- Use an email filter. Check your email account to see if it has a tool to filter out potential spam or to funnel spam into a junk email folder. Many popular email providers (like Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo) have strong spam filters on by default. But there are some things you can do to make them work even better. For example, if you see any spam that makes it through to your Inbox, be sure to mark is as Spam or Junk. You can usually also block specific email addresses or email domains (the part of the address after the @). Remember that the filter isn’t perfect, so you’ll also want to occasionally check your Spam or Junk folders to make sure any legit, non-spam email didn’t end up in there.
- Limit your exposure. You might decide to use two email addresses — one for personal messages and one for shopping, newsletters, coupons, and other services. If you want to be able to see all your emails in one place, you can usually set up email forwarding to your primary email account. You can set it up to come into a separate folder or your main Inbox. That way, if the second email address starts getting spam, you can shut off the forwarding without affecting your permanent address. Also, try not to display your email address in public — including on social media sites or in online membership directories. Spammers scan websites to harvest email addresses.
- Unsubscribe from unwanted emails. Many popular email providers have features that help you unsubscribe from email lists. They may show up as a banner or as a button when you open the email. To find out what options your email provider has, search “[your email provider name] + how to unsubscribe from unwanted emails” on your favorite search engine. This lets you avoid clicking on unknown links, which can lead to a phishing attack.
Hackers and spammers troll the internet looking for computers, phones, tablets, and other connected devices that aren’t protected by up-to-date security software. When they find unprotected devices, they try to install hidden software — called malware — that lets them control the devices remotely.
Many thousands of these devices linked together make up a “botnet” — a network used by spammers to send millions of emails at once. Millions of computers, phones, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, like smart cameras or voice assistants, can be part of botnets. In fact, most spam is sent this way.
You don’t want spammers to use your device. It can cause a lot of issues, from slow devices, legal trouble if attacks are traced to you, and stolen personal information that can be used for identity theft. Here’s how to reduce the chances that your device will become part of a botnet:
- Keep your device’s security updated. To be secure and effective, the software that comes with your device needs occasional updates. Whether you have a new or existing device, visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there’s a newer version of the software to download. Register your device with the manufacturer or sign up to get updates to keep the software current. Set your updates to download automatically and, if possible, set up your device to automatically update.
- Change your preset passwords. Your device might have a standard default password from the manufacturer. Hackers can find the default passwords easily, so change yours to something more complex and secure.
- Detect and get rid of malware. It can be hard to tell if a spammer installed malware on your computer, but there are some warning signs. If your computer was hacked or infected by a virus, take it offline right away. Then take steps to remove the malware and report it to the FTC.
If you get an unwanted email, there are two ways to report it.
- Forward unwanted or deceptive messages to:
- your email provider (like Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo). Most email services include buttons to mark messages as junk mail or report spam.
- the sender’s email provider, if you can tell who it is. Most web mail providers and ISPs want to cut off spammers who abuse their systems. Again, make sure to include the entire spam email and say that you're complaining about spam.
You can also report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.