What spam emails look like — and how to stop them


Spam. It’s a four-letter word.

Sifting through unwanted messages in your inbox on a daily basis is a chore — one most of us can’t keep up with. And while some spam emails are legitimate advertisements that attempt to lure us into buying something, they’re still annoying.

What do spam emails look like?

Businesses that capture your email address will often subscribe you to their newsletter or marketing emails by default. You may have even signed up yourself — only to have your information shared or sold. Most often there’s a way to unsubscribe from the unwanted emails, but it still takes a little chasing down, and it seems like another business adds you to their mailing list the very next day.

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Other spammers have more nefarious intentions.

One spam tactic is an unsolicited email about a virus that has infected your computer, and lo and behold, the email contains a solution. Often presented as an antivirus scan, the sender offers a fix for the alleged cyber threat. But opening the email and clicking on a link could allow a hacker to access your computer and download a malicious file.

Email phishing scams are highly effective because they mimic legitimate business correspondence. Most often, a spammer will pick a trusted brand and use the company’s formatting and logo to trick a user into opening the email. A good piece of advice is to confirm the sender’s email address is legitimate, and not just an alias. If you’re unsure, call the company to verify.

You’ve probably gotten a spam email claiming you’ve won a sweepstakes or prize. The spammer urges you to respond quickly in order to collect your winnings — but don’t be duped. If you don’t recognize the sweepstakes or the email seems unusual, it’s best not to respond.

There’s also a spam scam that preys on people’s goodwill. These emails begin with a plea for money in a dire situation. It may be a family emergency or an unexpected tragedy. Or in the case of the Nigerian prince scheme, there is a promise of a large sum of money in return for bank account information or payment of a small fee. But in the end, there isn’t a fortune coming your way from the prince.

What can you do about spam?

Don’t respond to unknown senders and be careful who you give your email address to. Don’t sign up with sites that claim to remove your email from spam lists because, while some are legitimate, many are address collectors used by spammers. If you want to be removed from an email subscription, don’t reply to the subscriber to ask to be removed. Instead, mark the email as spam or unsubscribe from the mailing list. AT&T/Yahoo Mail allows users to block up to three unwanted sender domains and up to 1,000 specific email addresses. Users who upgrade to Mail Plus can block up to 500 sender domains.

What are email providers doing about spam?

Many spam emails carry viruses, malware or phishing attacks that attempt to trick users into giving up personal information. AT&T’s cybersecurity team aggressively monitors and filters on average 200 million email messages per day, which is about 95 percent of emails sent to users.

The team also processes IP addresses in the hunt for known bad actors, filtering out about four billion IP addresses and email domains daily that attempt to deliver unsolicited messages.

With each new spam or virus attack, there is a small window of opportunity for unwanted emails to slip through before filters are updated to detect them. AT&T acts quickly and efficiently to scan for suspicious algorithms and works with security teams across the globe to block these email messages. Just last year, AT&T blocked 60 billion emails.

The information included within this article is AT&T-sponsored content written by a Currently Media editorial contributor. The statements in this article do not necessarily reflect the positions, strategies or opinions of AT&T.