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Why Shouldn’t I Use the “Report Spam” or “Junk” Button?

Unintended consequences.

No Spam

The "Report Spam" and "Junk" buttons serve an important function in the war against spam. However, used improperly they can do more harm than good.
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Question: As I was dealing with my email the other day, a friend was with me. He nearly when ballistic when I used the “Report Spam” button to get rid of some email in my inbox. He said I was using it wrong. There’s a right and wrong way? Why shouldn’t I just use it?

Yes, there is most definitely a wrong way to use it. In fact, it’s so wrong that you could contribute to other people not being able to get their email…

… their legitimate, non-spam email.

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Report Spam versus Unsubscribe

Reporting legitimate email as spam hurts the publisher as well as other people who actually want the email. Only report actual spam as spam, and use unsubscribe options on legitimate email. That does mean you need to know the difference, and know what you asked for.

Reporting spam

The concept behind buttons like Junk in, Spam in Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and others is simple: let users decide what is and is not spam, and then use the information to build a better spam filter.

Spam is notoriously difficult to identify, other than “you know it when you see it.” As more and more people tell the services “This is spam,” the services then use characteristics of those messages to make their spam filters better.

The flaw in this scenario is the users.

As it turns out, they often do not know spam when they see it, and report legitimate mail as spam. If enough people do that, eventually legitimate mail starts getting blocked by spam filters.

When that happens, you and others don’t get the email you asked for because others reported it as spam.

Spam versus unsubscribe

Let’s say I’m a newsletter publisher (which, coincidentally, I am). In order to get my newsletter, you have to

  1. Provide your email address
  2. Reply to or click a link in an email sent to that address to confirm your subscription

That’s referred to as “double-opt-in” and is the industry-standard way of making sure that you really mean it when you sign up for an email newsletter.

So far, so good.

Now you receive my newsletter. Maybe you don’t like it. Maybe it’s not what you expected. Either way, you explicitly asked to receive it and confirmed that you wanted it. By definition, it is not spam; spam is email you didn’t ask for.

If you want to stop receiving this email, then hit the Unsubscribe link. Because you asked for this email and confirmed that you wanted it, the right thing to do is to follow the directions to unsubscribe from it.

When “report as spam” is considered harmful

If you use the “Report as spam” button on email you asked for, you harm both the publisher and the other subscribers to that newsletter.

How? You’ve told the email service that it’s spam when it is not. The service may eventually start blocking that newsletter, not only from you but from other recipients using the same service.

I’ve run across several newsletters having delivery issues with some of the larger mail systems because people hit “Report as spam” instead of unsubscribing as they should have. I know of at least one that has stopped supporting recipients of one mail service entirely, and I know of another who stopped accepting subscribers from Hotmail and Yahoo because of these types of deliverability issues.

“Report as spam” is not a substitute for “unsubscribe.” If you asked for the mail, then use the proper steps to unsubscribe. If you know you did not, if you know that what you’re looking at is truly spam — unsolicited email — then by all means, report it as spam.

When “unsubscribe” is considered harmful

What confuses the issue, of course, is that you should never click on the unsubscribe link in spam. That’s just a recipe to get you more spam.

So, how do you know the difference?

  • Did you sign up for it? It’s not spam.
  • Is it from a business you have some kind of a relationship with? It’s not spam.

On the other hand, if you didn’t ask for it, never heard of it, and have no idea why you’re getting it — then it’s probably spam.

On behalf of all the legitimate newsletter publishers out there and their subscribers, please know the difference and act accordingly.

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87 comments on “Why Shouldn’t I Use the “Report Spam” or “Junk” Button?”

  1. I have heard that if you click “unsubscribe” then that will allow a host of other “sites” to send you garbage you never asked for. I’ve been told that if you just simply delete the email and not open it, the sender will not know if it’s a legitimate email address or not. Is this true?

  2. Chris: by using the spam button for email you asked for, you are making the spam problem worse for youself and for everyone.

  3. Kristy: that’s true **for unsolicited mail**. If you ASKED to be added to a mailing list – if YOU SIGNED UP FOR IT – then unsubscribe is the proper way to stop receiving it.

  4. Chris and Kristy exemplify the two types of people who hit the “spam” button for non-spam letters.

    First, on Chris’s end, he claims he does it because it’s easier, end of story, and he doesn’t care who it inconveniences. Since Leo has to be nice, I’ll go ahead and call him a selfish jerk. But he’s also clueless about this being effective.

    I’ve gotten spam from a specific source, reported it, and kept getting spam from that source. I eventually had to add a custom filter to manually blacklist that sender on my account. That’s happened more than once.

    The big mail providers do not necessarily act quickly on individual spam reports. It can take a while for a newsletter publisher or lower-volume spammer to get blocked. In the meantime, you keep getting their mail.

    So if you’re using it as an alternative to the “unsubscribe” process, you could keep getting it for weeks. It’s faster and easier to unsubscribe.

    On Kristy’s end, she doesn’t understand the difference between spam and non-spam mail. With evil spammers who got your e-mail address off a CD or guessed it, following their unsubscribe option is bad because you’re confirming your e-mail address is valid, and they can now sell it as being verified as reaching a person and reaching someone who reads their spam.

