Spam FAQ

Your Guide To Stopping Spam

Spam is the email equivalent of unwanted junk mail. It ranges from the annoying but harmless to dangerous messages that can infect computers with viruses or steal personal information as part of a phishing scam. There are two elements to fighting spam: first, preventing spam emails from being received and opened by changing your Internet behavior, and second, identifying and defeating the threats that do get into your email account, by using firewalls, antivirus software and anti spyware programs as well as a spamfighter or spam blocker. Here are a dozen tips that will help you to avoid spam and the damage it can do to your computer.

1. Avoid giving out your email address unnecessarily

If you need to use an email address when signing up for web accounts online, but are not interested in any emails that may be sent from the website, then set up a free email account and use that address. You will still be able to access any important emails, such as password reminders, but you will not be attracting spam to your main inbox. You should also avoid agreeing to receive unwanted emails. There is usually an option to uncheck a box (or sometimes to check it) in order to avoid receiving emails. Preventing spammers from getting hold of your email address is the most basic and effective anti spam measure.

2. Never post your email address online

If your email address appears anywhere online it can be found by a type of software known as a spambot and added to email lists that will be used by spammers and con artists. Once your email address is out there, it is only a matter of time before you will begin to receive spam. Avoid posting your email address on websites or forums, and if you do have to put it online then write it in a form that will not be recognized by spambots. You can replace the @ sign with “AT”, for example, and add a note to readers to point out what you have done. You can also avoid being added to spam lists by choosing an email address that will be difficult to guess, such as one that contains numbers and punctuation marks.

Frequently Asked Questions

3. Prevent unauthorized access to your computer by using a firewall

A firewall can control access to your computer from the Internet and limit the ability of programs on the computer to access the Internet. This can block the unintentional download of viruses and prevent any viruses on the computer from communicating with the Internet. If you are using a wireless Internet connection then it may already be protected by a firewall, but it is still essential to use a firewall on the computer as it will be able to protect against threats from within the computer itself, including any that have entered through a spam email.

4. Use antivirus software

Most antivirus programs can prevent viruses from establishing themselves on your computer, and they can also conduct a virus scan to detect and remove any viruses that may already have been downloaded, or which you accidentally download yourself. Some free antivirus programs can be just as effective for virus removal on home computers as those that require a subscription fee. Virus protection is one of the most important elements in computer security.

5. Use anti spyware programs

It is possible to find a program that can defeat both viruses and spyware, but some programs specialize in one or the other. There are free spyware removal and detection programs as well as free antivirus programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. It can be a good idea to have both types of program, as long as they are compatible for simultaneous use, as the second program may be able to find viruses or spyware that the first has not been able to detect, or to remove a harmful program that the other program has not been able to defeat.

6. Set your antivirus and anti spyware programs to automatically update

New viruses and harmful programs are constantly appearing, so it is essential that antivirus and anti spyware programs are regularly updated in order to download the latest information about these threats. This will ensure that the computer is protected against as many harmful programs as possible and that virus removal and spyware removal is as effective as it can be. Most antivirus and spyware programs can be set to automatically update at a scheduled time.

7. Keep your operating system up to date

Make sure that your computer is set to automatically download new updates from Microsoft or Apple. Many of these will be security updates that can help to keep your computer safe by closing loopholes that might otherwise allow a virus into your system. Virus protection is not limited to antivirus programs. It can be a part of your operating system.

8. Conduct regular scans to check for viruses and spyware

Although antivirus programs offer some continuous virus protection, it is important to conduct a full spyware and virus scan of the computer at regular intervals. This can usually be done automatically, by choosing a suitable time at which the scan should start. Virus removal and spyware removal is usually automatic, but the programs will notify you if there are any difficulties getting rid of the problems that have been detected.

9. Make sure that your emails are being scanned to check for dangerous spam

Most antivirus software programs can automatically scan emails to check for viruses. This type of virus scan can alert you to any problems before you have opened an infected email. Make sure the email scanner is working properly. Email attachments can also be scanned before they are downloaded. Antivirus software can do this, including some free antivirus programs, but some email accounts are also able to scan attachments prior to download.

10. Use the anti-spam functions associated with your email account

Most email accounts have a spam filter or spam blocker that will send any suspicious emails into a spam or junk folder. This type of spamfighter can separate spam emails from other messages, reducing the chances of accidentally opening a harmful spam email and making these messages less annoying as they will no longer be mixed in with the important emails. It will still be necessary to check the spam folder, since messages may be accidentally placed in there by the spam filter or spam blocker. Messages will be deleted from the spam folder after a set period. Many email accounts also enable users to report spam emails or phishing scams. This is an important anti spam measure as it may lead to the closure of a spammer's Internet or email account.

11. Use caution when receiving an unexpected email that may be spam

Any email that comes from an unrecognized email address or seems to be from a stranger should be handled with care. Do not open any email that appears suspicious, for example if it appears to be from a bank that you do not use. If an email, even one that appears to come from the email address of a friend, contains a link with no message confirming that it has been sent by someone trustworthy, do not click on the link. Open emails in plain text from rather than HTML. Images and links in the HTML form can be used to hide viruses and programs that can report back to the sender.

12. Learn how to recognize fake spam emails and phishing scams

Anti spam measures such as a spam filter or spamfighter may not always prevent a harmful email from being opened, so it is important to recognize when an email is likely to be harmful. The most dangerous types of spam are those that attempt to steal personal information such as bank details and passwords in order to commit identity theft or gain access to bank accounts. Even after taking the recommended precautions, it is still possible for a dangerous spam email to slip through. In order to avoid being caught out by a spam it is essential to recognize when an email is not genuine. No bank will ever ask for a full password or access code. If an email that appears to be from a bank does ask for these details, it is a fake.