Here are a few easy steps you can take to reduce the amount of unwanted email you might be receiving everyday.

We're all tired of opening our inboxes and wading through dozens of junk email messages. Our lives are busy enough without the daily regimen of sorting through dozens of dubious messages every morning.  

According to a 2013 report, 69% of all email is nothing but spam.*

The burning question: Where does this junk come from and how can you stop it for good? Aren't there laws against this nuisance? Sure. But that doesn't stop spammers from sending their wares, as you've no doubt seen. We'll explain.

Many countries have their own laws to prevent the sending of unwanted email. In the U.K., the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations enacted a law in 2003. It clearly states that you have to agree to receive any marketing email, unless there is a previously existing relationship between you and the company in question. France, Spain, Italy, and Germany have similar laws.

But hold on, you say. How can this be? You've never even heard of most of the companies sending these messages, and you certainly never agreed to have them flood your inbox.

This scenario happens because much of this unwanted email originates from outside of Europe. So either the laws don't apply, or the senders simply choose to ignore the rules. (Spammers aren't exactly known for being scrupulous.)

Fear not, though. There are a few easy steps you can take to reduce the amount of unwanted email you might be receiving everyday.

Tips to help prevent spam

Do not respond - Firing off an angry reply may help you feel better for the moment, but hold off on taking this action. All you'll be doing is alerting the spammers that they have a live address, which could greatly increase the amount of junk email you receive.

This same caveat applies to clicking on any opt-out text to remove you from their marketing list. Unless the email originates from a well-known, established company that operates in your country, clicking any link within an unwanted email only lets the sender know that you've opened it - and that's a cue to send even more.

Block all images - Even if you don't reply or click on any links within the junk email, spammers can still track if you’ve opened a message by checking to see if any image included within it displays on your monitor. Sometimes, this image may only be one pixel - too small for you to notice it.
Play it safe by choosing to block all images in your email program. Search under 'Options' or 'Tools' in your email application of choice. Note that some email clients block images by default.

Safeguard your primary email address - If you've ever entered a contest online or replied on an open forum with your email address, you've probably opened up your inbox to all of the unwanted email you've been receiving.

Many contests exist to harvest addresses and there are programs that scour the Internet searching for anything that looks like an email address to pluck.

To help prevent someone from grabbing yours, think about creating an alternate 'spam-friendly' email address - one that isn't your primary personal or business email. You can also use temporary email services that are only active for less than an hour. (Search for them online.)

Further safeguard your email address by writing it in the form only a human would understand, like 'John S at email', with instructions to remove all spaces.

Use strong antispam filters - This one might seem like a no-brainer, but the effectiveness of the filter can depend upon several factors:

  • Is the application up to date against the newest spam trends? It's often a cat and mouse game between who's ahead in the war of unwanted email, and out-of-date information in your protective software can yield ineffective results.
  • 'Whitelist' your known contacts and mark unwanted email as junk. It may take a few minutes to do initially, but consider this a good investment. A little time here can help your email client learn what's legitimate and what isn't.

Most junk email exists because it's relatively easy to send (even if it violates a few laws). Even incredibly low responses of .001% can still be quite profitable when emailing millions of people. Shady? Oh, yes. Annoying? Most definitely. But someone, somewhere must be responding to these messages or the spammers would stop sending them.

Norton™ Internet Security can help make blocking spam easy. It automatically filters these annoying emails and removes them before they reach your inbox. Learn more about how this application works and how it protects you in other ways.

*Symantec's 2013 Internet Security Threat Report, Volume 18