How do I know it’s spam?

Man viewed from behind looking at email icons in air
Not sure which emails are spam? Our checklist can help.

Spam is one of the things people like least about email. Sometimes it is annoying but harmless – like  bulk advertising. Much worse are the spam emails that try to trick you into scams or contain computer viruses. Luckily, today’s spam blockers keep a large share of such messages from reaching your inbox. You can also help keep yourself safe by learning to identify the most common types of spam.

Identifying spam: a checklist

 Use this checklist to identify the major types of spam emails:

  1. Is the sender known to you and does the email address match the name?
  2. Does the subject line seem strange?
  3. Does the content of the message seem dubious, illegal or pornographic?
  4. Does the email contain urgent requests for action?

 1. Strange sender can be a sign of spam

Sometimes you can spot spam without even opening the email. You know what sort of messages you get from your email provider, what newsletters you’ve subscribed to, what online services you use – and of course you know your friends and family. So an email from a sender you’ve never heard of should always be treated with caution.
 
However, you should also keep in mind that skilled spammers can forge the sender’s name so people think they’re receiving an email from Amazon, LinkedIn or another legitimate company. One way to tell if an address has been faked is to position your mouse pointer over the sender name and see if the email address that appears matches that name.
 

2. Look out for typos, numbers or symbols in the subject line

The subject line of the email can be another clue that you’ve been sent suspicious content. Most of us know better than to open a message from sexy singles or supposed royalty in far-off countries, but you should also be wary of subject lines claiming there are technical problems with your PC or mobile device. Cryptic or obviously poorly translated sentences or phrases are another clue. In an attempt to fool spam filters, spammers sometimes use words with some letters replaced by symbols or numbers – like “d!et” instead of “diet”.
 

3. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

If you receive an email that contains mysterious health claims, like a wonder-drug that your doctor has been keeping secret from you, beware! This is a common email hoax, as are offers to get you out of debt quick or lucrative job offers you never applied for. Often such emails can expose you to viruses or other malware in links or attachments. So even if you are curious, you should never click on any links or attachments in such messages – and never, ever simply hit “Reply” and provide any requested information unless you are certain the sender is legitimate.
 

4. Don’t give in to pressure          

Spammers often send fake emails to gain information like account numbers and passwords. For example, you might receive a message from someone claiming to be your bank stating you’ll be locked out of your account unless you click on a link and enter your login information. Legitimate online service providers do not usually ask for your password, so an urgent request like this can be a sign that the email is a hoax. Email scams may also try to make you feel uneasy with tricks like claiming that your device is infected by a virus or sending fake warnings from billing departments. So if you get an email that makes you nervous, trust those feelings! Stay calm and do some research into the content and the sender. For example, if the email appears to have been sent by a real service provider, reach out to them directly using the contact information they provide on their homepage. NEVER hit reply or use any links or contact information from the suspicious message – they may be fake or expose you to malware.
 

I know an email is spam – now what?

Once you’ve determined an email is spam, your first instinct may be to delete it. However, it is very important to consistently mark unwanted messages as spam rather than just sending them to your Trash. This helps “train” your inbox spam filter, which means the next email from the same sender will go straight to your spam folder. If you suspect an email is a hoax, you may also wish to report the sender to your email provider.
 

What shouldn’t go into your spam folder?

Sometimes you receive advertisements by email because you subscribed to a newsletter or agreed to let a company send you information – often as part of a promotional offer. If such messages start to annoy you, the best course is to unsubscribe to the newsletter – in most locations, such messages are now required to include an opt-out option. If you place them in your spam folder instead, you confuse your inbox filter unnecessarily and you may miss future messages from that company that you wish to receive.  
 
We hope you found this article useful! Please let us know by clicking the symbol below!
 
Photo: Shutterstock
 

36 people found this article helpful.

Related articles

Tired of junk mail? Find out how to blacklist email addresses or domains

When it comes to annoying emails, most of us can identify some repeat offenders in our lives. Maybe it’s junk mail from a store that never seems to get around to taking you off their mailing list, or forwarded jokes from an uncle with way too much time on his hands. But you don’t have to put up with this any longer!
Closeup of mail slot on red door with sign “No junk mail”
Use your blacklist to keep out junk mail or other unwanted messages
Use the “blacklist” function to send unwanted messaged straight to your Spam folder. more
6 people found this article helpful.

