Many people I work with complain to me about junk e-mail (spam). Many times, the best answer I can give them is, “Welcome to the Internet!” In many cases you literally can do nothing. However, there are things you can do to perhaps prevent yourself from getting more in the future. The most important thing to remember when it comes to reacting to spam is to never respond or click any links in the email.
Many people think that clicking the link at the bottom of the email that instructs you on how to be removed from the mailing list will, in fact, remove them from the sender’s email list. But this is not always true. Links like those were mandated by the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing) Act in 2004. The CAN-SPAM Act is a set of rules that email marketers must follow. It requires that recipients be given a chance to opt-out. If they don’t stop sending you junk mail within ten days of receiving your request, they can face fines and even jail time.
Believe it or not, some spammers actually are legitimate marketers and they abide by this law. However, most spammers are not legitimate marketers and couldn’t care less about obeying any rules. Most spammers will provide an “unsubscribe” link so that when you click it, they know that your email address is real (not fake or abandoned) and when they learn this, they pound you even more with junk mail and even sell your email address to other spammers as a “live” address. Replying to spam can provide the spammer with the same information, but most of the time they are sending you an email from a fake address so the reply goes nowhere.
If your Windows operating system has not been recently updated, the links they provide could do damage to your data. The link could go to a website that silently downloads and installs a program that collects data from your computer or checks your computer to see what its vulnerabilities are and take advantage of them. Always update Windows, and do it often, at least weekly.
Use the junk email filters in your email software to reduce the spam that you see. Many people say that if you recognize the company then it is safe to unsubscribe, and this may be the case — if you are dealing with a company you have done business with in the past and perhaps you asked to get on their mailing list. In cases like this, if you decide you no longer want emails from them, then it is usually okay to unsubscribe. Keep in mind, though, that many spammers pretend to be other companies to trick you, so be wary.
The best defence? Delete the email if you don’t like it, and forget about it. If you don’t open it, it cannot hurt you in any way.
There is no way to stop spam completely.