A glass jar full of paper letters with a speech bubble labeled as Spam emerging from it.

Measures like encrypting emails, using strong email passwords, and enabling two-factor authentication will help you secure your inbox. But besides blocking the sender, what are the main habits you should develop to reduce the spam you get?

Table of contents

    What are spam emails, and why are they a problem

    Email spam, junk mail, spam messages, or spam is unsolicited email messages sent in bulk. Hackers impersonate spam senders in order to enact phishing attacks, tricking people into giving away their personal information.

    Opening them lets the sender know your email is active, which can lead to more spam. Clicking suspicious links or attachments in the spam may download viruses that can expose you to malware or make your computer part of a botnet — a network of slave computers working for the spamming hacker.

    Spam is a huge threat (remember the ILOVEYOU bug?). After all, 91% of cyberattacks begin with a phishing email, according to the GDPR.EU.

    Note: the term spam comes from a 1970s Monty Python sketch where two café customers try to order breakfast from a menu that includes Spam in almost every dish, much to the dismay of one of the customers.

    Now, let’s go over ten tips on how to stop getting spam emails.

    1. Master email filters

    Put a wall between you and spam — a filter that separates the good from the bad and the “spamy.” We’ll show you how to master spam filtering on the most popular email services — Gmail, Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook, and Yahoo Mail.

    Block spam emails in Gmail

    1. Open Gmail;
    2. Click on the checkmark next to the spam email; 
    3. Click Report spam (the ! sign).

    You can also block specific spam senders:

    1. Open your inbox;
    2. Select a message from the spam sender;
    3. Once the message is open, select More (three dots) in the top right;
    4. Click Block [sender] to stop everything coming from that sender.

    Block spam emails in Apple Mail

    1. Open the Mail app;
    2. Click on the message
    3. Click on the sender’s name
    4. Click Block Contact.

    Block spam emails in Microsoft Outlook

    1. Open Outlook;
    2. Highlight the spam email;
    3. In the toolbar, click Report, and Report junk;
    4. Click More (the three dots);
    5. Click Block, and Block Sender.

    Block spam emails in Yahoo Mail

    1. Open the Yahoo Mail app;
    2. Click on Settings (the gear icon);
    3. Click on  More Settings;
    4. Click on Security and privacy;
    5. Click on Add;
    6. Type the email address you want to block, and click Save.
    1. Use alias email addresses

    An email alias is a forwarding address. That means all emails addressed to the alias are sent to a specified account. Email aliases help you keep your identity hidden and protect your email privacy. They do it by preventing sites from knowing your actual email address, reducing the potential for spam. The alias has no inbox and cannot be used to send emails.

    Alternative ID

    Surfshark’s Alternative ID (or Alt ID) is a mix of online identity-masking measures (Alt email and Alt persona) that keep your email address and name private.

    With Alt persona, you can create a brand-new online identity, which is helpful for form-filling and online accounts when you don’t want to use your real first and last names.

    Alt email lets you generate a new burner email alias that you can use for sign-ups and online accounts. It will forward everything it receives to your linked email.

    Alt ID lets you avoid giving out your info to one-time-use websites and minimize the possibility of getting spammed by marketing emails.

    Keep your identity private
    Get Alternative ID today
    1. Unsubscribe

    To minimize spam, do some spring cleaning and unsubscribe from newsletters and marketers you are no longer interested in.

    If you HAVE to click the unsubscribe button, do this before clicking anywhere in the mail:

    • Open the pestering letter and look for the unsubscribe link;
    • If you can’t find it, use the search command and type in unsubscribe;
    • If you still can’t find it, there’s a chance that you’re looking at a phishing attempt;
    • If there isn’t an opt-out option, it may be a scam, so block the sender immediately.

    We advise you not to click on anything in the email and instead contact the business in other ways and ask them to stop. You can block the sender in your email app if nothing else works.

    Note: here’s a bit of info to help you distinguish marketing emails from potential scams.

    Email marketing practices are governed by a range of international regulations, the majority of which include the provision of an unsubscribe option.

    For example, the CAN SPAM Act in the United States compels marketers to include a straightforward opt-out method for recipients within all commercial emails. At the same time, the GDPR in the EU similarly obligates the inclusion of a simple process for withdrawing consent to receive further email correspondence.

    It is important to note that the information provided herein is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal counsel. Laws and regulations regarding email marketing can be complex and vary significantly by jurisdiction. To ensure compliance with any legal requirements, you should consult a qualified attorney specializing in this area of law.

    1. Try third-party spam filters

    Like your very own hound dog, third-party spam filters are specific apps or add-ons that sniff out spam — analyze emails before they enter your inbox to determine if they are safe or suspicious.

    Filtering apps scan everything — the sender’s address, the body of the message, images, attachments, etc. Depending on the content of the message and your preferences, the filter lets the message pass into your inbox or sends it to the junk or spam folder.

    Some mail filtering apps to consider:

    A free email sorting service that lets you delete emails before downloading them to your computer with a couple of anti-spam tools
    Clean Email
    A web-based email management service that helps you declutter your inbox and automate email organization tasks
    A free app that offers smart email filtering features, such as customizable email categories, priority inbox, and snooze options
    1. Isolate the email app on your device

    Another method to minimize the risk of harming your device via spam is to isolate the emailing app on your computer. Isolating means that whenever an email enters your system, all links and attachments aren’t opened directly on your operating software, preventing any malware from installing on your device.

