ITS Service Desk

What is spam and how can I manage it?

It's a fact of life. Most emails that we receive are junk. Just look at your Spam folder some time and see how much of that junk Gmail is filtering out for you. But if a junk message gets through to your Inbox, what should you do? The answer to that depends on what you see.

In this series of articles, we'll address several kinds of unwanted email. It's important to understand the differences and how to handle each.

Spam | Spoofing | Phishing | Spear Phishing | Gmail Warnings


A spam message is generally understood to be an unsolicited email that is just trying to sell you something or trying to get you to click on a link.

To recognize a spam message, just look for things that don't seem right (there are many examples in your spam folder). Most spam messages contain one or more of these characteristics:

  • a message you weren't expecting
  • from a person or company you don't know
  • has a link to a web site you're not familiar with
  • uses "for sale" type language
  • the overall message just doesn't make sense

The key point here is that this is your decision and the above points are provided to help you make that decision. Now, if a message looks like junk but it comes from an organization where you have an account, then maybe it's legit but they just write bad email messages. The simplest way to verify this is to call the organization who emailed you. Just visit their website (don't click any links in the email), get their phone number, and ask them if they sent it.

If you've decided that an email is spam, read on.

What To Do

DON'T just delete the email. This can make the situation worse, because a junk email got through without being filtered, and the senders will then continue to send more.

Fortunately, Google provides a very simple way to mark it as spam, as described in this article:

≫ Mark or unmark Spam in Gmail

Suffice it to say that marking an email as spam should be a small task that you're very familiar with and can do without thinking twice.

False Positives

If you're looking through your spam folder and you find an email that Gmail incorrectly marked as spam, you can click the "Not spam" button across the top so that Gmail can learn your preference.

Additional Resources


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