Some of us can be a little too diligent when dealing with email or text spam—because whatever you do, you shouldn’t click “unsubscribe” links or text “stop” in reply, as they literally mean “subscribe” and “please, go on” to illicit spammers.
Any interaction with spammers is bad
There’s a difference between illicit spam sending you malware links and selling fake insurance rates, versus that newsletter you signed up for and may no longer want, and in this case we’re referring to the former. As these spammers blast out millions of texts or emails every day, they aren’t actually targeting you specifically—in fact, they might not know if your email or phone number is even valid. They are looking for signs of an active account, however, as a valid email address or phone number is valuable for conducting further scams. By toggling “unsubscribe” or replying in any way, you validate your contact information and risk inviting even more spam.
What to do with spam
The easy part is that you basically do nothing. When you get a spam email, mark it as spam and delete the email before opening it. Likewise, with texts, you can simply delete them without replying and block the number. That said, the FTC recommends reporting spam messages by forwarding them to the number 7726 (SPAM)—however, if you’re not tech savvy, fiddling with a spam text can increase the chance of accidentally clicking on a malware link somewhere in the message (and you should never click on unsolicited links). If you’re not comfortable forwarding texts, don’t sweat it—just delete, block, and ignore. Otherwise, you can forward spam texts using these steps, for either your Android or iPhone.
How to avoid spam
Spam is a part of life, but as the FTC recommends, there are some simple, useful tips that can help you prevent it:
- Avoid displaying your email address in public. Spammers scrape blog posts, chat rooms, social networking sites, and forums—so the less of you that’s out there, the better.
- Use two email addresses—one for personal messages and one for everything else. Ideally, this second public-facing email address should be one you are willing to delete one day, if needed. Personally, I use a second pseudonymous email address which I call my “junk email,” and I use to sign up for promotions or newsletters. Looking at it now, it has twice the number of spam emails compared to my regular address.
- Use a truly original address that’s unlikely to be created by spammers. Spammers send out millions of messages to probable name combinations at large ISPs and email services, hoping to find a valid address. That means common first name/last name email addresses are more likely to attract spam (and as the first Mike Winters on Hotmail, I can wearily confirm that this is true).