    BUT, if you signed up via double opt-in, the sender already know your address is good because you signed up and then confirmed the sign-up by mail. Unsubscribing from a list where you signed up will not get you on any new spam lists. It’s also going to be faster and more effective than hitting the spam/junk button at Yahoo or Hotmail.

    – Greg

  5. I do want to be clear and reiterate what the article says, that some folks appear to be missing:

    Use the spam button for spam.

    DON’T use the spam button if the email is NOT spam. Especially if the email is something you requested, like a newsletter subscription.

    Yahoo, in particular, is VERY problematic for legitimate on-line publishers these days. If they’re telling you to use the spam button even when the mail isn’t really spam, I can see why.

  6. In a slightly different vein, is it possible for correct, responsible use of the “Report Spam” button to INCREASE the amount of spam in my inbox? Actually, I guess it would really be DECREASING the amount of spam caught by the filter.

    I use Gmail exclusively and for quite a while Google’s spam filter seemed to be doing OK. Not stellar, but better than nothing.

    A month or so ago, I got a wild hair (I won’t say where) and started using the “Report Spam” button on Gmail more diligently. Since then, the amount of spam hitting my inbox seems to have gone up.

    Is this “Bayesian Spam Filter Weirdness” real or just a statistical fluke caused by the fact that I’m paying attention to the amount of spam and therefore noticing it more. Or have I just been drinking too much Diet Coke?

  7. “None of the above” :)

    I’ve heard reports from several friends of mine with GMail accounts that GMail’s spam filter seems to have hiccuped, and more has been getting through than should. I would assume that Google will fix this at some point soon.

    Interestingly, not all GMail users are seeing it.


  9. Now for the flip side of all this. There are several “legitimate” business who have a “right” to contact me because I’ve done business with them, or signed up for their newsletters. But then when I try to use the “unsubscribe”, it doesn’t work.

    I stress again, these are REAL companies, not “typical” spammers using the unsubscribe link to verify my existence. They just probably don’t take the time to make the unsubscribe button actually work (why should they?).

    Are THEY spam? Should I call these legitimate retailers “spammers”, because they use spammer tactics? (looks like spam, talks like spam, quacks like spam, etc.)

  10. You raise an incredibly good issue. Legitimate businesses that don’t behave properly are as much to blame for not only spam, but for people’s confusion as to what is and is not spam as well.

  11. I mistakenly pressed the THIS IS SPAM instead of the PRINT button on an email. The person who sent the email can no longer send emails to This has created a huge issue since they can no longer send emails to netscape. I tried calling Netscape, but they are not helpful. Anyone have any suggestions how I can undo this? Please help!

  12. I only use the spam button for genuine spam. Lately I’ve been using for publishers which I’ve opted into but they automatically decided to send me other news letters.

    A good example of this is; sign up for their newsletters and they automatically subscribe you to a “video edition” of each newsletter. Essentially all the video edition is spam plugging another one of their sites. I never asked nor was told I would be subscibed to a “video edition” therefore it is spam.

  13. I use the block sender button in my e-mail to stop spam senders –am I correct in doing this or could I be causing more problems–it seems to be working -but I’ve only been doing it for a short time –Carl G.

  14. On the other hand, we are told that using the UNSUBSCRIBE option will tell the sender that we really exist and that our adddress is valid which makes them continue. We are therefore advised NOT to use the UNSUBSCRIBE option. A nice Catch-22. Another problem is that many of the “UNSUBSCRIBE” buttons simply do nothing.

    Hash: SHA1

    You’re overlooking an important difference:

    Did you subscribe and ask for the email? Then use the unsubscribe button to
    stop it.

    If you didn’t ask for it, then it’s spam.

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


  16. Here’s my idea: Give me a ‘Return as Undeliverable’ button, which requests that the particular email be returned just as if my address was defunct (a big white lie). Hopefully, the junk emailer would remove my ‘defunct’ address and not even sell it. No more junk; no filter needed.

  17. Someone wrote:

    > As long as you NEVER use it for email that you
    > requested (newsletters that subscribed to, for
    > example), you’re fine.

    That is my policy also — with however ONE important exception. Newsletters (or any other E-Mail, for that matter) to which I subscribed, and then unsubscribed from, BUT WHICH CONTINUE TO BE DELIVERED, MY EXPLICIT UNSUBSCRIPTION TO THE CONTRARY NOTWITHSTANDING, after the third unsuccessful unsubscribe attempt get reported as Spam. Period.

    Object lesson to newsletter publishers: make SURE that you honor all unsubscribe requests — or else accept the consequences!



  18. It is really funny Leo, as 2 of the sites I really trust, are yours & “”,& are the only 2 for which I get the warning “thunderbird thinks this is spam”. I just click on the “not spam” button, & go ahead. There is always a slight pause,or re-adjustment,& I charge ahead, so I assume I am doing the right thing. I have never had a problem with “un-subscribe” option, probably as I take good care, as to whom I subscribe.

  19. I have been inundated lately by ads for penile enhancement (!) and knowing if I report them as spam it just seems to make it worse. But every time I try to “unsubscribe”, the next window says “Not Found”. So what recourse do I have then? I have not subscribed to any part of these ads.

