Lately, I’ve gotten more and more emails sent to my Gmail inbox folder with key phrases such as “confirmation receipt” (for something I never bought), “you’ve been chosen,” and “free.” While those words don’t signify a spam email 100% of the time, let’s be honest: They usually do. My luck isn’t that great, you know?
As someone who typically likes a “clean” inbox with few to no notifications unopened, getting junk emails kind of annoys me, honestly. When they’re so obviously spam, why aren’t they going to that folder?
I’m not the only one who’s been noticing that, over the last year or two, spam filters seem to be catching fewer bad emails. Lots of people have posted on Reddit and Twitter about experiencing the same issue.
Can't. Have to spend the next hour deleting 2 days worth of spam from my Gmail.— Paul (@Grommit56) April 13, 2023
No matter how much I try to address this problem — from reporting emails as spam to blocking spammy email accounts — nothing is truly fixing it. I’m obsessed with Gmail and Google Drive otherwise (literally, how are they free?!) so I asked experts what they think is going on and how to handle this predicament effectively.
How To Identify A Spam Email
First, let’s talk about what to spot. Many spam emails are glaringly obvious. For example, I’m never touching an email that asks for my bank account number or says I can “meet hot singles in my area.”
But again, spammers are learning what we’re learning, too. Some other signs to look for, according to the experts below, include:
- An email from someone who says they work for a certain company, but their email address isn’t connected to that company’s website (for example, it ends with “@gmail.com” instead of “@huffpost.com”)
- An email from someone claiming to be an attorney who has the will of a wealthy individual who recently died
- Urgent language, such as “act now,” “urgent action required,” “account suspension,” “final notice,” and “limited time offer”
- Unfamiliar-looking attachments
- Poor grammar and misspellings
- All capital letters
- Overusing emoji, especially in the subject line
- Emails involving sex, money and personal identification information.
Do We Blame Google For Not Doing Enough, Or Spammers For Being One Step Ahead?
It’s easy to blame Google sometimes — after all, it’s a huge corporation — but at the same time, experts say we can’t ignore how savvy spammers are. “Google and spammers kind of have a Tom and Jerry relationship,” said Chris Zacher, an SEO strategist at Intergrowth. “Every time Google upgrades the machine learning applications that filter our emails, spammers figure out new ways to get around their parameters.”
One way spammers do this is through a technique called “email warming,” which basically means making an email platform think the address is reputable. “This involved marking their email as important/not spam from multiple recipients before even starting to send out emails on the actual target lists,” explained Shubham Bajaj, founder of Netsurge Technologies, an SEO-focused digital marketing agency.
Not only do spammers play smart, they also play hard. Noticing more spam emails can also be a sign that, well, spammers are sending out more emails. “If there is a sudden surge in the overall volume of spam emails being sent, it can be more challenging for spam filters to catch every malicious message, resulting in more spam reaching users’ inboxes,” said Alex Rodriguez, an information security analyst at MorganFranklin Consulting.
With as many spam emails as you may see in your inbox, there are many more you don’t see, believe it or not. “We’ve built a strong foundation and constantly improve our safety systems based on the latest attack patterns, protecting Gmail users from nearly 15 billion unwanted messages a day,” said Ross Richendrfer, head of security and privacy PR at Google.
What To Do With A Spam Email
The main question is whether to unsubscribe, block, report or ignore the email. What’s the best way to A) stop receiving these emails while B) not getting any viruses?
The most crucial tip: Beware any links in the email’s body, such as an “unsubscribe” button, “as that probably requires you to click a link that will lead you to the sender’s email, which could lead to malware and all sorts of other problems,” Zacher said.
Additionally, “some spammers use the unsubscribe option to confirm your email is active,” added Tyler Moffit, a senior security analyst at OpenText Cybersecurity, which could encourage them to send you more emails.
On that note, when you block an email address or report it as spam, make sure you click the buttons associated with Gmail, not the particular email. One way to do this is by clicking the three dots in the upper right-hand corner, then clicking the Block or Report buttons.
Reporting spam helps everyone. “This way, Gmail can automatically mark similar messages as spam and stop more of them from reaching people’s inboxes,” explained Kevin Lee, vice president of trust and safety at Sift. “Gmail also allows you to report a message as ‘spam’ or ‘phishing.’”
Otherwise, simply ignoring the email is your safest bet.
