Seriously, who doesn’t get more junk email than they ever imagined was possible?
While we might occasionally receive useful offers from companies we’ve done business with, most of the promotional emails we receive simply clutter our inboxes, making it more difficult to sift out the important messages that need our attention. In addition, some of those emails offering cheap Viagra are far more than simple distractions; they may contain viruses that will spread to the folks in your address book, disrupt your productivity and even damage files on your computer or smartphone.
Whether you simply want to reduce the clutter in your email inbox or you’re concerned about the security of your information and hardware, here are some practical tips to reduce the spam you receive:
1. Sign up for Gmail. Gmail actively works on your behalf to reduce the unwanted email that appears in your inbox by identifying prolific producers of spam and sending messages from those producers directly to your spam folder. Google recently added a “Promotions” folder to Gmail that filters messages that are clearly advertisements—but may actually be offers you want to see—and sorts them into this folder to allow you easy access to these offers while keeping them out of your inbox. Gmail also offers businesses the ability to use the Gmail service with the business's own domain name, so Gmail’s effective spam filters are available for both business and personal accounts.
2. Unsubscribe buttons work. Well, they work for reputable companies, anyway. Here's a helpful tip: When you follow the unsubscribe link, make sure you unsubscribe from all the emails you wish to block. It’s not uncommon for folks to click on the link and then have to take an additional step or two to actually fully unsubscribe.
3. Blacklist obvious spammers. Blacklists permanently block emails from selected senders or servers. Some email programs use blacklists already, but you can find lists (like the DNS Blacklist) that will help you identify additional domains that are known to generate spam. Once you blacklist a domain, server or sender, those senders simply can’t contact you.
4. Use a spam filter. Seriously, I’m shocked at how few people actually use software that’s designed to specifically solve the problem that so many of us complain about. For less than $30, you can get the highest rated spam filters like SPAMfighter Pro and MailWasher Pro. These programs are designed to offer both flexibility and comprehensive protection.
5. Report spam. If you have Gmail and spend the few seconds that it takes to report a spam message, Gmail will work to address the problem behind the scenes. Consider it community service—you’re spending a little bit of time to make the world a better place.
These five tips will resolve the vast majority of issues that the average user will encounter, but there are times when that’s not good enough and you still find yourself inundated with spam that inhibits your productivity. In that case, here are two final tips to use when every other action has failed. These measures should only be taken as last resorts, because they’re likely to have some problematic side effects.
6. Use your own filters. If you’re plagued by spam that’s preventing you from efficiently accessing the messages that you really need, then you can create your own spam filters. You can create a key list of addresses and send every message that doesn’t come from one of those addresses to your spam folder. The drawback here is that you’re eventually going to miss messages you may actually want or need. The solution is to regularly look through your spam folder and make sure there aren’t any messages that need your attention. It’s also important to keep that key address list updated so new contacts get sent to your regular email inbox.
7. Change your email. This measure is another drastic one, but sometimes it’s the only way to absolutely ensure that your email address is secure and won't be flooded with spam. I recommend this measure for folks whose email has been repeatedly hacked or is hopelessly inundated with junk mail. You’ll want to notify your regular correspondents of the change and ensure that any support staff has your updated contact information. You want to be accessible, but only to the right folks.
As technology develops, we’ve transitioned from telemarketers who always seemed to call at dinnertime to emails that offer free cruises to the Bahamas or herbal male enhancement products. And while spam is slightly less intrusive than a ringing home phone, it’s still no less a problem. The bright side is that with just a little effort, we can clean house and eliminate nearly all the unwanted email that clogs our inbox.