Email Management – Controlling Spam


One of the most frustrating aspects of email management is the area where people tend to feel the most powerless – spam.

Spam is defined as unsolicited bulk email sent indiscriminately for the purposes of commercial gain.

Spam is legal if it adheres to the specifications set out by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, and it is important to note that the law does not require spammers to secure your permission to email you.

In addition to being annoying, spam can reduce your productivity if it constitutes a large portion of the email you receive at work.

Although there is no magic bullet, there are some steps that you and your company can take to reduce spam.

Understand Spam

Ideally, you would only get the emails you want and need. However, the following methods are commonly used to build commercial email distribution lists:

  • Opt-in forms – the industry best practice of securing permission from the subscriber

  • Fishbowls and business cards – there is no free lunch

  • Purchased/rented lists – make sure your professional associations are not making money by selling your personal information

  • Point of sale data collection – are you providing your email address whenever retailers ask? Why should you provide your email to buy a tube of toothpaste? Just say no.

  • Online retailer data collection – retailers require email addresses to purchase things online, but you can have a separate email account you use for just that purpose.

Filter Spam

Many companies and ISPs already have email security appliances built into the IT infrastructure. These appliances are beasts that filter spam, viruses, and communicate with each other regularly for updates. Three cheers for the IT geniuses who maintain this software for us.

Your job is to familiarize yourself with the spam filtering capabilities of your email management tool and/or your ISP. Make sure you have enabled spam filtration in Google Mail and Outlook – don’t assume it already is.

Report Spam

Because spammers are continually improving their abilities to stay ahead of the filters, you will inevitably receive spam. There are a couple of things you can do. First, you can click the “Mark Spam,” “Junk,” or “Block” button in your email client if that function is available to you. Depending on your mail provider and email program, doing this may send an abuse complaint. If your mail provider receives enough complaints, they may choose to block the domain of the sender.

If you feel that an email you received is abusive or profane, you can forward it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at They will put it in a database that helps them prosecute those who violate CAN-SPAM laws.

Unsubscribe From Email Marketers

CAN-SPAM laws require that email marketers put a legitimate “unsubscribe” or “opt out” option on every email they send, and you must be removed from their lists within 10 days. You’ll see one at the bottom of this newsletter. If an unsubscribe link is fake, can’t be found or is not honored, you can report the company to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you feel comfortable that the company is reputable, then go ahead and unsubscribe. Otherwise, be cautious – some unscrupulous companies wait for people to unsubscribe as a way of checking whether your email address is valid.


Although the spam issue is complex, there are some steps that every company and individual can take to help control it. Understand that a completely spam-free inbox is not a realistic goal with today’s technology and laws. If all else fails, there’s always the delete button.


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Are you tired of letting email run (ruin?) your day?

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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


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