Tech Tip: Canning Spam the Safer Way


Q. I get around 20 spam-advertisement emails daily. I usually submit my address to the “Unsubscribe” option. Yet the number of such emails never decreases. Why is this so?

A. That “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of an unsolicited email advertisement may not be as useful as it seems. Some legitimate marketing or newsletter companies do provide a working Unsubscribe link that removes your address from the company’s bulk mail list. However, less-than-scrupulous senders will add an Unsubscribe link to a message in the hopes that you will click it and voluntarily verify that you have a working email address — and that you opened the message in the first place.


The junk mail filter settings on your computer can help control what messages reach your inbox.

The New York Times

If the message was sent by an established company with which you have had interactions, the Unsubscribe link is more likely to be genuine, functional and in legal compliance with the federal Can-Spam Act — which lays out clear rules for commercial messages. Professional bulk email services like MailChimp are required to enforce electronic mail laws, including the provision to honor Unsubscribe requests. (However, it may take several days to have your name removed from the list.)

Spam from unfamiliar businesses — or those selling products that seem a little too good to be true — may be less honest about the purpose of the Unsubscribe link. Security software makers like Sophos and McAfee suggest just deleting spam from unknown companies, as the Unsubscribe links could be used to verify your address and sell it to other spammers, or even to install malicious software on your computer.

You can buy a spam-filtering program or service, but most modern email programs and services have junk-mail tools you can use to mark unwanted messages as spam. It may take time to catch everything, but most filters get better the more you work with them. Gmail, iCloud, Outlook (and the online and Yahoo Mail all have spam-screening tools available, as do Microsoft and Apple.

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