How you can prevent spam – Five easy tricks

No one likes email spam! At best, it is an annoying waste of time; at worst, it can contain harmful malware or hoaxes. But don’t worry, mail.com has got your back, with powerful filters that are highly effective in keeping your inbox a spam-free zone.
Young Black businesswoman throwing envelopes
Keep spam emails away from your inbox with these tricks!
But for those rare spam emails that slip through the cracks, check out our list for five ways you can join the fight against spam. more

Posted in

Spam Spam filter Inbox
19 people found this article helpful.

What is ransomware?

Red-on-black image of locked computer screen against a background of binary code
Do you know how to recognize and protect yourself against ransomware?
You may have seen headlines about ransomware attacks on institutions ranging from banks to hospitals to gas-pipelines. But what is ransomware, why is it dangerous, and can such attacks be prevented? Today, we answer your questions about ransomware. more
9 people found this article helpful.

What is greylisting?

Open laptop computer with hourglass placed on keyboard
Ever wonder why an email sometimes doesn’t arrive instantly?
Many of us have experienced this problem: you can’t remember your password for an online service you don’t use that often and have to click “forgot password” to get a reset link. But even though a message pops up claiming that an email was sent to you, no reset link arrives. You click again. And again. Nothing! Then half an hour later, three messages arrive in your inbox all at once. What just happened? One possible cause is a spam-prevention process called “greylisting,” which we’ll explain today. more

Posted in

Email Spam Spam filter
33 people found this article helpful.

But it’s not spam!

Hand pointing at floating red and blue email icons
Stop legitimate emails from being marked as spam
Spam is one of the things people hate most about email. So email providers like mail.com have developed extremely effective systems to block spam emails. The downside, however, is that legitimate emails can be blocked or land in your spam folder. Luckily there are a few tricks you can use to make sure you receive important messages – and to stop your outgoing messages from being marked as spam. more

Posted in

Spam Spam filter Email
29 people found this article helpful.

Phishing emails: How to protect yourself

Image of fishhook hooking an @ symbol above a white computer keyboard

Be on the alert for phishing scams that aim to hook your personal information

You have probably heard about phishing scams – fraudulent emails designed to rob you of sensitive data. Because phishing is one of the most widespread forms of cybercrime, it’s important to learn how to recognize these scams so you don’t get caught in the net. more

Posted in

Phishing Security Spam
41 people found this article helpful.

mail.com updates its email service with two-factor authentication and new spam recognition technology

Two-factor authentication is now available to all mail.com users worldwide. The security feature provides additional protection both to the mailbox and to the cloud. With active two-factor authentication, account data is safe from unauthorized access, even if the account password is lost or compromised. To log in, users who activate two-factor authentication in their account settings will be required to enter not only their personal password, but also a temporary 6-digit one-time code generated by an authentication app on their smartphone. more
152 people found this article helpful.

What can I do if I have a problem with 2FA?

If you are like a lot of our users, you appreciate the extra security that 2FA gives your email account by requiring a second verification step at login. But what do you do if something goes wrong – like if you no longer have access to the “second factor” because of a problem with the device you use for authentication?
Man eating breakfast while using digital tablet and phone
Problems with 2FA? Your secret key will soon have you smiling again!
Don’t panic – it’s time to use your secret key. more

Posted in

2FA Security Password
7 people found this article helpful.

Americans see data disclosure by internet companies or authorities as one of biggest threats to data security

  • Majority of U.S. Americans concerned about hacker attacks
  • A quarter worry about burglary and damage to homes
  • Dangerous lack of awareness: More than one in ten respond to spam emails
more
6 people found this article helpful.

Ask the Expert: Secure passwords

Notice board with lots of notes tacked up including one with a password
What password security mistakes can you spot in this picture?
Welcome to our first ever “Ask the Expert” post! We’re joined by our email security expert Arne for a deep dive into the topic of passwords and online security. In an interview, he shares some do’s and don’ts about passwords and clears up some common misconceptions. more
25 people found this article helpful.