What Is Spam? An Overview

20th September, 2018 by

,Spam – or “spamming” – is any message or communication that is unwanted, inappropriate or irrelevant. Sounds pretty simple right? However, this simple explanation is deceptive. Realistically there is a lot more to understanding spam than you may think, depending on whether you are detecting spam being sent to you, or determining whether or not the email you are sending may be interpreted as spam. Let’s take a look at both situations and browse through some sound general rules to follow online, whether you are sending or receiving email:

How to detect spam in your inbox:

If you come across email in your inbox that may or may not be spam, the best rule to follow is to make the assumption that it is spam to avoid malware, viruses or worse on your system. If you are ever in doubt when dealing with suspicious email, always assume the worst. To double check, ask the following questions before opening or clicking links or attachments:

1. Do you know the sender?

A quick check of the sender bar will tell you a lot about the email in question. If you know the sender name and the email matches the address you know to be authentic, then odds are you can trust the email. However, if the address doesn’t match or you don’t know the name then it’s best to simply delete the email.

 2. Is there a request for personal information?

Any reputable organisation knows that requesting personal information through email is a huge mistake. Senders of spam often go to great lengths to appear as banks or services like television providers to trick you into divulging personal information. 99% of the time these requests are spam and you should send them straight to the bin.

3. Does the subject line look spammy?

While this question may sound obvious, it is an important element of spam detection. If the subject line includes spammy words like FREE or has obvious grammatical errors, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by quickly clicking delete.

4. Do the link destinations match what they claim to be?

By hovering your mouse over a link (without clicking) you will be able to see the link destination appear at the bottom of your screen. Make sure that where the link tells you the location it actually travels to. Spammers will often claim to be a reputable website, but actually, take you to a spoofed website that looks similar to a website you’ve previously visited. If you notice any discrepancies in links or downloads, simply toss the email in the trash.

Hopefully, your spam filter does most of the spam detecting work for you. If you are currently facing spam problems, you can find more information in this knowledgebase article. The most important lesson is to never ever click a link or download a file unless you know exactly who sent it, what it is and why you need it.  

How to avoid being marked as spam:

If you send out email newsletters or updates, authentic email is important. If your email is marked as spam, your sender’s reputation could be tarnished, spam filters may delete your email, or worse. Follow the easy dos and don’ts below to avoid being seen as a spammy email sender.

DO send email that:

  • Has an accurate business address or PO Box.
  • Includes an easy to follow opt-out or unsubscribe method.
  • Have accurate To, From and Reply To fields that are easy to understand.
  • Is from a sign-up form list.
  • Send email at the appropriate time for that time zone.
  • Pay attention to who is engaging with your email.

DON’T send email that:

  • Are to recipients that you don’t have permission to send email to.
  • To addresses that you bought or found anywhere on the internet.
  • You don’t check or edit yourself.
  • Use only images to convey your message.

Always remember that even if you don’t press send, email sent from your account is sent by you. If you cannot wholeheartedly agree that you are following best practices for your email campaigns, you should spend some time redesigning how you gather information and how you use it.

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