    You have almost no recourse other than anti-spam filters in your email client or those provided by your email provider. You should never click on an unsubscribe link except when it’s something that you actually subscribed to. Unsubscribe links contained within spam (i.e. NOT those in legitimate email) will also just get you more spam.

    – Leo
  20. I found an effective way to stop spammers. If you are with yahoo, they have a mail option, which directs you to a “Block address” if you can find out the IP address of the spammer, list it there and it does work. I stopped those abusive spammers in 2 days. Try it

  21. I was under the impression that if you blocked a sender in Outlook, it would only block them locally on your machine, not on your ISP’s servers. So it wouldn’t make any difference to that sender’s attempts to send their newsletter to other recipients. Am I right?

    I’ve had problems with unsolicited email coming from legitimate companies that I’ve had dealings with (e.g., ordered one thing online from them) but never requested to get their newsletter. It turns out that they automatically subscribe you to their newsletter (without telling you) if you buy one thing from them. After a while of getting annoyed by the newsletter, if you made note of your login id and password which you had to create in order to order the item, you can log back into their website and go change your settings so you no longer receive the newsletter. But I find it annoying to have to create all these accounts to manage separate delivery options for all sorts of things. I wish all e-commerce companies would let you order things from them just as anonymously as if you walked into a bricks & mortar store and bought it with your credit card. The CC company gets your payment info, but the store you bought it from doesn’t get your address and can’t spam you with advertising for more products of theirs.

    The final category of annoying email that I get is political junk mail. I have no idea how my email address got on some Democratic Party mailing list, but it did. I’m a Democrat so it’s not entirely out of the question that I might have given my email address when registering for a dinner fundraiser for John Kerry or something. But I’ve asked repeatedly since then for them to take me off their mailing list. Problem is, there are a bunch of different Democrat organizations and they all share their mailing lists with each other. And if you get taken off one, they’ll get it back again from some other that originally got their list from the parent organization when your name was on it. And on and on it goes. It seems to be impossible to completely eradicate my email address from all of their records. And some of them don’t even include an “unsubscribe” link, which I consider unconscionable.

    Correct: block sender is roughly equivalent to “any time I get email from this email address, move it to the junk mail folder, or delete it” – Outlook doesn’t know how to tell your email provider that it should be blocked further upstream.

    In all honesty, if you’re getting email that you didn’t request, including sales and marketing materials from someone you did business with, I say that’s a valid use of the “This is Spam” button. It’s unsolicited email. Especially in this day of spam overload you shouldn’t get put on any email list without being asked, and without confirming (aka “confirmed opt-in”).

    I’ve become very aware of sales and other online forms that include checkboxes that sign you up for more email, and the boxes are automatically checked. I find that very slimy and if you’re not paying attention it’s easy to start getting email that you “asked for”, when of course you did not.

    – Leo

    • The very worst is when you’ve filled out a form and carefully unchecked that automatically-checked “subscribe” box, pressed submit, and then brought back to that form page because you missed a field or whatnot, and the site has kept your completed form fields intact but RE-CHECKED the subscribe to newsletter box!!! It’s so easy to miss that re-checked box because you just want to quickly fix the problem with the one field and resubmit and move on. It’s slimy on top of slimy and the cause of most retail newsletters in my inbox (that and the ones that just subscribe me because I bought something without ever even asking, grrrrr)

      • In cases like that, I don’t have a guilty conscience about marking as spam any email I got that I didn’t voluntarily ask for. Those emails probably have working unsubscribe links, but marking those emails as spam is my small protest against corporate spam.

  22. I’m so irritated about the amount of spam I get. Like you, it’s almost 90% of my mail. Even though my gmail has a great spam filter, I still have to open the spam folder and make sure that nobody accidentally got marked as spam by someone else (exactly what you explained NOT to do). So, being responsible, I scroll down through the list of 30 to 40 per day rather than just blindly emptying the folder,and hate that I have to start my day being assaulted with the bad spelling and tasteless subject lines. Recently many of them have begun to say they are from me. Really annoying. Why can’t they be blocked by the server?? After being marked as spam, let’s say, 1000 times, couldn’t they automatically be blocked?

  23. This is a reply to what Claude said in December. Yes, yahoo has a ‘block Address’ function but the only block 100 addresses. Unfortunately, you start receiving it again after that and have to erase the list and start a new one. The spammers change their IP addresses/domain/websites, whatever, so often that by the time the list is full they are not using those old addresses anyway.

    I have tried to get some of my friends to be responsible and not just hit the spam button if they do not like what they are getting.

  24. My ISP is Orange. To avoid any problems with infected e mails or junk, i log into the orange website and open my e mails from there. I can tick all to clear all e mails or untick the one’s i want, which, when i open outlook only brings in the e mails i unticked..brilliant….

  25. Here’s another twist to the reporting of spam: I receive MANY a spam email where the sender has spoofed my own email address as the sender. When it arrives in my inbox, it looks as if it’s coming from either my specific address or the info@ address on my website. The difference? They usually have no time/date stamp.

    My hosting provider tells me that if I mark those as spam, it will mark ME as a spammer — not what I want for sure. So, I just have to exercise that good ‘ole delete button.

