- Data basics
How do I stop spam?
- 4 minutes
- By El Blackwood & Klara Lee
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Many people find receiving any kind of spam deeply frustrating, especially because it’s difficult to stop. Luckily, there are steps you can take to minimise the amount you receive and protect yourself from scams in the process.
What is spam?
Spam is any type of unwanted communication that’s sent out in bulk. It can refer to unsolicited emails, calls or texts, or any other form of digital junk mail. While spam tends to be from companies, some of it is from scammers.
Why does spam happen?
Some spam messages are sent because legitimate companies are trying to sell you something, like clothes or supplements. However, spam can also be a gateway to a host of security threats. These include scammers aiming to steal your identity, credit card information, and more.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has provided new opportunities to trick people into opening or replying to spam. For example, everyday Gmail blocks over 100 million phishing emails. It’s not uncommon for up to 20% of these to be related to COVID-19.
How do they have my email address or mobile number?
Spammers get your contact details from multiple sources, including:
- Online surveys
- Online contests
- Data breaches
- Websites via data scraping tools
- Information you’ve posted online
- Contact lists bought from marketing companies
This list isn’t exhaustive. Spam texts for example are the result of software that randomly generates phone numbers until some are marked as delivered. While there’s nothing you can do about this technique, there are plenty of other ways you can stop spam.
How do I stop spam texts and calls?
While there is a limited amount you can do with spam text and calls, because so many of them are the result of randomly generated numbers, you can register your mobile and landline with the Telephone Preference Service. This tells telemarketers to stop contacting you within 28 days.
You can also report spam texts by forwarding the text to 7726. An easy way to remember ‘7726' is that they're the numbers that spell out ‘SPAM'.
Our top tips for stopping spam
1) Choose a good email service provider
A good email service will filter most spam at first glance. It's easy for big email servers to spot spam if they can see that bulk mail is being sent to lots of its users. Gmail is one of the best for this, as are ICloud and Microsoft.
2) Have a primary and secondary email address
To drastically limit the amount of times you share your email online, create a secondary email address. You can then use your primary email address for official purposes, and your secondary email address for booking hotels, shopping online, public pages, and surveys. You could even set up a third email address dedicated to what you know will be spam, such as to sign up for freebies. That way, you hugely reduce your risk of being impacted by a data breach and of scammers gaining your real email address.
3) Block spam emails and numbers
Next, you can block certain contacts that have been spamming you with messages. While most modern scammers use new emails and phone numbers to contact you each time, if you are receiving a bulk of unwanted messages from the same contact, blocking is the way to go.
4) Make sure that you never click on any links or respond to spam
If you ever respond to a spam text, your phone number will likely be tagged as valid and can be disseminated to other scammers, increasing your odds of getting more junk messages. For example, even though legitimate businesses can send texts that end with ‘Text STOP to OptOut’, many scammers also do this to confirm your number is valid. So, unless you are sure the text is from a legitimate business it’s best not to respond at all. For emails, this includes clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ link, which actually informs your spammer that you exist. Clicking on a link or attachment in a spam message could also trigger malware that infects your device.
5) Change your phone settings
If you have an android phone, you can disable all potential spam messages from the Messages app. In the upper right of the app, tap the three dots and select ‘Settings’, then ‘Spam protection’ and turn on the ‘Enable spam protection’ switch. Your phone will now alert you if an incoming message is suspected of being spam. Similarly, different types of phone offer different spam protection solutions that should be findable via a quick internet search.
6) Mark and report emails and texts as spam
Rather than deleting spam you should mark/report it as such to help prevent more messages like it. Most email services have algorithms that filter out spam and junk mail automatically. But, if you find a spam email in your regular inbox, mark it as spam which will move it to the spam folder. If you receive any more emails from this address, the spam filter will know to mark it as spam and it can help the service provider algorithm better adapt and identify spam.
For texts as we mentioned above, you can report spam text messages to your mobile provider by copying the original message and texting it to 7726 (which spells out SPAM).
7) Clean up your digital footprint
Finally, the best way to start afresh and ensure only people you trust have your contact details is to clean up your digital footprint. Through Rightly, you can send deletion requests to multiple companies at once telling them to delete your contact details and personal data. According to EU and UK law, unless keeping this information is vital businesses must delete it within a month of receiving your request.
By deleting your data with companies that hold your information, but don’t need it you reduce your risk of spam and also of hackers gaining your details to scam you with. This is because it reduces the volume of information about you online and makes it much harder for companies and scammers to know how to contact you.
Unfortunately, the amount of spam being sent to people either to sell them something or for the purposes of scamming them is only increasing. However, if you follow our tips you can minimise the amount of spam you receive and protect yourself going forwards.
If you've tried all of the above (including our free stop spam service) and are still struggling with the amount of spam you receive, changing your email address or number may be the only option. Our customer support team would also be happy to provide further advice.
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