Treat Unwanted Emails Differently Than Malicious Spam
Before you do any clicking, though, it’s important to differentiate a malicious spam email (aka “phishing,” more specifically) from another annoying promotion from a business you gave your email to years ago. When you mark valid promotional emails as spam, no matter how unwanted they are, it can mess with the spam filter. “Sometimes, users may inadvertently train the spam filters incorrectly by making legitimate emails as spam or not marking actual spam messages,” Rodriguez said. “This can cause the filters to become less effective over time.”
To identify a malicious spam email, look for the signs listed above (unknown senders, suspicious content, awkward email addresses, etc.). Otherwise, using the unsubscribe button is probably safe. “If you recognize the sender and they are a reputable company or organization, you can safely use the ‘unsubscribe’ link provided in the email,” Rodriguez added. “Legitimate senders are required to comply with anti-spam laws and should honor your request to unsubscribe.”
You can also set Gmail filters so emails from businesses go to a certain folder. “If those emails don’t automatically go to the Promotions folder, you can set up a filter to make sure they’re sent there, or you can even create a label specifically for that brand’s emails and filter them out that way,” Zacher said. (More on how to do this below!)
Other Ways To Reduce The Amount Of Spam In Your Inbox
Want to be extra proactive about getting those low-key dangerous (and obnoxious) emails out of your inbox? Here’s what to do and how to do it:
Set up filters.
On a larger scale, you can set up filters in your Gmail. While this isn’t a cure-all — spammers can always create new emails and keywords — it’s a start.
To create a filter:
- Click the icon at the right of the search bar in Gmail. (When you hover over it, it should read “Show search options.”)
- Type in the “trouble words” you keep seeing in your spam emails, or the email addresses they’re coming from.
- Click “Create filter.”
- Click the box that indicates what you want to happen to those emails, whether that’s archiving them, deleting them, categorizing them under “Promotions,” etc.
- Click the blue “Create filter” button at the bottom right.
Both Bajaj and Moffitt noted this can be tedious and not as effective as reporting the emails, however.
Use other email addresses.
If you have to advertise your email for some reason (don’t share it more than you have to!) or sign up for a bunch of newsletters, coupon emails, promotions, etc., having a specific email outside of your main one can be a good idea, according to Rodriguez.
If you’re especially unsure about something before signing up, you can even give a disposable address. “For one-time use or when signing up for potentially risky services, use a disposable email address from a service like Mailnator or 10 Minute Mail,” he suggested.
Stay educated (and keep others informed, too).
While being able to identify a spam email won’t directly decrease the amount you receive, knowing the latest scheme to look for never hurts. No matter how hard Google works, spam will probably always be an issue.
“Education, both for oneself and those around us, is of paramount importance … [it] can help minimize the effectiveness of these spam emails,” Rodriguez said.
What The Future Of Spam Might Entail
At the moment, something to pay attention to is ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence systems scammers may use, Rodriguez continued. Using AI could lower the number of typos from spammers, for example, and increase sophistication overall.
At the same time, those programs can be used for good. “As spammers harness AI to create sophisticated spam emails, developers and security experts will also utilize AI to bolster their defenses,” Rodriguez said.
As we spend more time online and see more technological advancements, Lee added, fraud will continue to happen, perhaps even increasingly so. What’s scary (but might also help you feel better) is that if you’ve ever fallen prey to one of these scams, you’re not alone.
Lee emphasized that it’s important for users to be “vigilant and take their own precautions when confronted with suspicious emails.”
There’s only so much you can do from your end, but there’s hope, according to Moffitt. “It is hard to predict how effective any solutions would be, but I wouldn’t count Google out on innovation.”
Richendrfer said reported spam has decreased by over 45% since late 2022 due to Google’s work. “To combat these efforts, we have a dedicated team of Googlers who work around the clock on this, constantly finding ways to improve our spam protections to defend users,” he said.
So, if you’ve been getting lots of spam lately, it’s safe to assume the problem won’t be this major forever. Until then, keep on reporting those pesky messages.
Go To Homepage
Check your domain name.
Gmail keeps a list of all malicious domain names. If your domain has been blacklisted, then you're going to end up in spam automatically. You can check if your domain has been blacklisted with one of these tools.
But, if you suddenly started receiving dozens of spam emails, chances are, your address has been exposed. Websites like Have I Been Pwned? check if your personal data was compromised. These services work like search engines — just enter your email address and they will look through exposed data.Will changing my Gmail address stop spam? ›
Change your email address
It can be hard to prevent spam when cybercriminals have your information. One option in this case is to change your email address. With free email services like Gmail, it's easy to create multiple accounts so you can limit the spam that appears in your primary inbox.
