How to Unsubscribe to Unwanted Email

By Anne Hirsh

All marketing emails must legally include a simple way for recipients to unsubscribe. The CAN-SPAM act, passed in 2003, set requirements for all commercial and pornographic emails, making it easier for consumers to avoid these emails or opt out of receiving them. After you unsubscribe from a commercial email, the sender must remove you from the mailing list within 10 days. If you continue to get unwanted email after unsubscribing, you can file a complaint with the FCC.

Step 1

Open the most recent email you received from the unwanted source. The FCC requires that all opt-out links remain active for 30 days after the email is sent, so using the latest email ensures that the opt-out link is operational.

Step 2

Look through the email for an "Unsubscribe" link. This will generally be a small text link at the bottom of the page or just beneath the heading. It will say "Unsubscribe," "Opt out" or "Stop receiving emails" or a similar message.

Step 3

Click the link to "Show content" or "show pictures" if your email automatically hides images from unapproved sources and you cannot find an unsubscribe link in the hidden content mode. While the unsubscribe link should not be embedded in a picture, some email programs may hide all links in the message.

Step 4

Click the unsubscribe link and follow any on-screen instructions to complete the opt-out process. If the instructions ask for your email, make sure you enter it exactly as it appears in the "to" field of the email. The sender cannot remove you from the list without knowing the correct email address to remove.

Step 5

Note the date you unsubscribe. If you receive email from the sender again after 10 days have passed, contact the FCC at 1-877-382-4357 to file a complaint.

Tips & Warnings

  • Emails that are not commercial, such as a church email newsletter or a friend's personal mailing list, are not covered by the CAN-SPAM act and may not have unsubscribe links. In this case, contact the sender directly and ask him to remove you from the list. You cannot file a complaint with the FCC for personal or non-commercial emails.