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Inbox full of junk? 5 simple ways to stop spam for good

Go to your email inbox and click on your spam folder. See those rows and rows of quarantined emails? Imagine them filling up your main inbox instead. Spam is a real issue for anyone with an email account.

While built-in spam filters for Gmail or other email clients can help temper the issue, they can’t do all of the heavy lifting. Spam emails can still slip through, not only wreaking havoc on your tidy inbox but also sometimes bringing phishing schemes or malware along with them. Tap or click here for a recent example.

The bottom line is nearly half of all emails are spam. If even half of those end up in your inbox, you’ll be dealing with a lot of potentially dangerous messages. Luckily, there are ways to keep these spam emails at bay. Let’s go over how to do that.

1. Report spam whenever you get it

Your email client can help filter out some of the more obvious spam that lands in your inbox, but it won’t be able to catch everything unless you take some time to train it. If spam lands in your inbox, don’t delete it. Select it and then send it to the spam folder by clicking the Report spam button above the email.

You should also take the time to go through your spam inbox and train your email client about what isn’t spam. Do this once a day while looking for emails that aren’t spam. When you find one, hit the “not spam” button to show your email client that those particular emails or senders aren’t spam.

Related: Take this quick quiz to see if you can spot a phishing email

That may seem like a hassle, but the more you do this, the better your spam filter in your inbox will work.

To train your email client about spam in Gmail, you’ll tap the box on the left of the email you want to send to the spam folder. Once the checkmark appears, scroll up to the Gmail menu bar and hit “Report spam.” This icon looks like a stop sign with an exclamation point, so it’s easy to identify.

You’ll follow a similar process for other email clients. If you’re using Outlook, for instance, you’ll select the email in your inbox and then scroll to select the Junk drop-down arrow. Each email client has its own process for reporting spam, but they’re all pretty similar.

2. Create filters for your inbox

Almost all email clients come with built-in spam filters, so most of the work is done for you when it comes to filtering out the really scammy emails. No Nigerian prince money schemes with those things! But not all spam is worth deleting — there are different levels. You may have unsolicited newsletters, invites or PR emails that you want to keep but don’t want to bog down your inbox.

To keep your main inbox clear of these types of emails, you can create filters to compartmentalize spam emails you may value later on. This is pretty simple to do, and you can sort it by email address, keywords, domain or other factors.

To create filters in Gmail:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. In the search box at the top, click the Down arrow.
  3. Enter your search criteria. If you want to check that your search worked correctly, see what emails show up by clicking Search.
  4. At the bottom of the search window, click Create filter
  5. Choose what you’d like the filter to do.
  6. Click Create filter.

To create filters in Yahoo:

  1. To set up filters in Yahoo Mail, open your Yahoo email inbox.
  2. Click the gear icon in the top-right and choose More Settings.
  3. Select the Filters tab on the left, then select Add new filters to start one.

To create filters in Outlook:

  1. Open your Outlook inbox and click the Gear icon at the top-right, followed by All Outlook settings.
  2. Make sure Mail is selected on the left tab, then choose Rules.
  3. Finally, click Add new rule to make a fresh filter.

Related: COVID-19 scams skyrocket another 30%

3. Use a third-party spam filter

The spam filter that your email account came with may not be hefty enough to do the job. Luckily, there are third-party spam filters you can use to do the work for you.

These filters are offered by third-party companies rather than your email client, but you’ll still have total control of what and how they filter your inbox. These types of filters analyze your mail before it lands in your inbox to filter out the junk. You won’t lose your emails to these filters, though; the systems will send you a log so you can approve incorrectly categorized mail.

There are tons of free and paid options out there, but one of the better ones is SpamTitan. What’s great about SpamTitan is that it scans your emails, links and attachments and then blocks any threats it finds. ESET Smart Security 9 is another solid option for catching spam and integrating with Outlook.

4. Turn off your read and delivery receipts

One of the most simple ways to stop spam is by turning off your read and delivery receipts. Some spammers will resort to sending out emails that request read and delivery receipts to verify your email. If these emails land in your inbox and send a delivery confirmation, the spammer will know your inbox is open and prime for a deluge of junk.

To avoid this, you should turn off these receipts. You should also turn off the automatic meeting request processing. This is pretty simple to do with any email client. You don’t need to turn them off in Gmail or Yahoo unless you’ve toggled them on to start with.

To turn off these receipts in Outlook:

  1. Go to File > Options > Mail.
  2. Scroll down to the Tracking section.
  3. For any message received that includes a read-receipt request, select Never send a read receipt.

5. Hide your email address whenever possible

It may seem counterintuitive to hide your email address, but doing this can absolutely help cut down on the spam in your inbox. Try not to publish your email address or post on any forums or comment sections if they show them as part of the process.

Or, set up a secondary email that you use for purposes like this — one that becomes your de facto spam inbox.

Instead of making a whole new account, you can also use aliases.

StartMail, a sponsor of Kim’s national radio show, is a secure, private email provider that allows you to create unlimited aliases. This is perfect if you’re signing up for a new service, entering your email address to get a coupon or doing anything else where you don’t want to give away your real email address.

If you use Gmail, see No. 4 on this list to quickly create an alias.

We’re always going to be battling spammers, but if you incorporate these simple tricks into your life, there’s a better chance of keeping spam out of your inbox.

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