malicious emails are coming in record numbers, with almost 3.4 billion phishing emails sent each day. Worse, they're on the rise because they're working: a successful phishing email can give scammers access to the recipient's data in minutes, and that data comes straight from the recipient!

Knowing how to stop spam emails is crucial in the modern world. Whether you're drowning in phishing attempts or you're struggling to get rid of the unwanted newsletters cluttering your inbox, the best option is to get rid of junk mail before it ever reaches you.

No matter what email client you use, there are plenty of ways to address spam and get your inbox under control. Let's look at some key ways to identify, filter, and block junk mail to keep your messages organized.

Figure Out Why You're Getting Spam

First things first: why are you getting so much spam?

The unfortunate answer is that everyone is getting more unwanted messages these days. Spam is on the rise in general, from fraudulent phone calls to junk mail to suspicious texts.

However, if you've noticed a sudden spike in your spam emails, there may be a more specific culprit to blame. While finding the source won't always help you stop the spam, it can help you manage your online data more carefully in the future, which may help you better protect your inbox down the line.

When the spam comes from a legitimate company, it's possible that you've used an online form to provide your email address, often to sign up for an account.

Legitimate marketers and professional scammers can also get your email by purchasing an email list.

These lists may acquire emails through legal means, such as from companies that share user data based on the site's privacy policy. They may also use bot scraping tools to find emails that are listed on public sites, chat rooms, and forums. To do this, they'll use the "@" symbol to identify and save email addresses.

It's also possible to get emails through illegal means. This happens when a company shares your email address without your consent, for example, or when a data breach reveals your personal data to the public.

In some cases, you may be experiencing an email subscription bomb. This can happen when someone uses your personal email address to sign up for multiple newsletters or spam sites.

Learn to Identify Spam

Next, make sure you know how to tell when you're looking at an email worth deleting.

Junk emails are sometimes easy to identify, but more sophisticated messages can be trickier.

In most cases, there's no harm in opening a message to investigate, as it's the links inside the message you should worry about. Opening an email can verify to the sender that your email is active, but that's easy to prevent by countering any tracking pixels, which we'll discuss below.

Here's what to keep an eye out for as you check for spam:

Sender and Domain Name

Make sure the sender and the domain name (the part of the email address that comes after the "@" symbol) match what you expect. If the email is supposed to be coming from your financial institution, make sure every detail matches other emails from that institution. Look for misspellings and random number strings.

Generic Greetings

If the email comes from a company you'd expect to have your personal data, the message shouldn't start with "Dear Customer" or "Good Morning." If the message doesn't have your name, the sender probably doesn't know it.

Spelling and Grammar

Many spam emails are filled with typos and grammar mistakes that you wouldn't expect from a professional brand with paid marketers. If you see a lot of errors, it's a safe bet that the message isn't from a legitimate source.

Keep in mind, however, that spam emails are getting more sophisticated. Good grammar doesn't mean you should trust the sender!

Sense of Urgency

Spam emails often work because they make you feel rushed. They may offer a limited deal, an instant cash-back offer, or a prize you have to claim within minutes. On the other end of the spectrum, they may send you a fake bill or claim someone has drained your bank account.

Take a breath. Don't click links, provide information, or respond to the email in any way.

Instead, do some research of your own. If the email came from a company you'd normally trust, get on the phone and call that company to confirm the details.

Train Your Spam Filter

No matter which email client you're using, it comes with a built-in spam filter. This filter flags messages that seem suspicious, scammy, or fraudulent, moving them into your dedicated spam folder.

Modern spam filters have gotten fairly smart. They'll use things like the email's source IP, the reputation of the sending domain, the sender's send rate, and various online blacklists to figure out which messages you might not want. They'll also look for suspicious patterns in a message's content.

As great as spam filters are, some messages will slip through the cracks.

That's where extra training can help. If you've been deleting spam messages after opening them, you might be missing the chance to teach your spam filter which messages you prefer not to see.

One extra factor that many filters use to sort spam is a user's actions. When you mark a message as spam, it helps the algorithm understand that these messages aren't wanted.

You'll need to report emails as spam in different ways based on your email client. With most providers, you'll need to select the message you want to report as spam, and then select the option to move that message to your spam folder. Often, this looks like an exclamation point or shield symbol.

Unsubscribe From Newsletters

Newsletters can be a great way to keep in touch with people and companies, as long as you're getting value out of them.