If you receive any unwanted email, the best approach in almost every case is to delete it immediately. It is often clear from the Subject line that a message is junk, so you may not even need to open the message to read it.How do I stop thousands of spam emails? ›
- 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.
With email spam, the longtime rule has been not to click the unsubscribe button because that can merely tell unscrupulous spammers that your email account is live, and typically results in getting more.Why is spam getting so bad? ›
A report from spam-blocking app RoboKiller found that spam texts increased 58 percent in 2021 from the previous year. This big jump probably happened because scammers are realizing that people are too familiar with phone scams to fall for them at the same rate, RoboKiller Vice President Giulia Porter said.Why am I getting so many potential spam? ›
Getting a lot of unwanted calls would mean your number has been sold to a scammer group. Once your number is sold, it's used by all the scammers who have access to it. They try to defraud you in multiple ways by posing as professionals. Some might pretend to be from insurance agencies.Does changing your password stop spam? ›
Changing your password has no effect on the amount of spam you receive. All that matters is how many times your e-mail address has been harvested and how many spam lists the address is on.How do I get rid of unwanted emails without opening them? ›
- Use a reputable email cleaner, such as Clean Email. ...
- Email the sender and ask them to remove you from the list. ...
- Filter messages from companies in your inbox. ...
- Block the sender. ...
- Mark the email as spam, report spam, or report phishing.
There are a few reasons this can happen: The sender is also on your allow list. The allow list takes precedence over the block list to ensure no desired mail is lost. Check your allow list to make sure the sender is not on it.How do I clean up spam in Gmail? ›
- On your computer, open Gmail.
- On the left, click More.
- Click Spam.
- At the top, click Delete all spam messages now. Or, select specific emails, then click Delete forever.
- How to use Categories. Google's Gmail has an incredible sorting system. ...
- Block or Unsubscribe Marketing Emails. ...
- Delete Particular Sender Emails. ...
- Handle Older Emails. ...
- Using Filters. ...
- Gmail Labeling. ...
- Storage Cleanup. ...
- Get Rid of Large Attachments.
- On your Android phone or tablet, open the Gmail app .
- Open the message.
- In the top right of the message, tap More .
- Tap Block [sender].
It's very difficult to stop spam, mainly because it's often almost impossible to trace its origin. But this doesn't mean that it's an impossible task. In general, a good anti-spam software is enough to block most unwanted messages.Should I just ignore spam emails? ›
While filtering addresses some spam emails, you should outright block spam email addresses that are persistent, dangerous, or fake. And remember to report any internet scams you come across, such as Apple ID phishing scams and other threats.What happens if I empty my spam folder? ›
Automatic deletion of emails
Once an email is deleted from the Trash or Spam folder, it cannot be recovered in the mailbox.
On average, that's 21 spam emails per person per day! No wonder we all keep getting them!How do spammers get my email address? ›
Professional spammers rely on bots that crawl millions of websites and scrape addresses from pages. Other spammers get email addresses by approaching sellers on underground cybercrime forums, or in open-air markets where addresses are found in mailing lists, websites, chat rooms, and domain contact points.How to avoid spam? ›
- Use the spam-reporting function. ...
- Mark which emails are not spam. ...
- Sign up for some services with alternate email addresses. ...
- Don't interact with spam. ...
- Don't publish your contact information. ...
- Check for data leaks involving your email. ...
- If someone you know sent you spam, tell them.
But here's the thing: rushing to click the 'Unsubscribe' button is not the right way to make sure all those unwanted emails don't come back ever again. As counterintuitive as it sounds, unsubscribing will make you receive even more spam in some situations.What if I accidentally open a spam text? ›
Don't click on any suspicious links
Once the spammer has your information, they can sell it to marketers or identity thieves. If you accidentally click a link in a spam message, be sure to close out of the window immediately. If you notice any files downloaded in your web browser, delete them without opening them.
Those seemingly harmless links and attachments can pose a real threat to your business, hiding ransomware, spyware, and trojans, which allow the attacker to gain access to the computer and then to the entire company's network.What happens if you text a scammer back? ›
Don't reply directly to any spam text message
Directly replying to a spam text message lets a spammer know that your number is genuine. What happens next? They can sell your phone number to other spammers who might bombard you with promises of free gifts and product offers.
Block calls from your phone
Receive an unwanted call? You can: Press *61 to add the number of the last call received to your call block list. Press *80 to turn call blocking off.
