Email spam is certainly one of the most common problems for individuals and businesses. In fact, “junk emails” risk clogging up the inbox leaving no room for truly important emails.
What is spam?
Also known as spamming, it is the activity of repeatedly sending unsolicited communications, without the recipient providing their address or giving consent to receive messages in their inbox. Spam messages are generally sent via email, but especially in recent times, spammers like to use SMS and Social comments as well.
The question that always arises spontaneously to those who receive a spam email is: where was my contact found? In reality, spammers have several ways to collect email addresses and phone numbers. In fact, they often rely on specific illicit software that can create email contacts using fairly common names and surnames, but they also use the online scouting technique by copying addresses and numbers from blogs, sites and social networks.
But, spam is a major problem for both individuals and businesses. In fact, all companies want to do email marketing and send personalized communications to their users, but to do so they must design their messages accurately, in order to avoid running the risk of ending up in the spam box of potential customers.
Is spam a crime? Yes. In Italy the repeated sending of unsolicited e-mails and messages for promotional purposes is subject to administrative and financial penalties. In fact, those who practice this activity risk fines of up to 90,000 euros with the possibility of imprisonment from three to six months.
Let’s find out how to easily recognize junk emails, how to prevent the spam phenomenon and how to avoid sending emails that end up in the junk inbox.
What does spam mean? The origins of the term
Currently, the term spam is automatically associated with the world of unwanted messages, especially the universe of emails. But what does spam mean? Where does this term come from? In fact, until recently the term spam was not in the least related to the digital world. In fact, spam was born as an acronym for the contraction of the terms ” Spiced ” and ” Ham “. Until a few years ago, SPAM was the brand of a well-known spiced canned meat very common in England after World War II.
The term spam assumes a similar meaning to the current one only in 1970, when, during an episode of the beloved BBC series Monty Phyton’s Flying Circus , a comic sketch set in an inn was broadcast. In this sketch the waitress illustrated to the restaurant guests a menu consisting exclusively of dishes based on SPAM, the well-known English canned meat. As the waitress read the menu, a chorus of voices repeated the word spam over and over, preventing any other kind of communication.
It is precisely at this moment that the term spam is associated with something unwanted, obsessive and insistent: superfluous information that hinders any type of useful communication.
When is the word spam associated with the world of emails? Opinions are divided on this issue. Many believe that the first spam email was an advertisement for a new computer sent to about 4,000 people in 1978, others think that the first spam message dates back to 1994.
Spam emails, how to recognize them: the different types
What are spam messages? Let’s find out together what are the most common forms of these communications:
- Spam advertising
The most common spam emails belong to this category: they are messages that advertise products that the recipient has never requested. Most of the time the offers are for illegal products, such as over-the-counter medicines or luxury signature copies. All these messages always contain a link that refers to seemingly unrepeatable offers or scam sites.
- Scam advertising
The term scam indicates a real scam. In fact, many spam messages are aimed at scamming the recipient by convincing him to take out fake subscriptions or release his bank details. To this category belong the famous chains of Saint Anthony, or false messages that require donations or contributions in money for a completely invented purpose. A very famous online scam is the “Nigerian” one, implemented for the first time via email in 1994. This theft always requires a money transfer to be made by recovering the sum from a foreign bank. The recipient should participate in the operation by anticipating part of the security deposit, and then receive a significant percentage of the mind-boggling sum. This is clearly a dangerous scam to beware of at all times.
Another very frequent spam communication is Pishing. What is it about? Of a real scam put in place by spammers who pretend to be banks or credit institutions. In fact, the recipient receives emails or phone calls in which they are asked, in the guise of bank officials, for information regarding the current account, credit cards and access passwords. It would seem rather unlikely to give credit to these communications: it is precisely for this reason that the scammers concoct the scam in the smallest details. In fact, spammers create websites and communication channels very similar to those of the bank specifically to collect users’ personal information and gain illegal access to bank accounts.
Spam emails can also be used to spread malware – malicious and harmful software for computers or websites. These are known viruses, trojans or spyware: programs capable of entering the operating system, completely compromising the functioning of programs and sites. Often these programs are sent as an attachment, with the extension changed to .pdf or .doc to appear as harmless attachments.
