How to Check for Spam Mail

By Laurie Rappeport

Identifying a spam email can frustrate many email users, but knowing how to avoid spam can save a computer user from infecting a computer with a virus or being drawn into a con. Spam emails began to proliferate in the early '90s, and now, as Symantec, a recognized Internet security company, notes, spam makes up more than three-fourths of all email messages. Email users who rely on their email for business, professional or personal use can learn to identify a spam message before it causes serious damage or problems.

Step 1

Look at the email's content. If the email asks for assistance, treat it with suspicion. This holds true even if you know the sender. Spammers have developed sophisticated cons whereby they hijack someone's email address and send out spam emails to all the addresses on the person's contact list, as though it were from the email address's real owner. The email contains a hard-luck story ("I'm traveling in London and lost my wallet and passport") and a request for help ("If you can wire me $100 to carry me over until I can access my bank account ..."). The email contains a bank account number to which the recipient can send money, but, of course, the spammer will receive the money. Don't send money to anyone, even if you think that it's someone that you know, without verifying the story.

Step 2

Pass up emails in a foreign language. Even if the Web link that they send matches your language, a person that you want to hear from will not write to you in a foreign language.

Step 3

Do not click on links in an email that don't seem to relate to anything that you know about. As mentioned, spammers can hijack a friend's email and send out spam through the friend's contact list, drawing the email's recipient into clicking on a virus-laden link. Treat with suspicion any email that contains multiple links.

Step 4

Look at the address lines, including the "To" and "From" line. If the "To" line doesn't have your email address, treat it as spam. Likewise, if the "From" line doesn't include a real email but has a business's email or simply keywords, view it as a possible spam email.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never click on anything in a suspected spam email, even on a link that says "to unsubscribe." This "tells" the spammer that the email address is active and encourages the spammer to continue sending spam.