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CitySmart Blog

Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Jeff Durden, Network Infrastructure Consultant
Jeff Durden

You already get enough email in your inbox to keep you stressed out. But on top of important requests from your staff, updates about projects, and inquiries from citizens, you also get spam.

In this post, we define spam as any unwanted email—even if it’s from a legitimate source. Spam includes phishing emails but also unwanted newsletters, sales promotions, and daily news updates. While you might innocently sign up for emails now and then, those emails can add up over time and overwhelm your inbox.

Why do some people get more spam than others? Here are five ways that you may unintentionally encourage more spam to enter your inbox.


1. Entering your email address for free things.

Give us your email address and we’ll enter you in a contest! Or give you a 50% off coupon! Or get a free coffee!

Giving your email address away always comes with a price. If someone is using a contest, promotion, or free stuff to get you to share your email address, be wary. They are usually adding you to a newsletter or email list so that they can send marketing messages to you in the future.

If you do enter your email address with a company because you want free stuff, choose the company wisely. Even consider having a separate email address that you use only for contests and promotions.

2. Publishing your email on a website.

It may seem helpful to provide your email address on your city’s website or another public website. However, spammers like to use automated software that skims websites for email addresses. They then send spam to those email addresses with promotions and links potentially leading you to malware.

We recommend that you use online forms to capture questions and inquiries instead of publishing your email address.

3. Signing up for legitimate services but not unchecking the right boxes.

Obviously, you will sign up and register for many legitimate services from established companies. However, if you’re not careful then you may get more emails than you want. When going through a signup process, take each step slowly and read everything. You will often see pre-checked boxes that say something like “Yes! Send me emails from Your Company and our trusted partners.” When you leave that checked, it’s likely your email address is sent to a variety of companies who will all start sending you marketing emails.

It’s okay to do business with legitimate companies but you need to control what you want to receive and what you don’t. Otherwise, “Yes, send me stuff!” is often the default option during a signup process.

4. Replying to spam.

It’s always, always, always good to ignore spam. However, we still encounter many people who get fed up and think, by angrily replying to the spammer, that the spam will stop.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, replying to spam often backfires.

Why? Spammers use automated software to spam people and don’t care about every single message sent. It’s very impersonal. All they look for are signs of life. Your angry message? A sign of life! Opening a spam email, and especially responding to it, shows that you are a live human who received it and engaged with it. That encourages spammers to send you more emails.

Three other related tips include:

  • Do not attempt to unsubscribe from malicious spam. It’s okay to unsubscribe from emails sent by legitimate companies. They are required by law to comply with your request. However, scammers see your unsubscribe request as a sign of life and they will likely send you more emails. Just ignore malicious spammers.
  • Autoreplies may lead to more spam. Use your judgment on this tip. If you absolutely need to use autoreplies to let people know you are away, keep using them. However, if you don’t absolutely need to use them, don’t. Autoreplies show a sign of life to spammers and reveal important intelligence (such as alternate points of contact and additional email addresses) that they may use for malicious purposes.
  • Mark suspicious emails as spam (or junk). If your email client application supports marking suspicious email as spam, do so. By marking an email as spam or junk, future emails from that same sender will be blocked for you.

5. Lacking quality antispam software and email filters.

A combination of antispam software and email filters can help reduce spam. Some email programs automate several antispam processes while other best practices reside in the hands of your employees:

  • Antispam software: This software, implemented and overseen by your IT staff or vendor, is meant to stop most obvious spam that should never even make it to anyone’s inbox. Without strong antispam software (often built into your email software), your inboxes will be deluged with too much spam—increasing the risk of an employee clicking on a malicious link or attachment.
  • Email filters: On top of antispam software, a quality email program should help filter emails. For example, many modern email programs automatically filter out social media updates, promotional emails, and likely spam into separate folders.
  • Trusted senders: At the employee level, you can go a step further to segment out emails from trusted senders. That way, your primary inbox will contain emails from people or companies you know and trust. Then, you can look through your other folders from time to time to see if someone needs to become a trusted sender.

Implementing these tips should help you reduce your spam, which also reduces security risks such as phishing, viruses, and ransomware.

Need help lowering the amount of spam at your city? Reach out to us today.