    I also use a program called MailWasherPro from FireTrust — it gives you a preview of mail on your server before you download it into your Outlook or other email program. You can use MailWasherPro to mark as spam, delete and/or bounce (send a message that this was sent to an invalid address) each message in your queue before they hit your actual inbox. It wasn’t free, but not expensive either. And it saves me a lot of time in cutting the crap before it takes up bandwidth/time to download on my machine.

    • I also use Mailwasher Pro and have for at least 12 years. I was at one stage free to use and now only cost me around the AUD 25.00, well worth it.

  26. Leo – Your comments assume that by submitting emails as spam, a new filter is being created for many different users. Perhaps this is the documented way that these services work. However, what if by submitting emails as spam, a filter is being created that is customized to me and only me. In other words, my improper categorization of a newsletter about turkeys as spam will result in a filter that weeds out content that is sent to me and relates to turkeys , but your filter continues to send you content relating to turkeys.

    I can tell you as a newsletter publisher myself, and having managed many mailing lists, more often than not “Report As Spam” is used at the global level. If you report something as spam, then that may very well affect someone else’s ability to get that same email.

    – Leo
  27. Reporting as SPAM emails you have previously agreed to receive, is not always wrong. Quite often, the behavior of the sender changes over time, straying from the original agreement. I’ve seen this “email creep” repeatedly…I agree to an occasional email, or only those for certain categories – only to start receiving multitudes of communications, that cross the line from informative and/or useful, to unrelenting sales pitches.

    In these cases – I don’t unsubscribe, I treat them for what they have become. Unwanted emails that I never agreed to receive – SPAM.

    You are correct. If you sign up for “A” and eventually begin recieving “B” without being asked, that can often be legitimately termed SPAM. You’re not getting what you signed up for.

    On the other hand, if the publication hasn’t changed, and it’s still delivering what you signed up for then it’s not spam.

  28. I do agree however as a publisher you can help to fix this problem by making ‘unsubscribe’ links more obvious – i work for a publisher and we do this. By making recipients choices clearer they are less likely to resort to ‘report spam’ to get rid of an email purely because they can’t find the unsub link.

    Also it’s probably worth noting the irony that you have an annoying spammy pop-up appearing that advertises sign-up to your newsletter while viewing this article.

  29. Another issue that arises is that some seemingly legitimate publishers state that they will take x number of days to remove remove your email address from their list following an unsubscribe request, often an inordinate amount of time–up to 60 days in some cases. While there really is no technical barrier to implementing immediate removal from lists, publishers often (1) use the float time to continue spamming or (2) fail to do the necessary programming to effectuate and confirm immediate removal. Though the CAN-SPAM Act gives a publisher up to 10 days to remove an email address from their lists, my personal rule is this: I mark any future emails as spam following an unsubscribe request from that publisher.

    I actually agree, and have griped about this before – there’s no longer a technical reason that unsubscribes should take more than a day at most. Most should be instant.


  30. Is there any problem with using a “Not Spam” button, if provided, for stuff that gets to the Spam folder which in fact you believe is not spam?

    If you don’t think it’s spam, then that’s exactly what the Not Spam button is for. Smile


  31. Whenever a previously subscribed E-Mailing becomes bothersome or otherwise unwanted, I try unsubscribing first. Always. But should that “unsub” goes dishonored for more than a few days, I will treat it as Spam, whether it was originally Spam or not.

    I don’t care f*****g s***t what motives  they might have, or what excuses  they offer — E-Publishers must  honor all unsubs immediately, and there can be absolutely no  excuse for not doing so. Those who fail to do so in my opinion deserve whatever they get, and will receive no sympathy whatever from me!

    If you are an E-Publisher yourself, take warning from this: What better incentive could you have, to modify your subscription management system to accomodate instant unsubs, than to prevent the time-consuming, money-sapping, and reputation-destroying stigma, of being labelled as Spam???

  32. While the users can take a bit of the blame they are usually not knowledgeable in the intricacies of email systems. Perhaps some of the mail client designers should look at the way they build the interface.

    Many have a Report Spam button right on top of the inbox. Prompting users to use it before they have even read the email to find an unsubscribe link. Of course it is more convenient to the user but adds to the other problem considerably.

    Hopefully though they will not use this as an excuse to implement an annoying “Are you sure?” pop up

  33. Many I recieve are adressed to; it possible to put an end to that one?
    Thank you Leo for the wonderful advice over the years.

  34. @L.G. Roy
    In the case of real spam, it is advisable to mark the mail as spam. Undisclosed recipients is sometimes, but not always an indication of spam. If a newsletter comes addressed to undisclosed recipients and you never requested it, I would feel safe in marking it as spam.

  35. prroblem with seeing “Undisclosed Recipients” as evidence of Spam is that it is a legit (IMHO) way for community newsletters to hide members (recipients) addresses with the Bcc field, is it not?

