The term spam refers to unsolicited emails. Spam is often sent by mass mailing operations that use computers to send millions of messages in a short period of time. Spam has become a popular marketing tactic because it is cheap and easy to send. Also, many spammers set up their accounts overseas in countries where the government may be indifferent to their activities. Or they may use a free email service to set up temporary accounts they can suspend or abandon once they have been reported. For these reasons, reporting spammers often involves a lot of effort with very limited impact.

However, there are some precautions you can take as you use email and the Web to keep yourself from being a victim of spamming:

  • Never respond to spam. This includes clicking on any of the advertisements included in the body of a spam email. Once you respond to spam, the spammer knows your email address is active. They then know they can send more spam email to that address. Not only that, it also means they may add your address to databases they can use to spoof the “from” address in future spam emails, a common practice among spammers that makes them hard to track and shut down.
  • Be careful when using the “unsubscribe” instructions at the bottom of emails. Only use this option if you are receiving emails you requested. If you didn’t request the emails (such as by subscribing to a newsletter) chances are it’s just a trick to get you to click on the link and let the spammers know they have found an active email address.
  • Do not include your primary email address on your website. Spammers use sophisticated applications to crawl the web in search of email addresses they can then use at random to send spam emails. If you do include your address on your web site there are ways to disguise it (such as by spelling out the @ symbol, etc.) but spammers have improved their software over the years to detect some of these practices and get around them. The best safeguard is to not publicize your primary email address, the one you use for only the most important communications.
  • Do not share your primary password on bulletin boards or online forums. Just as with web pages, spammers can use software to scan these online communities for email addresses they can add to their databases. Avoid using your primary email address in online forms. It is recommended that you use a secondary email address when you sign up for online services or make purchases online. Setting up a secondary address can be done through a free email provider such as Microsoft’s Hotmail, Yahoo, or Google’s GMail.

In Mail, you can use the “junk mail” feature to get rid of spam emails, including any future ones that come from the same sender. To block junk mail, you must enable the Junk Mail filter by selecting Mail, Preferences, Junk Mail and making sure there is a check mark next to Enable junk mail filtering.

In the “When junk mail arrives” section, you have a number of actions that can be performed automatically by Mail. The junk messages can be left in the inbox and flagged as junk mail, or they can be moved to the Junk mailbox automatically. You can then check this mailbox and move any legitimate messages to your inbox by right-clicking on them and selecting Move To, Inbox or Move To and the name of a folder you’ve created to organize your mail.

You can also tell the Junk mail filter to ignore messages sent by contacts in your Address Book. Messages from your contacts will never be marked as junk mail if you check the box next to “Sender of message is in my Address Book” in the “The following messages are exempt…” section of the Junk Mail window.

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