    1. Turn off “auto-load” for images

    When “auto-load” is turned on, images are downloaded automatically to your device, providing information to spamming scammers. They might be able to see your device location, internet service provider, device type, operating system, email client, and web browser.

    Most major email service providers have features that block automatic picture downloads and other external content. Check if your email service can turn off “auto-load” for images and enable it. Outlook has this turned on by default, by the way.

    1. Change your privacy settings on social media

    Sometimes, apps make your email public as part of your profile. Revise your privacy settings to change how much information your apps share.

    Oversharing your email on social media increases the risk of getting targeted by scammers and spammers — they can see you, your different platform accounts, and your email under one “profile” tab.

    Note: if you use Apple devices, try the Hide My Email feature. It lets you create random email addresses for certain apps and websites so that your real email is never used. You can turn this feature on by going to SettingsiCloudHide My Email.

    1. Learn to spot harmful emails and phishing attempts

    Almost all phishing spam falls under the social engineering umbrella. We’ve prepared a fun interactive course on what it is and how to spot it, but here’s a sneak peek at the dead giveaways of phishing emails:

    • The address doesn’t look genuine;
    • The content is poorly written and has grammatical errors;
    • Salutations are strangely formal, and the greetings are weird;
    • There’s a suspicious attachment;
    • There’s a sense of urgency;
    • The email isn’t addressed to you by name;
    • You’re being asked for personal information.

    Remember — spammers impersonate actual companies by using genuine-looking emails. If an offer is too good to be true, then it’s likely a fake, and interaction with the spammer lets them know you’re a potential prospect. Give them nothing.

    Why you shouldn’t open spam

    If you look at the subject line or the preheader and sense it may be spam, don’t open the email.

    The spam sender gets a signal when someone opens their spam (similar to the “seen” feature in Messenger). That informs them your account is active, which means you might get even more spam in the future.

    1. Check for data breaches

    Data leaks happen because service providers unknowingly leak user data or get hacked. If a service provider (whose services you use) has experienced a data breach, there is a high chance that your contact info is circulating the web and the dark net. That means you can expect an increase in spam flooding (A SPAM TSUNAMI).

    Ways to check if your email has been compromised:

    What should you do if your email has been a part of a data breach?

    If a service provider whose services you use has experienced a breach or your email has been compromised, the best you can do is create a new email account and use the new-found knowledge to keep your inbox private. 

    1. Use an antivirus and update software

    Antiviruses and software updates are meant to deal with malicious spam and malvertising consequences. Such measures should help if you have accidentally clicked on a malicious link or opened an email you shouldn’t have.


    How does antivirus prevent spam? An antivirus prevents further damage that spam may cause. An antivirus scans all files that get into your computer. But how do emails make it into your system if they’re in the mailing app’s servers far away? Great question!

    When you open an email, part of its content is downloaded into your device’s temporary memory folder (Temp), to be later loaded when you open it. 

    Some spam may carry malicious code attached to an email’s content. The code is meant to compromise your device’s security, often by leaving a “back door” open for malware to get in unnoticed. An antivirus scans your device, detects the threat, quarantines it, and deletes it with your permission.

    Update software

    Old software has outdated security measures and bugs known to many opportunistic hackers. They bet on people not updating their systems, so they send spam in bulk, hoping the victims will open it and possibly click on something infected with malicious code.

    Once clicked on, the virus is downloaded via spam, and by abusing the outdated system flaw, the hacker is allowed in.

    Conclusion: embrace Surfshark for enhanced privacy and spam prevention

    Keeping your online hygiene habits updated is necessary to prevent spam. Next time you leave your email somewhere, consider whether it’s worth the potential spam? If so, use your actual email address for the important stuff and leave the rest to Alternative ID.

    Dodge spam
    & avoid online threats


    Why am I suddenly getting a lot of spam emails?

    You may be getting a lot of spam because your email recently ended up in a spammer’s database. Data brokers often collect and sell user data in large quantities, and your email may be among the batch of emails that just got sold to someone.

    How do I stop spam emails permanently?

    There are no permanent measures to stop spam. But you can reduce it by following these steps:

    1. Block spam email addresses;
    2. Unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters or mailing lists;
    3. Remove your email from social media;
    4. Unsubscribe from email lists;
    5. Use a third-party email filter;
    6. Use an email alias;
    7. Create a new email account (worst-case scenario).

    Is it safe to unsubscribe from spam?

    Unsubscribing from spam is a great idea, but we don’t recommend clicking anything in the email. You may accidentally click on a malicious link. To minimize such risk, don’t interact with spam and contact the business that sent you the email and ask them to remove you from their marketing list. Block the sender’s address without opening the message if all else fails.

    Is it better to block or delete spam?

    It’s better to block spam emails rather than delete them because it helps your email improve its spam filters and reduce the chances of getting similar messages in the future. Deleting spam is only a short-term fix. If you decide to delete spam, do it without opening the email.

    How to secure your email?

    Here are some tips to secure your email and keep a spam-free inbox:

    • Don’t overexpose your email address;
    • Use a strong password;
    • Enable 2FA;
    • Update your email security settings.