  36. @George
    It looks like I was being a bit unclear. What I meant was, if you never requested the newsletter, the undisclosed recipients could be one more indication of spam. I’m a big advocate of BCC, but serious newsletters aren’t usually sent out using

  37. Some of us subscribe to various websites then feel overwhelmed when our in-boxes are full of everything except email from our friends, co-workers and relatives. I assume that’s the unasked question here.
    Instead of sending the subscription email to spam, simply create a new folder and name it “bulk” or something easy to remember, then create a filter to have them delivered directly to the that folder, afterwards you can responsibly view (or delete) them when you have time.
    Things you subscribe to should never be sent to the spam folder simply as a way to keep them out of the inbox yet still have access to them. That’s just wrong.
    Gmail has a very effective and easy way to filter your emails – 1st create a new folder and name it, then select the email you don’t want to be delivered to your inbox and choose “more” from the buttons above, click the the options you want and viola!
    Gmail has the best folder, color labeling and starring (flagging) system I’ve ever used.
    Hope this helps.

  38. Here’s the thing…if I unsubscribe repeatedly and they don’t effectively honor it, they deserve to be branded as Spam. If they insist that it may take days/weeks/months to honor your request, they deserve to be branded as Spam. If they “can’t remember” that you have unsubscribed, they deserve to be branded as spam! …and that’s just the way it is…

    And I agree. Smile


  39. I have very strict email filters. I set up gmail to mark all email as spam by default. I then create filters after that for addresses that I want to receive email from. I now have no problem with unwanted email. I share Chris’s point of view, if I don’t want it, it is spam, but I never use the mark as spam button, or unsubscribe link. Especially if it isn’t something I signed up for.

  40. The thing is Leo, the public have become as cynical as the spammers. People are made to jump hoops to unsubscribe or discontinue a service. I’ve uninstalled paid software, and quite often part of the uninstall process is compulsory feedback. You don’t get a choice, the page just opens. Numerous newsletters will tell you it ‘has to be processed’. I really don’t care anymore, and I’m not alone. Websites and internet services simply have to lift their game, and programmers should work on better algorithms to detect spam rather than designing a dozen different media players, or another fragmentation tool. If the culprits can work an insidious product into our mail, surely someone on the right side can find a way of stopping it. But they don’t, because there’s no money in it. Thanks for the great newsletter.

  41. I use Juno Email and when I get something I don’t
    want or like I use the “Block Sender” button which I
    believe just blocks that mail from my box but doesn’t
    label it as spam and deprive anyone else from receiving it.

  42. unsubscribe as you say above, that may be the right way for u to go as you are a computer expert. I got face book in here and nothing works to get rid of it, it is still plastered all over every thing, and right along side of it is ask. why do these types have a god given right in my computer with out being asked and why wont they go away

  43. Ed Munroe,
    I think what you are talking about is the Facebook links that are on webpages. They actually aren’t on your computer at all.

    The webpages are all on some server out on the internet that the webpage owner is paying for. A browser on your computer is connecting to the internet and accessing the webpages that the webpage creators have made for you to read. The web page designers and owners have every right to put whatever they want on their pages. They can put Facebook links, they can put advertisements, whatever they want… it’s their page on a computer that they are paying for.

    Hope that helps make your computer experience easier. Remember, you can always just stay off the internet and then you won’t see any of it.


  44. I do understand the difference between spam and nonspam. But, I have been receiving a lot of junk mail in my email box, mail that I definitely did not ask for in the least. I am a woman, so why am I receiving unsolicited ads for viagra, offers of sex from other women, etc. I use nothing but herbs and I buy my herbs locally not online so why am I receiving ads for natural cures and I am happily married so why am I receiving ads trying to get me to cheat on my husband?? I never ever signed up for this. I have also been receiving email scams, trying to get me to agree to deals that would supposedly make me wildly rich. This is what I am getting, and since I do not fit any of those profiles I know I did not sign up for them. I wish it would all stop. I have had this email address for years and I may have to stop this email address and sign up for a different one just so that the garbage will stop. I have been spending too much of my time trying to clean it up each day just to be able to read my good email from my good email lists.

  45. One of my email addresses is almost 100% spam. I use Thunderbird.

    I created Filters for the 4-6 senders I want to be activated before Delete.

    The rest of the email to that account goes directly to Trash. I also only have headers sent from my ISP for that particular email address.

    If I am not sure, I can get the rest of the email sent.

    I do take a quick look before deleting the Trash. Once an email from Leo’s Newsletter was there. It was weird since that was the only time that happened!!!

  46. P.S. Thunderbird is really pretty good at spotting spam in addition to the email address I mentioned above.

    Many spams I do receive are from “me” (one of my email addresses) to me.

  47. I subscribed to a newsletter some time ago, with Yahoo this suddenly stopped being delivered. Due to other problems with Yahoo I changed ISP, since then I am getting the newsletter. I therefore assume the problem Leo has stated is the cause of the problem, please follow his advice, the newsletter was very useful and not being able to use it caused problems.

  48. Don’t be silly. Nobody signs up for a newsletter on purpose. There’s no double-opt in. It’s bundled in some form, and it’s some really tiny checked box somewhere that they make it really easy for you to miss. Either that, or it’s treated like those toolbars bundled with freeware that nobody ever installs on purpose.

    Aside from that, opting out is not only especially tedious, and often doesn’t work, but sometimes it’s set up where what you’re really doing is inadvertently opting into even more spam. I’m going to keep marking newsletters as spam, thank you very much.

    • Furthermore, Leo Laporte, one of the most respected experts in technical support, strongly recommends that you never use internal unsubscribe links, since those are almost always new spam lists you’re putting yourself on.

