The sheer volume of junk email being sent everyday has normalized the occurrence of spam—and this has become a major problem. In fact, spam emails grossly outnumber legitimate ones by a mile. For May 2019 alone, spam emails constituted almost 85% of the total volume of emails being sent globally. That’s a whopping 367 billion spam emails per day, compared to a relatively paltry 64 billion emails that are legitimate.
For many email users, especially those who have gotten used to seeing unsolicited emails in their inbox day after day, junk mail had evolved from being a cause of alarm to something that’s more of a mundane matter.
Nowadays, many of us view spam as something normal—something that we just have to learn to deal with. Most people no longer view it as the threat that it actually is.
What is SPAM and why does it exist?
Spam emails are unsolicited email messages that are sent by people you don’t know. They include promotional emails that you did not ask for, counterfeit messages that attempt to trick you into giving out sensitive personal information, and fraudulent messages from hacked email accounts.
Email notifications from social media platforms, however, are not considered spam if you requested them—even if you later find them irksome and useless. Basically, anything that you actually signed up for in one way or another isn’t spam, no matter how annoying they turn out to be.
Why is SPAM a problem?
It goes without saying that spam is a nuisance for all of us. Having to individually sift through and delete unwanted emails wastes valuable time and bandwidth. The time you spend filtering emails in a day may not be much, but over the course of a year, it really does add up.
Junk emails waste a bunch of time and effort that could’ve been used for something more productive—but that’s not even the worst part. Spam is also a popular means of transferring harmful malware and electronic viruses. And in an age where hacking tools and techniques grow more and more sophisticated by the minute, spam-instigated security attacks become a perpetual threat.
Spam emails are also an avenue for marketers to exploit your data’s privacy. Responding to just one unsolicited email could put you in the mailing lists of many other companies. Before you know it, your spam emails would’ve already multiplied tenfold.
Phishing scams have also gained traction through spamming. A spam email that was made to look like it came from a legitimate entity that you trust (like your bank or someone you know) could end up stealing sensitive information if you’re not careful. You could be a victim of identity theft, or you could lose all your money if you mistakenly hand in your bank details.
SPAM Do’s and Don’ts
So how do you protect yourself from spam? Check out these do’s and don’ts.
Do report it as spam. All email software programs allow users to mark messages as spam. Doing this will help lessen the number of unsolicited emails you’ll receive in the future.
Don’t give out personal information. Legitimate companies will never ask you to supply sensitive information such as account numbers and log-in credentials via email. If you receive a message from your bank, super fund or other financial institute that seems legitimate, call them directly instead of responding to the email.
Do filter your messages. You can manually set your email app to filter out messages from specific people or companies. This lets you avoid the hassle of dealing with multiple unsolicited messages from the same source.
Don’t forget to check who the sender is. It’s pretty easy for seasoned scammers to replicate the look and feel of emails from legitimate companies. However, you can usually tell if the email is a scam waiting to happen by checking the name of the sender. If it reveals a generic or suspicious-looking email address after clicking on it, it’s most likely a scam.
As we’ve highlighted earlier, nearly 400 billion spam messages are being sent out daily. If the whole process of trying to deal with email spam starts to overwhelm you, remember that you are not alone.
To avoid being victimized by email spam, follow this simple rule of thumb:
Never provide your personal data through email and avoid opening messages from people you don’t know.