Why Are You Getting Spam Emails in the First Place?
Stopping spam emails begins with understanding why you’re receiving them. While it may seem like scammers just know your email address, there are specific ways that they get it, including:
- Spammers scrape your email address from social media. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook can expose your email address to anyone on the internet (as well as disclose other contact information, such as your phone number). Scammers use software that “scrapes” sites for email addresses and adds them to their lists.
- Your email was leaked in a data breach. Hackers target major companies’ databases and then sell stolen information on the Dark Web. Email addresses are especially easy to steal, and they cost very little to purchase in bulk.
- You opened or responded to previous scam emails. Fraudsters share lists of active email addresses that are based on your behavior. If you click on a link or even open a spam email, it tells them that you’re a target.
- Data brokers sold email lists with yours on it. Data brokers — also known as “people finder sites” — are legitimate companies that collect and sell information about you. While their main clients are advertisers, scammers can also buy lists of personal contact information to power their schemes.
What Happens If You Open a Spam Email? Is It Dangerous?
Simply receiving spam messages isn’t dangerous. But opening them can give scammers information that they can use against you.
Worse yet, if you have automatic image loading on your email client, the scammer might be able to see:
- Your device location
- Your internet service provider
- Your device type, operating system, email client, and web browser
Not only can opening spam verify that your email is active (which can lead to even more spam emails)— spam emails could contain:
- Phishing attempts. Fraudsters send emails posing as people or companies you trust to extract your personally identifiable information (PII), financial credentials, or passwords. According to FTC data released in 2022, there has been a 70% increase in losses to online fraud in the United States over the last two years [*].
- Malicious attachments. Scammers often attach files to their emails that contain malware which can install ransomware, adware, or other viruses on your device. Malware can also siphon your personal information to scammers so that they can steal your identity.
- Links that send you to phishing websites. Phishing and “pharming” websites are set up to mimic legitimate websites, but will instead steal your login credentials. Never click on the links in unsolicited emails.
- Social engineering attacks. Phishing attacks often employ social engineering tactics. These tactics use deception and a false sense of urgency to manipulate you into giving away key personal or credit card information.
If opening the email is as far as you’ve gone, it’s not too big of a deal. But if after opening it, you clicked on a link, downloaded an attachment, or responded with sensitive information, you need to act quickly to protect yourself.
11 Ways To Stop Spam Emails From Taking Over Your Inbox
- Block spam email addresses
- Use an email alias for new accounts
- Report suspicious emails as spam
- Remove email addresses from data broker lists
- Spot the signs of a phishing email
- Unsubscribe from unwanted mailing lists
- Turn off “auto-load” for images
- Scan the Dark Web for your email
- Stop giving your email address to websites
- Start fresh with new email accounts
- Protect your devices with antivirus software
Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to stop all spam emails. But here are 11 ways you can dramatically reduce the amount of spam that’s filling up your inbox.
1. Block spam email addresses in your email client
Blocking an email address ensures that any future unsolicited messages from that sender will be sent to your junk or spam folder.
This won’t be particularly useful in terms of blocking future spam since spammers move on to new email addresses very quickly. But it will give your email provider helpful information that they can use to improve their email filters.
What to do:
- Without opening the email, report and block the spam email address (we explain below how to do this using Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, and Yahoo Mail).
⛳️ Related: How To Stop Spam Texts from Email Addresses →
2. Use an email alias when signing up for new accounts
Email aliases help you keep your identity anonymous and protect your email privacy. They are generic email addresses that you can use to sign up for websites and mailing lists while preventing sites from knowing your actual email address.
Whenever an email is sent to the alias, you receive it in a separate section of your main email inbox. This lets you easily manage your inbox and block unsolicited senders.
What to do:
- Set up an email alias using your email service, if it’s supported (Gmail is one service that allows you to create email aliases).
- Use an identity theft protection service that also masks your primary email from scammers. Aura lets you automatically generate email aliases to hide your primary address, prevent unwanted spam, and reduce your exposure to data breaches. Try Aura free for 14 days to see how it works →
3. Report suspicious emails as spam (without opening them)
Removing spam emails manually is time-consuming and won’t prevent that address from sending you more junk. Reporting unwanted messages to your service provider will help the provider block and filter spam more effectively.
