Spam emails: 15 things you need to know

Almost 50% of all email sent and received is spam.

That comes to 146 billion emails every single day.            

Having an inbox flooded with spam emails is the kind of headache everyone wants to avoid.

But the reason most people wind up getting spammed is because they didn’t know the answers to some very important questions.

So we’ve answered them here for you.               

You don’t have to make the same mistakes they did.

1. Why am I suddenly getting spam emails?

If you’ve enjoyed a relatively spam-free life up to quite recently, but you’re now receiving a flood of spam here are some possible causes:

  • You entered a competition or signed up for a freebie on a website
  • Your email was leaked as part of a data breach and posted online with Pastebin
  • Your data was sold to an email marketer by somebody you receive a newsletter from
  • Your email address was sold to another company by a service you currently use it with
  • Your personal data was purchased on the Dark Web as a result of a data breach/leak
  • You wound up in a “forward this to 5 of your friends” chain email
  • Your email address was harvested by a spammer’s scraping bot from a forum or similar

The problem is that once your address is in circulation among spammers it becomes pretty much impossible to stop receiving spam.

That’s why you should have one email address that literally nobody except family and close personal friends know about.

And then a second “disposable” email address for competitions, downloads, freebies, and other public uses.

2. What is the purpose of spam emails?

You’ve probably found yourself wondering why do spammers bother sending those emails to billions of people each day?

Especially considering that the average computer user can spot them a mile away.

Or Gmail will simply send them straight to ‘Junk’.

The answer is a simple one – money.

The average spammer earns a 6-figure income per year.

They might have to send 100 million emails to generate that revenue, but it only takes a handful of victims handing over their bank account details for the “business model” to remain very profitable.

20 victims x $5,000 each = $100,000.

Basically, they know if they send enough emails they’ll eventually find somebody who trusts them enough to click on their links, etc.

3. Does unsubscribing from spam emails work?

This can be 100% effective if the person sending you the unwanted email is using a legitimate email marketing service such as MailChimp or Aweber.

But the majority of spammers only include an ‘Unsubscribe here’ link to check if your email account is currently active.

Basically, it tells the spammer that you opened their email so you’ll get tagged as ‘Active’ in their database and they’ll keep hounding you with spam.

4. Where do spammers get my email address?

They have a number of ways to do this. The first, and most popular, is to simply pay an Internet marketer for a copy of their database.

Another way they acquire data is from data breaches – 75% of which go unreported.

And then finally, the old school spammers will simply use harvesting tools to scan the entire Internet for public email addresses. This includes forums, websites, and social media platforms.

5. Do spam emails delete themselves?

When your email software detects spam it should automatically move it to your ‘Spam’ folder. This happens for both web-based email providers like Gmail but also in desktop applications like Outlook or Thunderbird.

Any email in your ‘Spam’ folder that’s more than 30 days old should be deleted automatically.

That’s the default setting for most email providers and software.

6. Why do spam emails have a lot of misspellings?

This is simply because the vast majority of spammers either live in countries where English isn’t spoken fluently.

Or they hire people in those countries to run their email spam operations because they basically don’t follow international law and/or local officials can be bribed to turn a blind eye.

But don’t feel sorry for them – an awful lot of the profit generated by ripping people off through spam emails goes directly to gangs involved in some of the worst crimes imaginable.

It’s not some poor kid trying to feed his family.

Instead, you’re dealing with a digital mafia that sells drugs and people to the highest bidder.

7. How do spam emails know my password?

There’s two issues to address here.

The first is an extortion racket where the spammer claims to know your password(s) and wants money before they release your private images/text/conversations to the world.

These are hoaxes in 99.9% of cases.

It’s just an idle threat.

There is, however, the risk that your email address and your password were compromised in a data breach.

Check Have I been Pwned and their Pwned Passwords service to verify if that’s the case.

8. Are spam emails dangerous?

A lot of people freak out when they see obvious spam in their ‘Inbox’.

But receiving spam doesn’t mean you’ve been hacked or that there’s a virus on your computer or phone.

It simply means that the spammer either bought or harvested your email address and they’re testing to see if it’s a “live” account. Spam itself isn’t dangerous but the money generated by the people sending those spam emails goes directly towards paying for criminal activities e.g. drugs, arms sales, and human trafficking.