      Who am I going to believe? A newsletter spammer with a vested interest in his newsletters no one wants reaching their destination, or Leo Laporte? Whatever will I do?

      • It depends on if you actually subscribed to the service or not. There are many good businesses who send regular emails and newsletters, the unsubscribe link is the only tool they have to allow their subscribers to manage their accounts. So recommending to never use them is pretty harsh against the good guys.

        • Well, here I am in 2017, just reading this for ths first time. Becky and Mary have told their stories about their smail SPAM, which are something like mine, but my issues have been bigger, which brought me here.

          To get right to my point, the businesses, websites, newsletters – whatever, who put an email on any list to continually receive anything from their sites, should FIRST send an email to said email address entered, to state, “this email address was just entered to receive publications from us. If you did not authorize the use, do nothing and we will not email you again.”

          Essentially, retailers and such won’t be emailing people unless you click their reply to allow your email address to be submitted – but this won’t stop true spammers. It will, however, stop people from providing your email address as a dummy address, for when they want to log into somewhere and need a real email address.

          Or, as in my case, the two idiot people in Arizona who have the same first initial and last name as I do, so continously use my email address as if it were their email, when they both have numbers incorporated in their A-B-C email addies.

          For some odd reason, they always forget what thier email addresses are, and they are legitimately stupid. (I’ve received so much of their email that most of their personal information was divulged, and I was able to take matters to a higher level and have it addressed, with ultimatums, and only recently, stopped, since there was enough proof inadvertantly provided to me.

          Now, it’s as if I was damned if I didn’t want them to continue doing so, because they/or one of them, have put my email addy onto a great many mailing lists, and it feels like revenge for reporting them to make them stop “borrowing” my email address and having the issue actually addressed. We live a world full of self-entitled azzhats, this is for certain.

          Pure idiots. If I was going to “not know my own email address”, I sure wouldn’t do so for my most important information — info which can be leaked, such as home address; social security info; bank accounts and routing numbers; my kids personal information, as well as school info…car dealer/VIN numbers; license plates; IRS info; home phones; cell phone; employer; death and birth certificates; birthdates…

          Heck, even his wife’s underpants size from Lane Bryant!! And her name, photo and age!! Oh yeah, and HIS lover!! He cheated on his wife then emailed “me” about it thinking he was emailing himself! Oh man, one of them actually sent me several copies of classified military information (obviously, he shouldn’t have been using his (my) personal email address to receive this email ! I received classified information! Isn’t that situation like a Hilary Clinton type of situation – using personal email to send classified documents?

          Wouldn’t one wonder after a given amount of time, WHY they weren’t receiving this information as in their own emails? They never had actual acess to opening my email account, so they were never actually IN my email account. All they did was supply my email address as if they thought it was their email address, or email my addy from thier other email. Believe it or not: this has carried on for more than 10 years!!!!!!

          I was finally fed up to no avail and took matters into my own hands. I emailed their employers, I removed them from their own accounts, I wrote bad emails about them as all types of replies. You don’t email someone for more than a decade and think I am out-of-line for being sick of it all, when I have repeatedly been able to contact them and ask them to stop it.

          One of them actually had the audacity to email me from his near-identical addy to cuss me out and tell me that I should have tolerated him, that it was not as bad as I said it was. Wow, how would he know how bad it was? He caused me to receive so much unwanted emails, for a decade; and even his kids – all three of them – signed me up for so many gaming websites, that I had to find out who were the owners of the websites, then contact them to explain and ask that my email address be forever banned from their websites!!

          I had to ask their schools to stop emailing me and stop notifying me of all events and whatever else went on. I had to ask verterinarians to stop emailng me about their pets, doctors/dentists to stop emailing me about their appointments; Lane Bryant to stop sending me his wife’s bra and panty receipts; their political affiliations to cease emailing me; The Party Warehouse to stop sending electronic receipts for them each time they placed an order.

          I mean, just think about it. That list was never-ending, and grew to be so effing annoying I wanted to drive to Arizona and confront them all, but didn’t. TEN YEARS!!!

          I even received the biggest sized j-pegs of newborn babies and party pics, my PC couldn’t load them. I opened each email to hope to be able to know who sent it and to be able to reply to stop it.

          I had so much crap from them that my personal emails were being returned to sender, for my inbox was too full. Come on already, just how much does ne person have to tolerate? I’ve been a Cox Communication customer for over twenty years, and that is also how long I’ve had that email addy. WHY should anyone expect ME to change MY email addy just to suit a couple of morons that i’ve never met, but who have my same last name?

          I saved all the emails into a folder, as evidence. I began only using that addy for sends, not intentional email to receive. But I was hopping ticked that I fought it for ten years before Cox finally acted on it. Oh, and once Cox actually did allow and honor one them to change my password and get into my email!! HOW could that happen? Cox isn’t anywhere as good as they claim to be, or wasn’t back then. They had a “big shot” call me over that one, and I was able to retrieve my account back with actual proof the person had accessed and used my email account. And this wasn’t a hack, this wasn’t true SPAM, this wasn’t a situation where someone was using Outlook to be able to enter whatever return addy they desired to say they were emailing from. This WAS a case of someone calling into Cox Communications and verbally seeking help to have my email account receive a new password so they could enter it!!! That also happened in 2005 and was one of the two people I’ve mentioned. And I was able to prove to Cox their email addies as well as Cox Communication account numbers as well as names, phones, vehicle VINS (not that that helped) and employers.

