Are you suddenly being bombarded by unwanted spam emails? It can be frustrating to see your inbox fill up with messages that are of no interest to you. But don’t worry – there are simple tips you can follow, but first you might wonder why you’re getting so much spam email.
If you’re suddenly receiving lots of spam emails, this can be due to your email address being recently compromised or if you signed up for an untrustworthy mailing list. To combat the influx of email, mark messages as spam to train the AI filters. Avoid common habits that lead to more spam.
I bet you’re starting to feel like the most popular person in the world – but only to spammers? It’s not just you – a sudden deluge of spam can happen to anyone! So, let’s take a closer look at some possible reasons why your inbox is overflowing with unsolicited messages.
9 Possible Reasons for Suddenly Receiving Lots of Spam Emails
The following is a list of possible reasons for suddenly receiving lots of spam emails, ordered from most likely to least likely to be the cause.
- Email address publicly available: You shared your email address on a public platform, like a forum or social network, and spammers or marketers have found it, adding to their outbound lists.
- Email provider’s spam filter not working: Most email providers have at least a basic spam filter; however, they are not perfect. The filter may have had a recent configuration change, allowing new spam messages to pass, ending up in your inbox.
- Email address part of data breach: Your email address may have been part of a recent data breach, and the threat actors have sold your address to spammers, who are now sending you a larger quantity of messages.
- Clicked on a phishing link: You clicked on a link that looked legitimate, but it was actually a fake website that tricked you into giving away your email address (and possibly other personal information [PII]) resulting in an uptick of spam.
- Responded to spam email: Did you recently reply to a spam message? This is more common than you think and will open a flood of new messages since you’ve confirmed you’re a willing recipient.
- Part of a purchased spam list: Data brokers often compile large lists of newly discovered email addresses. Your email address may be on a new list and was purchased by spammers.
- Email account hacked: Someone has taken control of your email account and is using it to send spam emails to others or to sign up for spam emails.
- Harvesting program found email: A computer program found your email address by scraping websites, and now you are receiving spam emails from that harvester.
- Brute force/dictionary program guessed email addresses: A computer program guessed your email address based on commonly used names or words, and now you are receiving spam emails from that discovery.
If none of these sound likely, then read through some of these common habits that may have let spammers know about your email address.
10 Common Habits That May Lead to an Increase in Spam Emails
Spam emails can be a nuisance and even a potential security threat. While spam filtering can help block a significant portion of unwanted email, there are certain habits that individuals may have that could increase the likelihood of receiving junk mail.
- Signing up for online services and newsletters: Providing your email address when signing up for services or newsletters may lead to third-party advertisers or spammers getting hold of your email. You may want to open a junk email account on a less common service like Yahoo Mail or Apple mail.
- Signing up for stuff: It’s tempting to sign up for new apps, free swag, and promotions, but these are designed to harvest your email address and use for continued promotion. What’s worse is, the list owner may sell your information.
- Clicking on links in suspicious emails: Clicking on links in suspicious emails can lead to phishing attacks, compromising your email account and personal information. Verify the sender’s identity before clicking any links.
- Using weak passwords: Using weak passwords can make it easy for hackers to gain access to your email account and use it to send spam emails. Always use strong and unique passwords, and consider using a password manager from the recommended tech list.
- Failing to update your antivirus software: Malware like keyloggers, spyware, and Trojans can infect your computer or mobile device and steal sensitive data like your email address. Keep your antivirus software updated to avoid these types of attacks.
- Using Reply All with everyone’s email address in the To and Cc field: When using Reply All, all recipients can see each other’s email addresses, which can lead to your email being collected by spammers. Use the BCC field more often to protect the privacy of other recipients.
- Neglecting email privacy settings: Neglecting email privacy settings may make your email address publicly available and easier for spammers to find. Make sure to review your email privacy settings and set them to a level that you are comfortable with to avoid your email address being exposed to spammers.
- Stop autoloading images: By default, most email clients will automatically load images in emails, which can confirm your inbox as a valid email address to spammers. Autoloading remotely hosted images also gives away some information, like your browser and IP address. To prevent this, turn off the option to autoload images in your email client.
Aside from stopping these bad online habits that lead to an increase in unsolicited email, it’s time to learn some effective tips for identifying and avoiding spam in the future.
7 Tips for Identifying and Avoiding Spam Emails in Your Inbox
These tips will help you identify unwanted messages that slip through your spam detection.
- Check URLs: Hover over links in emails to check the URL before clicking. If it looks suspicious, don’t click.
- Beware of urgency: Phishing emails often use urgent language and subject lines to get you to act quickly. Be cautious of emails that demand immediate action.
- Verify the sender: Look at the sender’s email address to identify spam mail. If it’s suspicious or unfamiliar, it’s likely spam. Verify the domain (the part after the @ symbol) is legitimate by going to a privacy-respecting search engine and pasting it in the search box.
- Validate the To address: Be aware that some emails can land in your inbox without you being the intended recipient.
- Look for generic greetings: Phishing emails are regularly sent in bulk and may use generic greetings like “Dear Customer” instead of your name. Be suspicious of emails that don’t address you personally.
- Be cautious of offers: If an email offers something too good to be true, it’s likely a scam. Don’t click on any links or download any attachments unless you’re sure the email is legitimate.
- Watch for bad grammar or formatting: Often spammers will throw together phishing email, but may not check for or know typical formatting or grammar as native speakers would. This can be a sign of a scam email, but with AI tools like ChatGPT this is becoming less prevalent.
Nothing’s working! Despite your best efforts, you’re still getting spam. Now what!
5 Options If You’re Still Receiving Spam Emails After Taking Preventative Measures
There’s just no silver bullet here. After following all the advice in this article, you’re still getting tons of junk mail, here are some last ditch things to do.
- Keep training your spam detection: Keep pushing through the deluge of emails, moving messages to your spam folder to mark them as junk (which usually can be done in bulk). Over time, this will eventually, albeit slowly, reduce the quantity of spam as you help improve the detection algorithms.
- Start plus tagging your email address: Another way to reduce the amount of spam you receive is to start using “plus tagging” when you provide your email address. You can do this by adding a plus sign (+) in the username part of your email address before the at symbol (@). For example, if your email address is email@example.com, you can tag it as firstname.lastname@example.org. This way, you can create different tags for different services or websites you sign up for, and if you start receiving spam emails to a particular tag, you’ll know which service or website might have leaked your email address.
- Start using a forwarding service: If you’re receiving too much spam on your primary email address, you can start using a forwarding service. These services create a temporary email address for you that you can use for sign-ups or other online activities. The forwarding service will forward any emails received to your primary email address, but you can always discard the temporary address. I use SimpleLogin for this, but AnonAddy and MySudo are alternatives.
- Open a new email account: Some people just can’t afford the time to work through their inbox. It may be time to just open a new account to start fresh. Give your new email address to only your most trusted contacts and businesses you transact with. This is a long-term migration. You’ll want to check your old inbox 1–2 times per week, but never delete your old account.
- Declare email bankruptcy: Alternatively, you can declare email bankruptcy by moving all email from a given date backwards into your trash folder. However, this should be your last resort, as you might end up losing important legitimate email in the process.
Other Questions You Might Have
What are the legal implications of spam emails?
Spam emails may be illegal in certain countries, and individuals or businesses who send them may face fines or other penalties. The legal implications can vary depending on the location and circumstances of the sender and recipient.
Can I report spam emails to the authorities?
What percentage of all email is spam?
According to Statistica, the percentage of all email that is spam is around 85% at it’s reported height.