9. Can opening a spam email give you a virus?

No, you cannot get a virus simply by opening a spam email.

The risks are clickable links or URLs within the email and attachments sent with your email.

Common attachment types that contain viruses are free software, videos, PDF files, and even images.

Yes, images can be designed to transfer a virus to your smartphone, computer, or tablet.

So, never click on a link or open an attachment in any email that comes from a source you do not recognize.

But your computer or phone cannot be infected unless you open an attachment or click on a link.

It is safe to read spam emails as long as you don’t do either of the above.

10. Why do I keep getting spam emails from dating sites?

This can be the result of a prank played by a friend who signed you up for a dating site using your personal email address.

But a more typical cause for you receiving these types of emails is because a spammer bought your email address from a third party – usually the provider of a newsletter you’re already subscribed to or from a “competition” site.

The links to the dating sites you receive are one of two types: scams or affiliate offers.

Scam sites want you to register for their site using your credit card, which they’ll then clone.

The affiliate offers are where the spammer is paid a commission (often up to $100) if you sign up for the dating sites they sent you links to.

Long story short, spam emails linking to dating sites can earn them a lot of money.

11. Is there a way to block all spam emails?

Unfortunately, once your email address winds up in even one email marketing database there’s no way to stop receiving spam entirely.

But that doesn’t mean you have to endure a cluttered inbox.

Most email programs, such as Gmail or Outlook, will learn what types of emails you should and shouldn’t receive when you ‘Mark them as junk’.

That can significantly reduce the amount of spam you receive.

The flip side of this is that your email program becomes so sensitive that it accidentally tags legitimate email as spam.

So you need to monitor your spam or junk folder to make sure important emails don’t wind up there.

Another possibility is that spammers eventually stop emailing you because they can see you’ve never opened even one of their emails.

Your data becomes “worthless” to them…so they package it with hundreds of millions of other addresses…and then sells that list at a huge discount to another spammer.

And the cycle begins again.

12. Is there a way to never receive any spam emails?

Yes, there is a way to never, ever receive even one spam email.

You create an email address that you never use for anything other than personal emails with a very small group of friends, or immediate family members.

This email address should never be used as a login for any site or app of any kind.

Ideally, it would be created with a service like ProtonMail i.e. a company that doesn’t sell your inbox to advertisers.

Your friends would also need to agree that nobody within your group forwards emails to you from a third party or anyone outside the group.

It is entirely possible to never have to deal with spam emails.

But it requires a level of personal data hygiene that most people are simply not willing to follow through with.

13. Does antivirus software stop spam emails?

Antivirus software will be able to spot and intercept emails with viruses attached and are also pretty good at spotting phishing attempts.

But they’re not designed to stop spam emails from arriving in your inbox.

Some antivirus packages might claim to be able to keep your inbox clean, but this typically results in the majority of your emails being tagged as spam.

You should only ever rely on antivirus software to keep you safe from viruses and malware.

Spam email prevention is better suited to other tools and services.

14. How to stop incoming emails going to spam

Your fight to keep your inbox free of the clutter of spam emails can often have an unwanted side effect.

And that is emails you actually want to read ending up in your junk or spam folder.

The good news is that there’s an easy way around this – creating a white list.

This is a list of addresses that you pre-approved within your email software.

You can learn how to create a white list here.

15. Will spam emails eventually stop?

The short answer to this is, “No”.

It’s easy to imagine that being a spammer is a zero sum game – that they eventually have to quit because they run out of email addresses.

But that’s without looking at emerging markets in India, Africa, and Asia.

An additional 500 million people will have access to email by 2024.

Although it will probably be closer to 1 billion thanks to Starlink.

That means spammers will have a whole new market to attempt to rip off.

Some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

Spam emails have at least another decade of life ahead of them.


And there you have our list of the top 14 questions people ask about spam emails.

As you can see, spam isn’t going away any time soon.

But there are ways to deal with it.

Did we miss anything?

Or do you have a question about spam emails you’d like answered?

If so send us a quick email (or blog comment), we’ll update the article and then get back to you to let you know.

Seriously – we’ll answer your questions if you take the time to ask them.

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