Unfortunately, they can clutter your inbox if you start receiving too many at once. Because newsletters are also great for ad tracking, they can also pile extra cookies into your browser's collection, generating more info about you for advertisers.

Even if you haven't signed yourself up for newsletters, the chances are good that you've gotten them anyway. As mentioned above, marketers may get your email address from email lists or scraping tools, meaning that you may get messages out of nowhere.

Whether you've fallen behind on reading your newsletters or you never signed up in the first place, it may be time to unsubscribe.

There are two main ways to unsubscribe from a newsletter:

Hit "Unsubscribe"

First, you can use the unsubscribe button that should be linked at the bottom of each email. This should bring you to a page that asks you to confirm your decision.

"Should" is the key word: if the company you're unsubscribing from is legitimate, this link will work. If the email is malicious, the link may lead to a phishing attempt, a malware download, or worse. Always be very careful when you click any link in an email.

Bulk Unsubscribe

As a safer option, some email clients will attempt to unsubscribe from a newsletter on your behalf. This doesn't involve clicking the email, but it does mean you'll have to unsubscribe from each individual newsletter, which can be a lengthy process if your inbox is overloaded.

Bulk unsubscription tools can also make this easy. Services like Mailstrom allow you to get rid of annoying newsletters fast. To do it, head to your Mailing Lists tab and hit the Unsubscribe button for any email you see.

Block Email Addresses That Send Spam

If you often get spammy emails from a specific sender, try blocking their email address. This is a great option if their emails always seem to sneak past your spam filter.

The steps for blocking will look different from email provider to provider. With most providers, it's easy once you dig into your options and select the email address you want to block. Here's a detailed guide.

If you want to make things even easier, try Mailstrom's one-click Block function. This keeps unwanted senders from dumping messages into your inbox in the future.

Use Your Email Filters

Let's say you've signed up for a newsletter, but you only want to see some of the messages. The rest are sales pitches that don't matter to you.

On the other hand, maybe you've started training your spam filter, but junk mail keeps slipping through.

In situations like these, your email client has an additional feature to keep unwanted messages at bay: filters (or rules). These are different from your spam filter, a built-in algorithm that blocks spam. Custom filters are tools you can use to make your email client perform a specific action with an email as long as it meets certain requirements.

As an example, maybe you love getting most of the email updates from an influencer you follow, but you're tired of the promotional emails about life coaching classes. You can create a custom filter that sends messages mentioning the phrase "life coaching" right to your spam folder, or you can delete them the second they hit your inbox.

Your custom filters can be nuanced enough to catch much more than your spam filter can do on its own. Get creative!

Opt Out of Emails Right Away

We've all been there: in a hurry to buy, subscribe, or get a free product, we've rushed through the options a little too fast at checkout. Somewhere in the details was the option to sign up for notifications.

Many sign-up and purchasing forms include a marketing section right before you've made the final click. This section allows you to check or uncheck a box consenting to promotional material from the seller.

Get in the habit of taking your time when signing up for anything new. Read the fine print and opt out of marketing messages when you can.

Stop Responding to Spam Emails

Getting spam emails can be frustrating. When you're trying to get senders to stop, it can be tempting to respond to the email. After all, what's wrong with a polite request to have them remove you from their mailing list?

Responding to a junk email can do more harm than good. Not only is this approach unlikely to get the result you want, but you might end up getting more spam after you hit "send."

Spammers are throwing emails out into the void in bulk, and they aren't always sure which emails are active. When you reply to a message, the spammer has proof that you're a real human being who checks their email address. This can make you a target for future junk mail campaigns.

Block Email Trackers

On that note, let's talk about email tracking.

Marketers will often use something called a tracking pixel to figure out if an email address is active. These pixels are close to what you'd expect from the name: they're tiny one-pixel by one-pixel images that help marketers study your behavior. They're often transparent, meaning you won't even see them.

This is one of the reasons why it's a good idea not to open a junk email. Doing so tells the spammer that you're reading their messages.

Luckily, there's an easy way to block these pixels from tracking you at all. Major email providers give you the option to turn off images in your messages, which means the tracking pixel won't load. You may also find this under phrasing like "automatic image download."

Not only is blocking these spy pixels a great move for your email inbox, but it can also prevent marketers from tracking other details about your online activities.

Keep Your Personal Email Private

If you're serious about stopping spam emails, you have to stop handing out your personal email address!