What to do:
- Report every unwanted email as a spam or phishing email (we cover below how to do this using Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, and Yahoo! Mail).
⛳️ Related: How To Stop Spam Texts (on Android and iPhone) →
4. Remove your email address from data broker lists
Data broker sites buy and compile internet user data and sell it to companies and scammers so that they can target you with their content. Removing your email from these lists means that fewer people can get their hands on it, reducing the amount of spam that you receive.
What to do:
- Let Aura remove your data from broker lists by sending requests on your behalf.
- Or, opt out of each data broker company manually. To do so, you need to find out what information they have about you (if any). With that in hand, navigate to their opt-out page and submit your request, citing your profile. This is a drawn-out process, as the list of brokers is overwhelmingly long.
5. Learn how to spot the signs of a phishing email
Phishing emails are becoming increasingly sophisticated; and, as a result, they’re becoming harder to identify. But there are some common signs (and rules of thumb) that you can use to spot and avoid phishing emails.
What to do:
- Look for the warning signs of a phishing email. This includes emails from unknown senders, spelling and grammatical errors in the subject line and body, and requests for personal information.
- Never click on links or download attachments in emails unless you’re 100% sure it’s from someone you trust.
- Never provide personal information or reply to spam emails.
6. Unsubscribe from unwanted mailing lists
Endless marketing newsletters and advertisements can quickly become annoying. If these come from legitimate companies that you signed up for (perhaps when making a purchase in the past), you can easily unsubscribe to prevent future emails and free up your inbox.
What to do:
- Unsubscribe from legitimate mailing list subscriptions by going to the company’s website (rather than clicking on the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the email). This protects you from fraudulent phishing emails that may contain malicious and fake “unsubscribe” links.
- If it’s a spam email (and you don’t recognize the sender), you’re better off reporting it as spam and deleting the email. This is because any interaction you have with the spammer will let them know that you’re a prospect with an active email account.
7. Turn off “auto-load” for images
When “auto-load” is turned on, images are downloaded automatically, providing information to spammers. Most of the major email service providers provide a feature that blocks automatic picture downloads and other external content.
What to do:
- Check whether your service provides the ability to turn off “auto-load” for images, and enable it if you can. Some services like Outlook have this turned on by default.
8. Scan the Dark Web for your email and passwords
You can check if your personal data has been leaked to hackers during a data breach. If your account credentials have been leaked on the Dark Web, you can secure them.
What to do:
- Use Aura’s Dark Web scanner to check if your credentials are circulating on the Dark Web.
- You can also check the status of your personal data by using HaveIBeenPwned.
- If you find out that your account information has been leaked, immediately update your passwords for all compromised accounts (it’s also a good idea to update your other passwords as well to be safe).
9. Stop giving your email address to websites
Posting your email address online, whether you’re signing up for newsletters or joining a new social media site, comes with inherent risks. Not only are you opening your email up for a barrage of spam, but a data breach could happen at any time — giving scammers the information that they need to hack or impersonate you.
What to do:
- Remove your primary email from your social media profiles.
- Create a secondary “burner” email account (or email alias) to use when necessary (such as when signing up for a new service or placing an online shopping order).
- Remove your email address from your personal website (if you have one).
⛳️ Related: How To Protect Your Personal Information on Social Media →
10. Start fresh with new email accounts
If your email account is inundated with spam, the best option might be to start over again. With a little bit of work, you can switch all of your major accounts (financial, government, etc.) to a new email address and enjoy peace of mind.
What to do:
- Create a new email address, and limit when and where you share it.
- Use an email service with a more rigorous spam filter.
11. Protect your devices with antivirus software
While an antivirus won’t stop you from receiving spam, it will protect you if you accidentally click on a link or download a malicious file.
Aura automatically detects and isolates malware — preventing spyware, malware, adware, and ransomware from infecting your device. Aura also automatically stops you from entering malicious sites that may steal your personal information.