You can also register at donotcall.gov. Telemarketers must remove your numbers from their call lists and stop calling you within 31 days from the date you register.How do spam callers get your number? ›
They accumulate your data through sources like warranty cards, online purchases, even searching for number online to build a more lucrative file to sell. Here are a few examples: “800”, “888”, and “900” numbers are another way for telemarketers to obtain your phone number.Can opening spam email cause harm? ›
Most times, spam emails contain malware, which can compromise your devices connected to the email. Therefore, opening a spam email is not a good idea and carries numerous risks.Can just opening a spam email cause problems? ›
Just opening the phishing message without taking any further action will not compromise your data. However, hackers can still gather some data about you, even if all you did was open the email. They will use this data against you to create more targeted cyber attacks in the future.What are the dangers of opening spam emails? ›
Scan your computer for ransomware, trojan horse viruses, and other malware just in case. Scammers can use these to hack your email account. Tell friends, family, and your employer (if it was sent to your work address) to steer clear of similar email messages. This may prevent further damage like family identity theft.
The complexities of bad design, marketing practices, and user behavior make it hard for unsubscribe services to do their job in a way that people expect them to—so hard that it's not worthwhile for people to use them, according to several experts we interviewed.Why do I need to delete unwanted emails? ›
Over half of all email traffic is considered spam say figures from Statista. With 239.6 billion messages sent around the world, that's a lot of spam. Deleting these messages frees up space on the servers that store email data and could help reduce the amount of CO2 produced by systems keeping us all online.Do spammers know when you block them? ›
No, they won't know if you have blocked them. They won't receive a notification you have filtered their messages from your inbox. Their emails simply go straight to spam if they try to send you anything.Does a blocked email know they are blocked? ›
When you add an email address to your blocked email addresses list there is no notification sent to the blocked email address in question. Whenever your blocked contacts send you a message, they will not receive a failure notice confirming their message was not delivered.Why do blocked emails still come through Gmail? ›
One reason you may still get emails from someone you blocked on Gmail is that the sender changed their email address. Another reason is that the sender used email spoofing to hide their actual email address.Why am I getting so many spam emails all of a sudden Gmail? ›
If you've noted a sudden increase in spam emails landing in your account, there's a high chance that your address was part of a list recently sold to one or more scammers. This usually happens when you enter your email in a field that looks safe but is a tool used by scammers to harvest email addresses.Why doesn't Gmail delete spam? ›
This appears to be a display bug with the Gmail app. Simply change your phone's orientation or open any email from the spam/trash then go back to the list and you'll get back the option to empty them.Can I set Gmail to automatically delete spam? ›
Yes, you can set a filter to automatically delete spam in Gmail. Head into your Settings and create a new filter under the 'Filters and Blocked Addresses' tab.Does Gmail have a cleanup tool? ›
Gmail Cleaner allows Google Apps administrators to search and delete emails from user's mailboxes.Can you block someone on Gmail without going to spam? ›
Search the email from someone that you determine to block. There are three search commands: email@example.com, user, or example.com. Active the block button (turn it on). Click the three-dots icon, and move the email sender to a specified folder（you won't receive the emails from this person in Gmail inbox.）
Yes, you can permanently block a sender in your Gmail interface, both on the web and mobile. You can also place messages to Spam using desktop mail clients with your Gmail account.How do I block spam emails in Gmail without opening them? ›
- Log onto the Gmail website with your account.
- Click on the tool icon close to your profile photo.
- Select “See All Settings.”
- Once you enter the full settings menu, locate and click “Filters and blocked addresses” in the main settings tab.
Spam Email on iPhones
You may receive spam emails for no fault of your own. Some services where you provide your email address could sell your email address, or if you publicly posted your email address that too could be picked up.
Ignore and delete all suspicious text messages, emails, or calendar invites. Phishing emails and smishing texts via SMS or WhatsApp are among the most common types of fraud. Your iPhone could be hacked if you reply, call the numbers, or click on any malicious links.Why do blocked emails still come through? ›
If email from a blocked sender still appears in your Inbox, the sender might be: Changing their email address. Create an Inbox rule to pick up common words in your Inbox email and move them to the Deleted Items folder. Learn how to use Inbox rules in Outlook.com.How do I permanently block spam emails on my iPhone? ›
- Add the number or email address that you want to block to your Contacts.
- For phone numbers, go to Settings > Phone > Blocked Contacts > Add New. For email addresses, go to Settings > Mail > Blocked > Add New.
- Select the contact that you want to block.