Your personal email address should be as secret as your home address. It's a crucial part of your digital identity. Don't give it out to just anyone online.

If you've plastered your personal email on public pages, from your social media bio to your personal website, take it down right away. Leaving your email address on a public forum is the perfect way to let bots collect and add it to scammers' email lists. If you aren't careful, you'll get inundated with junk mail fast.

Think twice about using your personal email address to sign up for accounts, newsletters, and other tools and services. Don't give your email address out unless you're sure the person or brand can be trusted.

Use an Alternative Email Address

We get it: sometimes, you have to give out an email address. What are you supposed to do, stop logging into websites?

That's where alternative email addresses come in.

You can use these email addresses as aliases, leaving them open for small amounts of spam while you protect your personal account. You can even set up email forwarding from your alias account to your personal account.

Think of your alias accounts as burners. If anything goes wrong and you get flooded with spam, all you have to do is delete that email address. This can make cleaning up your inbox a breeze in the future.

Alias accounts can be great for any online login, but they're best for interactions that tend to result in spam.

Charities, for example, will often share your email address with similar charities after you've made an online donation, opening you up to extra spam. Online shopping logins tend to come with promotional newsletters and marketing materials.

Head off the spam in advance by using an alternative address when you sign up.

Read the Terms and Conditions

When you're signing up for a newsletter or service, with or without your alias email, be sure to check the site's privacy policy. This policy lays out what the website will do with any information you provide them. It also includes information about who they might share those details with.

Websites that share your data with advertisers may be sharing the email address you sign up with as well. This often comes under the guise of providing a more personalized ad experience.

Whenever possible, opt out of this sharing option to protect your data. This can keep marketers from getting their hands on your email address.

As a pro tip, consider checking out Terms of Service; Didn't Read if the policy seems confusing. This site explains the privacy concerns with many online services at a glance.

Try a Third-Party Tool

If your email client keeps falling short of the mark, third-party tools can often help. The right service can supplement your email client's filters by stopping any spam messages that get through.

For straightforward blocking, Mailstrom makes it easy to keep unwanted subjects and senders away from your inbox.

You can also try free tools like SpamCop. While this tool won't keep messages out of your inbox, it helps you report spam messages directly to your ISP, prompting them to block the provider from sending messages. Not only can this lower the number of spam emails you get, but you'll also reduce those emails for everyone else.

Scan the Dark Web for Your Email

The dark web may not always be as nefarious as it sounds, but you definitely don't want your personal information sitting on it.

Stolen accounts, personal details, and financial info can make its way onto the dark web in various ways. If your data gets leaked to hackers, securing your online life should always take priority. This may include things like changing your password or switching to two-factor authentication.

After a breach that reveals your email, you may find yourself seeing way more junk emails than before.

If you're worried that a recent breach leaked your online data, there are plenty of online services that can help you perform a scan.

Knowing that your info was leaked won't help you stop spammy emails; you can't unring a bell. However, this knowledge can help you make more informed decisions about your next steps, including how aggressive to be with your anti-spam efforts.

Open a New Email Account

If you're too fed up with your spam-filled, unorganized inbox to try the steps above, consider opening a new account. We only recommend this as a last resort.

To do this, you'll need to transfer all of your main login info, including social media sites and financial accounts, to your new email address. Though this may take the most time of any option on this list, it's also a good way to get a completely fresh start and some extra peace of mind. If your email has gotten inundated after a recent data breach, it may even be your only option.

If you're switching to a new account, consider starting one with a more secure provider. Certain clients are better with spam than others.

Gmail, for example, has a robust spam filter that often needs little tweaking. Compared with lesser-known providers, it may do a better job of keeping junk mail at bay. If you're hoping for added privacy all around, options like ProtonMail may be a safe bet.

Don't rest on your laurels once you've finished! It's still a good idea to be proactive about spam by following the other best practices we've mentioned above, from unsubscribing to blocking senders and images.

Know How to Stop Spam Emails

From the second you open your first email account, it's crucial to know how to stop spam emails. The best practices above are great ways to clean up your inbox and protect your privacy online, whether you're jettisoning a few emails or trying to block hundreds of junk mail messages every day. Play around with these solutions to figure out what works best for you!

As you work to safeguard your email address, keep Mailstrom's online tools in mind. Cleaning out your inbox is a breeze with our archiving and deletion features, and our blocking tool can help you get rid of spam before it ever reaches you. To find the email hacks that work best for your needs, start your free trial today.