What to do:
- Download and install high-quality antivirus software like the program included in every Aura plan, which will prevent you from accessing phishing sites as well as automatically scan downloaded files for malware. You can try Aura free for 14 days and see if it’s right for you →
How To Block and Report Spam Emails
Regularly deleting junk emails isn’t enough. By blocking and reporting spam, you help your provider recognize and control spam more effectively. Luckily, most email services make it easy to report and block spam emails. Here’s how:
Block (and report) spam emails in Gmail
On PC or web browser:
- Open Gmail.
- Click on the checkmark next to the spam email to highlight it.
- Click Report spam (the icon that looks like an “!” sign).
On the Android or iPhone app:
- Open the Gmail app.
- Tap and hold the email in question.
- Tap More (the three dots in the top-right corner).
- Tap Report spam.
Block (and report) spam emails in Apple Mail
To block a sender on a Mac running macOS Catalina or higher:
- Launch Mail.
- Click on the message, then hover your cursor over the sender’s name.
- Click on Block Contact.
To block a sender on iPhone:
- Launch the Mail app.
- Tap the sender’s picture, then their name.
- Tap Block this Contact and confirm your choice.
There’s no way to report spam in Apple Mail, but you can move the message to your junk folder:
- On your device, open the Mail app.
- Swipe left on the email, and tap More.
- Tap Move to Junk.
Block (and report) spam emails in Microsoft Outlook
- Open Outlook.com.
- Highlight the email in question.
- In the toolbar, click Report, then Report junk or Report phishing.
- Click More (the three horizontal dots).
- Click Block, then Block Sender.
Block (and report) spam emails in Yahoo Mail
To block a sender in Yahoo Mail:
- Open the Yahoo Mail app.
- Click on Settings (the gear icon in the top-right corner).
- Click on More Settings.
- Click on Security and privacy.
- Click on Add.
- Type the email address you want to block, and click Save.
To report an email as spam:
- Open Yahoo Mail.
- Click on the checkbox next to the email.
- Select Spam in the toolbar.
Beware of These Common Scam Emails
You can avoid falling victim to phishing attacks by staying up to date with the current scam tactics. Here are a few recent examples to keep an eye out for:
- Tax refund scam emails. This is a common tactic in which scammers impersonate the IRS, asking you to send money or personal information. They often create a sense of urgency about getting your refund quickly by attempting to get you to sign in to their fake website. Once you sign in, the scammer has access to your login credentials and can steal your identity.
- COVID-19 scam emails. These emails try to trick people into handing over their personal or financial information via bogus COVID-19-related grants and stimulus payments. They often follow the classic advance-fee format — with scammers claiming that they need an upfront charge before handing over the fake payment.
- Fake “suspicious activity” notices. With this scam, fraudsters take advantage of the fact that many companies will send you an alert if a sign-in attempt on your account fails. Pretending to be from a well-known company, the scammer will claim that your account is closed and you need to follow a malicious link to unlock it.
- Bogus payment confirmation emails. Scammers provide fake receipts, payment confirmations, or invoices that look like they’re from a trustworthy company. The email creates a sense of urgency and provides a way for you to cancel the order — you just have to click on a link or call a number. The scammer will be waiting on the other end of the line to steal your information.
Stop Spam and Stay Safe From Scammers
The best way to stay safe from scammers is to avoid them as much as possible. Take these proactive steps to stop spam and steer clear of scam emails:
- Learn what spam and scam emails look like so that you know what to avoid. Pay attention to the warning signs, and never click on links or attachments from suspicious senders.
- Reduce your digital footprint to minimize the amount of spam you receive. Use email aliases for non-vital signups, and clear your name from predatory data broker lists.
- Protect yourself from scammers with an all-in-one cybersecurity solution like Aura. Aura provides near real-time fraud alerts, a virtual private network (VPN), antivirus software, credit monitoring, and more.
Scammers want one thing: Your personal or financial information. Don’t let them have it.
Let Aura secure your devices from malware and phishing attacks so that you can continue to use your email address safely.