Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Inbox Zero tip: prevent spam

When junk mail arrives in your mailbox, do you keep it? If you’re like most people, probably not. Into the recycling bin it goes, moments after you recognize it.

For some reason I haven’t yet figured out, many people aren’t as ruthlessly efficient when they receive electronic junk mail. Whether it’s an e-flyer from a retailer or email meant to lure you into a scam, people don’t seem to be in a rush to delete these messages from their inboxes.

Once you see spam, delete it, of course, but first, consider whether you ever need to see a spam message from its particular source ever again.

Prevent spam from cluttering your inbox

Electronic junk mail differs from the paper kind in several important ways. Keeping it, for instance, doesn’t clutter your physical environment. That said, electronic clutter can have the same negative effects on your mind as long as it’s anywhere you’re likely to see it. It represents something you haven’t yet resolved.

Here’s another difference: unlike paper junk mail, you can prevent spam from arriving in your inbox in the first place. Since Inbox Zero is, as the name suggests, about attaining an empty inbox, keeping spam from reaching your inbox leads to a quicker cleanup of your inbox.

You can prevent spam’s arrival in several different ways:

  • unsubscribe from email newsletters and flyers you don’t need
  • mark unwanted email as spam using the web client for email (see link above). This helps the email provider tune its spam filters and ensures you won’t see that spam ever hit your inbox again.
  • prevent spam from reaching you via your social networks, especially Facebook (you might have configured your settings to allow email notifications whenever stuff happens on your social networks)
  • consider reporting persistent spam to the Canadian government. The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is now in force and, to date, has been used to fine offenders anywhere between $150,000 to more than a million dollars.

Look for false positives

Spam filters have been around for so long, they’ve been improved to the point that they’re almost perfect. Almost, but not quite.

You might have email messages that matter to you trapped in the spam filter. Such email counts as false positives.

To liberate those emails, visit the web-browser-based email client for each of your accounts once a day and clear out the spam filter. Just about every message in there will be spam, but every now and then you’ll find a legitimate message. Mark it as “not spam” so that it, and future messages like it, appear in your inbox.

I recommend a once-daily check since, if you leave this check for too long, the amount of mail to sift through may make the job so long it increases the risk of your missing false positives, which could include:

  • inquiries about new business
  • emails from friends
  • notices about events you care about
  • other stuff that matters to you

Be a good Samaritan

Several acquaintances have had their email accounts hacked and used by unscrupulous actors to spam people in their contact lists. (By the way, this is why I do NOT keep my contacts in free online services.)

If you see people’s accounts used in this way, send them a private message to advise them to change the passwords on their email accounts. They’ll probably be:

  • embarrassed, so don’t copy other people on the message.
  • grateful that somebody lets them know, since few people keep track of the messages sent from their accounts.

A final note on CASL

Do you send marketing messages to your customer base? If you do, you need to stay onside of CASL.

Software developers are jumping into the game to help businesses do exactly this.

Did I miss any of your favourite spam-fighting tips? Let me know about them in the comments below.