Outlook: Reducing SPAM & Using Junk Mail Folder

As technology has increased in our daily lives, so have the number of emails we receive. Managing legitimate emails can often seem like an overwhelming task, not to mention dealing with the many junk messages we receive.  Unfortunately, there is not a national “Do Not Email” list like the “Do Not Call” list that you can register for, but there are several other methods you can use to prevent junk mail and blocking those that are sent. 

There are many ways marketers and spammers can receive your email address. Being aware of such methods is the first step in preventing unwanted emails. Very often we agree to be placed on such lists without even realizing it, but there are ways to remove your address from legitimate lists.

Newsletters & Listservs
Many organizations offer access to current information by signing up for online newsletters and listservs.  Oftentimes users subscribe to these thinking that the information will be useful in the future, but end up being annoyed by the continuous receipt of information.  If the frequency of the emails is irritating, there is often a link at the bottom of the newsletter email that allows you to modify the frequency so that you receive a daily or weekly summary rather than every single message.  If you would prefer to be removed from the mailing list completely, you can click the “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email. However, this should only be done to emails you originally signed up to receive, because otherwise you are confirming to the spammers that your email address is valid and they will continue to target you.

Online Accounts & Web-based Purchases
Whether it is for shipping, office supplies, or online banking we all have online accounts of some type.  We are so immune to the sign-up process that most of us do not carefully read the registration page and inadvertently agree to receive additional information.  Often there are several check boxes toward the bottom of the sign-up page that are checked by default and say something like “Yes, I would like to receive alerts to my email address.”  This is where a lot of unwanted junk messages originate. By ensuring that you have only checked boxes that are required (or are of interest to you), you can prevent these junk messages from being sent to you in the first place.

Recognizing False Requests for Information
Many of us think of SPAM as annoying, but not necessarily dangerous especially the messages that look like they’re from a legitimate source. However spammers have become craftier in their practices of ‘phishing’, the process of trying to acquire sensitive information like usernames and account numbers. This makes it very difficult to distinguish between junk and a threat. For example, you may receive an email with legitimate branding for a company where the body of the message gives a reason for you to “click here” to login and verify recent activity of some type. When you click the link, the site looks legitimate as it is branded correctly with logos and colors, but it actually belongs to the spammers attempting to collect information from unsuspecting users. This is obviously very dangerous and can be difficult to detect until it is too late!  If you receive any message that you feel may be legitimate asking you to click a link to login and verify something, it is a much safer practice to open up your internet browser and manually browse to the website to login rather than clicking the link in the email. This is the easiest way to be sure that you are indeed going to the legitimate site.

Although there are many good prevention methods, there is no way to completely eliminate junk from being sent. Incoming mail is typically filtered by your company’s mail server, but you also have some options directly in Outlook to block junk mail that may have slipped through.

Recognized as junk BEFORE message is opened
If you recognize a message as junk before you open it, you can easily block future delivery of messages from that sender by simply dragging the message(s) to the “Junk Mail” folder listed in the navigation pane. By placing the message in the “Junk Mail” folder, Outlook will automatically add the sender of that message to the “Blocked Senders List”. This means if that sender sends you another message, it will automatically be placed in the Junk Mail folder rather than your inbox.

Recognized as junk AFTER message is opened
When you open up a message and discover it is junk mail, you can easily block future delivery of similar messages. With the message open, click “Block Sender” from the “Junk E-Mail” group on the “Message tab”. By clicking the “Block Sender” button, Outlook will automatically add the sender of that message to the “Blocked Senders List” and move the message to the Junk Mail folder.

Expecting a message from someone, but cannot find it in Inbox
Sometimes someone says that they sent you a message, but you cannot locate it.  It is always a good idea to look at the Junk Mail folder in such instances.  Outlook has built-in rules that try to identify “junk mail” and automatically move such messages to the Junk Mail Folder. If you find a message in the Junk Mail folder that is not junk, simply select the message and click the “Not Junk” button on the toolbar. By clicking the “Not Junk” button, Outlook will automatically add the sender of that message to the “Safe Senders List” and move the message to the Inbox.

Advanced Junk Mail Settings
The advanced Junk Mail settings are available by clicking Tools, Options, Junk Mail.

Safe Senders: Messages from anyone on this list will never be marked as junk

In the advanced Junk Mail Settings, you can click the “Safe Senders” tab to manually add or remove email addresses or domain names. If there are certain people that you would like to proactively add to your Safe Senders list to ensure their messages are never treated as junk, you can do so by clicking the Add button. Note: by default anyone listed in your Contacts folder will automatically be trusted as a safe sender.

Safe Recipients: Messages sent to anyone on this list will never be marked as junk

In the advanced Junk Mail Settings, you can click the “Safe Recipients” tab to manually add or remove entries. “Safe Recipients” means that if a message is sent to a recipient in this list regardless of the content or who it is from, it will not be treated as SPAM. This is typically used for items like a listserv or newsletter that are sent to a specific distribution group by multiple senders. By adding the name of the external distribution group to this list, messages received that are sent to that group will never be treated as junk.

Blocked Senders: Messages from anyone on this list will always be marked as junk

In the advanced Junk Mail Settings, you can click the “Blocked Senders” tab to manually add ore remove email addresses or domain names. After you block a specific sender, you may notice that you continue to receive junk messages from other people with the same domain name. The domain name is the portion of the email address listed after the @ sign. If you would like to block all messages from a domain you can do so in the junk mail settings. REMEMBER: if you block generic domains like Hotmail.com or Gmail.com, ALL messages from anyone with a Hotmail or Gmail address will be blocked.