          Don’t ever blindly trust that any ISP is looking out for you. They make so many mistakes; and if you keep records, you not only attain proofs, but you can go over your own records and bring forward enough evidence to prove and expose an awful lot as it presents itself and opens new doors. Emails that I didn’t expect to ever matter, suddenly became the missing links to other issues.

          Well, I am just venting now, as there is so much that happened for so many years, I’d have to write pages of boring events just to tell all that happened. But I did what I could to protect my own email and carry on to deal with the two dirtbags who kept using my email as their catch-all hub. In my case, they were real people not spamming me, but stupid people actually thinking they were having stuff sent to thier on email. I think they were so stupid, they were disorganzied type hoarders people, because WHO couldbe that stupid?!!! But THEY are! And I am so tempted to write their personal info here (name/address/phone/employer/bdates/VIN…) but I won’t.

          Again, it’s just me venting, I am so relieved to have it finally stopped just weeks ago. Cox might have cancelled their services, finally!

      • I’m guessing you didn’t catch everything he said, because I agree with him: never use an unsubscribe link in anything you didn’t ask for. If you did ask for it, then you absolutely should use the unsubscribe link.

    • “Nobody signs up for a newsletter on purpose.” that’s just wrong. I have over 60,000 people who did. Reputable newsletters DO use double-opt-in, as I do.

  49. I do all my spam filtering on my local email client having set up all email accounts to forward ALL email including spam. I have rules set up in my local email client to filter out the spam. This works fine to a point. Yahoo for example marks all mail that they deem spam as [Bulk]. 99% of what I get from them marked [Bulk] is indeed spam but that 1% marked [Bulk] that isn’t bulk is a problem. An example of that recently came to my attention. After having some equipment installed in my home that qualified for rebates from the government and the manufacturer of the equipment, the confirmation of receipt of my documentation and the instructions that I was to follow was identified as [Bulk] by Yahoo and therefore went into my Spam folder! The government and the company involved both being large entities, send out a lot of email and some spam filters will filter solely based on the volume sent from a source. I nearly didn’t get to follow the instructions necessary to obtain my rebates of considerable size because of this.

    I have learned that no matter how much spam I get, check that it has properly been identified as spam before just deleting it especially if expecting confirmations and instructions.

    • Absolutely. This is true no matter what spam filtering solution you use. I rely on Gmail, which has the best filter in my experience, and yet I do still need to check the spam folder for occasional false positives. Maybe one a week on average (and I get a LOT of email).

  50. The problem with some mailing lists is that the “list-unsubscribe” mail header is either missing completely or worse that it has a website in there instead of the correct email address to send the “unsubscribe” command to.

    Similar issues happen when you subscribe in the first place. Instead of a simple reply directly from your email client, many expect you to start a web browser. And of course not a few send the dreaded HTML instead of plain text in email.

  51. I send out a 300 solicited weekly newsletter emails from Outlook, every week a 15 to 20 AOL emails are bounced back to me

    I resend the 15 to 20 emails and 5 to 10 are bounced back to me

    I resend the 5 to 10 emails and 3 are bounced back to me

    If someone inadvertently marked one of my newsletters as spam, how do I rectify the situation?

  52. I’m a middle age baby boomer and have only been on the internet for a few years now. I’ve come to discover that unsubscribing from spam on my cell phone generally doesn’t work. This is mail I’ve not even asked for and it keeps on happening. I take the mail move it to my primary and then report it as spam. Hopefully this will help.

  53. I have tried to unsubscribe so many times to one company that I too have used ‘report as spam’. I normally just unsubscribe and that works, but some companies may arrogantly think they can ignore that.

    • There is one other thing to consider about some companies: sometimes they are just not technically savvy and are still using a very old method of unsubscribing. These are getting fewer and fewer, but often good ol’ folk who haven’t moved to more reliable programming. Just sometimes…

    • I’ve experienced that too. My response is to mark it as spam. If it’s not easy to unsubscribe, it is spam. I’ll spam any site that requires more than one (additional) click to unsubscribe. For example, if I simply have to reenter my email address, I spam it. I get email from several accounts which all are aggregated into my Gmail account. I don’t have time to jump through the hoops of remembering which email address I used to sign up with. It’s the companies’ responsibility to avoid getting marked as spam.

  54. if legit email goes to my spam folder, but it’s some newsletter I don’t want to read then but also don’t want to unsubscribe to, should I mark it as “not spam” before deleting it?

    • They are not spam so if you still want to keep receiving the newsletters, it’s generally best to mark them as not spam.

  55. Here are a some tricks that supposedly legitimate companies do that make me quit their unsubscribe link and go back to reporting them ass spam:

    – their unsubscribe page lists dozens of newsletters I can unsubscribe from, often without relevant names or descriptions that I can recognize. Why can’t they carry that info from the email? Other newsletters do. And if you spend the time to check every one of them (no ‘unsubscribe all’ option), often they have a limit on how many you can unsubscribe from at once.

