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How to Stop Email Scams, Spam and Phishing

Authored by:
Support.com Tech Pro Team
This Guided Path® was written and reviewed by Support.com’s Tech Pro team. With decades of experience, our Tech Pros are passionate about making technology work for you. We love feedback! Let us know what you think about this Guided Path by rating it at the end.

With how connected we are on the Internet it's no wonder we use our email far more often than physical snail mail. But just like snail mail, our inboxes are often overloaded with mail we don't want. This email is so unwanted and unneeded, it's now known as spam.

We all get spam and junk mail. It's so prevalent that software has been made to prevent it. Luckily, most email providers like Google and Microsoft will automatically filter your incoming email if they think it's spam or harmful. Unfortunately, these automatic filters will sometimes catch legitimate email and shove it into the spam folder. It's important to check that folder if you're expecting an email that didn't arrive. Otherwise, you can let the spam filter and folder do its job.


An image of colorful envelopes and email

What is Spam

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary spam is unsolicited and usually commercial messages (such as e-mails, text messages, or Internet postings) sent to a large number of recipients or posted in a large number of places.

Spam can be:

  • Hoax news.
  • Get rich quick schemes, work from home claims, and promised lotto payouts.
  • Fake charity appeals.
  • Hoax virus warnings.
  • Pornographic emails claiming to help you meet singles or increase sexual prowess.
  • Chain emails telling you to forward it to all contacts for good luck.
  • Scams or phishing emails.

Junk email can be a lot of things but it's goal is for you to open that email and do what it asks you. They want you to give them your information or click on a link. In short, spam is a vehicle for scams.

An envelope with scam and scam written on it and the whole thing is Xed out.

In order to avoid spam, you have to know what it looks like. Trash mail will normally come from email accounts you don't recognize. Or, if a contact has had their email compromised, it will come from a known account but be out of character and strange.

Spammers may have gotten your email from a fake sweepstakes websites promising a big payout. They then flood your inbox and sell your email to other spammers. If you can't verify that a sweepstakes is real or if it just seems too good to be true, don't sign up for it. Legitimate sweepstakes will be sponsored by the company giving out the product. Bill Gates and Oprah are not going to run a sweepstakes through Facebook to give you one million dollars.

  • Be safe, avoid giving out your email to random sites.
  • Review the email sending address and subject before opening the email.
  • Never open attachments from emails you don't know.

Spammers and scammers tend to troll the Internet for emails or even buy them. They can buy thousands of emails at once.

Signing up to legitimate newsletters is normally safe, but scammers use this idea to their advantage. They'll create fake newsletter sites and fake sweepstakes to get you to sign up.

Always review what you're giving your email to. If you want absolutely want to sign up to these newsletters you can do so safely by creating a new email account and use just that account for newsletter and sweepstakes.

Unfortunately there's no real way to avoid ever getting sent spam, but you can avoid being scammed by it.

Avoiding Phishing

The use of fake ads and social engineering to gain your data for fraudulent purposes is known as phishing. It'll often come in the form of an email that appears legitimate. It may ask you to send information back in that email, have you go to a website, or even claim to have your credit report.

There are different types of phishing but one of the most prevalent is used in spam emails. The scammer will attempt to make their email look like it came from a real and popular company like Sam's Club.
A sam's club scam email with the email address circled

You can weed out most phishing emails by just looking at the sender email. If the email address doesn't match, it's generally safe to toss it. If you're still worried that the email is legitimate and you need to answer it, go directly to the site itself. For example, the email above offered a hefty gift card, you don't want to click on that email. Instead navigate to the Sam's Club website and see if anything is offered. More than likely there was never a gift card to begin with.
Sam's club scam

Phishing emails will pose as your bank, a local business, or a large national business. Their goal is to get you to go to their fake website and give them your personal and monetary information. Never do this. Delete the email or send it to the junk folder instead.

What If Spam is Being Sent from My Email?

Are your email contacts complaining about strange emails? Are you getting emails claiming you're sending them scams and junk? If so, someone else has access to your account. This is something scammers and spammers love to do as it will harm your account and not their own.

When this happens you'll want to immediately check your Windows PC or Mac for malware using legitimate programs such as MalwareBytes. Once you've determined your system is clean, change your email password. This will lock them out of your account and give you time to set up two factor for additional security.

With your system clean, your password changed, and two factor authentication enabled you shouldn't have anymore issues with people using your account to send spam.

So I Can't Stop Any of It?