Spam and business: 5 tips to prevent business emails from ending up in spam
As we have already stated, the spam problem does not only concern individuals. In fact, if receiving unwanted emails can certainly be a problem for a private individual, creating important communications and newsletters destined for the spam box of customers is equally serious damage for companies.
In fact, all corporate emails are subjected to spam checks before being delivered to users. The largest and most structured companies are equipped with sophisticated, expensive and antispam email marketing software , but how can the smaller companies avoid the “junk mail phenomenon”? In fact, it is important to know that most antispam settings examine the following factors:
- Sender of the message (email or domain);
- Email title;
- Message structure and form;
- Number of recipients;
- Type of message attachments (if any);
- Presence of words typical of spam messages, such as “free”, “offer”, etc.
For this, companies that want to carry out email marketing activities correctly, should follow some simple tips:
- Optimize the sender address
When you send a communication to your customers, it is always essential to optimize your address by writing the full name of the company. In fact, emails in which the sender appears clear and visible have a considerably higher percentage of openness than the others.
- Profile your contacts carefully
It is advisable to carefully plan the sending of your newsletters taking into account the recipients of the messages. In fact, if the recipients were not interested in the service, the email would immediately end up in spam. For this reason it is important to send your communications exclusively to the contacts collected through the customer’s adhesion. Using contact lists purchased or provided by third parties is not effective since, in addition to not respecting the privacy regulations, it implies sending messages to totally disinterested recipients.
- Define a sending frequency
Paying attention to the frequency with which newsletters and communications are sent is essential to avoid ending up in spam. Messages that are too frequent run a greater risk of ending up in spam as recipients could easily categorize them as unwanted. Conversely, too infrequent messages are also at risk: the user may not recognize the sender and report them.
- Choose the words to be included in the title carefully
The title is the first part of the emails that are examined when it comes to antispam systems. For this it is essential to pay particular attention to the words to be included in the title. It is always advisable to avoid leaving the title box empty and not to use exclamation points or classic “spam words” such as “free”, “offer”, “unmissable”, “euro”, etc.
- Structure the text wisely and do not insert too many images
Messages consisting solely of images and links tend to end up in spam very easily. It is important that the message contains at least 500 words and that the images are inserted in proportion to the text. Links must point to secure sites and domains, and messages must contain information that is relevant to users.
Spam and users: prevention and anti-spam measures to block unwanted emails
After you’ve seen how to avoid spam in a business setting, it’s time to find out how to fight it for home users. The first weapon to be used against spam is certainly prevention. In fact, with the necessary precautions, the number of unwanted emails in the inbox could decrease significantly.
Here are some simple tips to avoid receiving spam emails:
- Do not disclose your email address or your phone number online : everyone has access to the network, even for spammers it will be easy to find you;
- Whenever you sign an online document or subscribe to a newsletter or a website, check the methods and purposes of the processing of personal data ;
- Keep the work and personal email addresses separate : in fact, receiving spam communications in the work email box could prove to be problematic for the performance of normal work activities;
- Create an email address for commercial purposes only : in this way you will be able to receive promotional email marketing communications in this inbox, avoiding confusing valid promotions with spam messages in other inboxes;
- Consider using spam filters : in fact, there are many email providers that offer this feature to avoid receiving unwanted messages. These filters allow you to sort messages by creating real blacklists of contacts from which you do not want to receive messages;
- Do not use the “preview” mode for incoming emails : many spammers are able to produce already malicious messages from the preview. In fact, with the preview active, the provider will automatically open the message risking to identify the sender as a non-spam contact: this would allow him to send you unwanted messages again;
- When you send messages to many recipients , use the “Bcc” field , that is the blind copy: in this way the recipients’ addresses will not risk being intercepted by spammer programs;
- Keep your PC protected by constantly updating it and equipping yourself with an antivirus program that can also fight spam.
We talked about spam prevention, but what to do when you receive a spam email?
- Never reply to spam emails : by replying, the sender’s address will be identified as not spam, making it possible to send you unwanted messages in the future;
- Never open links contained in spam emails : in most cases they refer to fake promotional offers, online scams or, in the worst case, to malware that could compromise the functioning of your PC;
- Never download attachments of any kind from a spam email : generally these are malicious software that will affect the ordinary functioning of the operating system.