    – requiring me to enter my email address to be unsubscribed, and only an exact match will do. I have multiple email addresses I use, but all forwarded to one primary email. I may not remember which one I used to subscribe. And I certainly can’t remember how I capitalized my email address. Again, why can’t they carry this info with when I use their unsubscribe link?

    – making me go thru a multi-question survey before I get to the actual unsubscribe part. And claiming this is optional only counts if the page design & wording make it clear that it is optional. And a popup saying “Are you sure you don’t want to answer …” doesn’t count as optional either.

    • Indeed. Most of those will cause me to bail and start marking the email as spam in the future. The CAN SPAM act supposedly requires a one-click unsubscribe, so those scenarios are all not compliant.

    • It’s funny. Just after reading your comment, I got an email that I wanted to unsubscribe from. It said, If you want to unsubscribe, click this link to go to your profile to unsubscribe. That alone was bad enough, but I couldn’t find an unsubscribe link on the page it sent me to. Straight into the spam folder it went.

  56. if you receive the email in your spam folder, there`s no reason to mark it as spam. am i correct?
    there are some emails i get in my spam folder, casino offers. they send them over night every
    half hour or so. when i sign into my Gmail in the morning i have a few dozen of them. i click on
    4 or 5 of them and notice the IRL on each one has changed by 3 characters. so its useless to even
    tell google to delete them. and sex offers? forget it. there`s no way to stop them. there are 10`s
    of 1,000`s of girls, and guys, participating in that. then there`s investment advisers….well, you get
    the idea. i feel my only recourse is to create a new email address and send anything i want to keep
    to that email and delete the email with all the spam. but the hard part is finding “everything” i use the email for.

    • It’s not necessary to mark emails in your spam folder as spam as the spam filters already know they are spam. No email program or website I’ve ever used had an option to mark email in the spam folder as spam. The only option is to mark them as “not spam” in the case of a false positive.

    • If it’s been automatically placed in the spam folder it’s already been marked as spam.

      Creating a new email address generally doesn’t help — you’ll just start getting spam there too.

      My approach: pay very little attention to what’s in the spam folder. Focus on your inbox and what lands there. If spam lands in your inbox mark it as spam and move on. Occasionally do a VERY quick scan of what’s in the spam folder to resolve any false positives.

  57. I know Leo had an article once defining what spam is. To any give person, spam is email that you don’t want, especially if it’s trying to sell you something you don’t want. From that perspective hitting the spam button is not a problem. All that the spam button does (for most email providers or ISPs) is to create a custom list of email addresses to block for that specific recipient. It doesn’t immediately place the spam email in some global database and immediately block it for every email subscriber of the provider. Although it’s true that the provider adds the spam labeled email to it’s analysis process, it will take many instances of that address being labeled as spam for it to be “certified” as spam. And if that’s the case, then it is spam, by any definition.

    • I don’t believe there is a global database, but if several people mark emails from a certain company as spam in the web interface of an email service provider, that provider will start labelling that sender as a spammer. I’m not sure if it works when you use an email program with IMAP, but it probably does.

    • “for most email providers and ISPs” I believe this is incorrect, mostly because it’s been shown to be so ineffective. The email is analyzed and its characteristics are used to determine the likelihood of email that “looks like this” to be marked as spam automatically in the future. One of the characteristics is, of course, the From: address, but there’s much, much more to it than that.

  58. On a related issue of spam phone calls (robocalls) and reporting them. I had been getting a lot of spam calls on my VOIP phone. I came across the service called Nomorobo. It is free for landlines and VOIP, but costs a couple of dollars for cell phones. It claimed to divert robocalls and cut them off. It actually works! My robocalls tapered off and now I may get one a day. Nomorobo has a method for you to report unwanted phone numbers and their system seems to respond quickly in blocking new robocalls. The method they use is to divert incoming calls to simultaneously ring at their monitoring phone number and if the incoming number is in their database of spammers, they cut it off. The way Nomorobo makes money, besides their charge for cell phones, is to sell their database to other phone service providers.

  59. I found emails from my own business in my spam folder and I NEVER spam anybody. But I do CC and BCC recipients – including my own other email addresses – very often. This worked in my favor whn an email provider ( – avoid them, unless you want to have your account canceled without notice or a legitimate reason – read the reviews) locked me out of an email account for no reason, evidently to try to coerce me into “premium” services. Evidently the “spam filters” mistake a few additional recipients for spamming. I’ve also noticed they tag email from senders they evidently don’t like with whom I am subscribed.

  60. On Outlook put spam messages in spam Outlook says folder is full so I empty folder each time. Then spam emails start coming back again. When I empty spin folder does that mean they are taken off of my spam list

  61. If your email application allows you to view the message source, you will often find an entry – X-BCC followed by your email address – indicating that the same email has been sent to many recipients. The sender has “harvested” a list of email addresses and sends the same message to everyone on that list, but does not know who you are, which explains why he does not address you personally by name.
    One way they get hold of those lists is when people send emails with multiple recipients, such as a club or association. So if you are sending those emails, please find out how to use BCC (blind carbon copy). By sending your messages that way you will make life harder for spammers and help to protect your members from their unwanted mails and scams.


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