Unfortunately there's no way to stop spam messages entirely. That's why filters were made. You'll always get junk messages, but the filters are getting better so you often won't notice them. If the automatic trash filters aren't working on your email provider you can always set up your own.
Gmail email filters

Using the knowledge we've given you, you'll be able to send spam away and not worry about it.

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With how connected we are on the Internet it's no wonder we use our email far more often than physical snail mail. But just like snail mail, our inboxes are often overloaded with mail we don't want. This email is so unwanted and unneeded, it's now known as spam.

We all get spam and junk mail. It's so prevalent that software has been made to prevent it. Luckily, most email providers like Google and Microsoft will automatically filter your incoming email if they think it's spam or harmful. Unfortunately, these automatic filters will sometimes catch legitimate email and shove it into the spam folder. It's important to check that folder if you're expecting an email that didn't arrive. Otherwise, you can let the spam filter and folder do its job.


An image of colorful envelopes and email

What is Spam

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary spam is unsolicited and usually commercial messages (such as e-mails, text messages, or Internet postings) sent to a large number of recipients or posted in a large number of places.

Spam can be:

  • Hoax news.
  • Get rich quick schemes, work from home claims, and promised lotto payouts.
  • Fake charity appeals.
  • Hoax virus warnings.
  • Pornographic emails claiming to help you meet singles or increase sexual prowess.
  • Chain emails telling you to forward it to all contacts for good luck.
  • Scams or phishing emails.

Junk email can be a lot of things but it's goal is for you to open that email and do what it asks you. They want you to give them your information or click on a link. In short, spam is a vehicle for scams.

An envelope with scam and scam written on it and the whole thing is Xed out.

In order to avoid spam, you have to know what it looks like. Trash mail will normally come from email accounts you don't recognize. Or, if a contact has had their email compromised, it will come from a known account but be out of character and strange.

Spammers may have gotten your email from a fake sweepstakes websites promising a big payout. They then flood your inbox and sell your email to other spammers. If you can't verify that a sweepstakes is real or if it just seems too good to be true, don't sign up for it. Legitimate sweepstakes will be sponsored by the company giving out the product. Bill Gates and Oprah are not going to run a sweepstakes through Facebook to give you one million dollars.

  • Be safe, avoid giving out your email to random sites.
  • Review the email sending address and subject before opening the email.
  • Never open attachments from emails you don't know.

Spammers and scammers tend to troll the Internet for emails or even buy them. They can buy thousands of emails at once.

Signing up to legitimate newsletters is normally safe, but scammers use this idea to their advantage. They'll create fake newsletter sites and fake sweepstakes to get you to sign up.

Always review what you're giving your email to. If you want absolutely want to sign up to these newsletters you can do so safely by creating a new email account and use just that account for newsletter and sweepstakes.

Unfortunately there's no real way to avoid ever getting sent spam, but you can avoid being scammed by it.

Avoiding Phishing

The use of fake ads and social engineering to gain your data for fraudulent purposes is known as phishing. It'll often come in the form of an email that appears legitimate. It may ask you to send information back in that email, have you go to a website, or even claim to have your credit report.

There are different types of phishing but one of the most prevalent is used in spam emails. The scammer will attempt to make their email look like it came from a real and popular company like Sam's Club.
A sam's club scam email with the email address circled

You can weed out most phishing emails by just looking at the sender email. If the email address doesn't match, it's generally safe to toss it. If you're still worried that the email is legitimate and you need to answer it, go directly to the site itself. For example, the email above offered a hefty gift card, you don't want to click on that email. Instead navigate to the Sam's Club website and see if anything is offered. More than likely there was never a gift card to begin with.
Sam's club scam

Phishing emails will pose as your bank, a local business, or a large national business. Their goal is to get you to go to their fake website and give them your personal and monetary information. Never do this. Delete the email or send it to the junk folder instead.

What If Spam is Being Sent from My Email?

Are your email contacts complaining about strange emails? Are you getting emails claiming you're sending them scams and junk? If so, someone else has access to your account. This is something scammers and spammers love to do as it will harm your account and not their own.

When this happens you'll want to immediately check your Windows PC or Mac for malware using legitimate programs such as MalwareBytes. Once you've determined your system is clean, change your email password. This will lock them out of your account and give you time to set up two factor for additional security.

With your system clean, your password changed, and two factor authentication enabled you shouldn't have anymore issues with people using your account to send spam.

So I Can't Stop Any of It?

Unfortunately there's no way to stop spam messages entirely. That's why filters were made. You'll always get junk messages, but the filters are getting better so you often won't notice them. If the automatic trash filters aren't working on your email provider you can always set up your own.
Gmail email filters

Using the knowledge we've given you, you'll be able to send spam away and not worry about it.