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The Complete Guide to Understanding Email Spam: Types and Risks

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    We all dread it – those emails that fill up our inbox, promising us the impossible or letting us in on a secret no one has ever heard about. 

    It’s known as email spam and understanding its types, how to identify it, and how to protect yourself from potential risks is essential for any online user. 

    In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the different types of email spam, their common characteristics and traits, and what you can do to stay safe from scammers looking to exploit your vulnerability!

    Spam analytics data and examples

    Let’s take a closer look at the impact of spam on internet users. According to recent studies, the average office worker receives 121 emails per day, with approximately 49% of those emails being spam. That means that the average worker receives around 59 spam emails per day. In 2020, spam accounted for 78.3% of all email traffic worldwide.

    SMS spam is also on the rise, with some studies suggesting that up to 90% of all text messages sent are spam. This is a significant increase from just a few years ago when the percentage of text messages that were spam was much lower.

    Social media spam is less common, but it still poses a risk to users. One recent study found that Facebook users are more likely to encounter spam messages on the platform than any other social media site. The study also found that spam messages on Facebook are more likely to contain malware or malicious links than spam messages on other platforms.

    To illustrate the dangers of spam, let’s look at a real-world example. In 2017, a major spam operation was shut down by the US Department of Justice. The operation, which had been active since 2010, had sent billions of spam emails to users around the world. The emails contained links to fraudulent websites that promised large cash payouts or other financial rewards. Those who fell for the scam were asked to provide their personal information and were then charged fees for various services. The operation was estimated to have made millions of dollars from these scams.

    This example highlights the importance of being cautious when opening emails or clicking on links. If something looks suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is. By being vigilant and taking steps to protect yourself from spam, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to online threats.

    Spam is a significant problem for internet users, and it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. However, by understanding the different types of spam and the risks that they pose, you can take steps to protect yourself from online threats. By using anti-spam filters, being cautious when clicking on links, and avoiding sharing personal information online, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to spam-related scams and frauds.

    It’s also important to keep in mind that the fight against spam is an ongoing battle. Spammers are constantly coming up with new ways to evade anti-spam filters and trick users into clicking on links or providing personal information. As such, it’s essential to stay up-to-date on the latest spam trends and to remain vigilant when using the internet. By doing so, you can help to keep yourself and your personal information safe from online threats.

    What is email spam?

    Email spam is an unsolicited email that is sent to a large number of people, typically for commercial or fraudulent purposes. These emails are usually sent in bulk, often using automated software, and can be a significant nuisance for email users. 

    Email spam can take many forms, including phishing scams, malware-containing emails, and unsolicited advertisements for products or services. 

    The primary goal of email spam is to get the recipient to click on a link or take some other action that benefits the sender, such as purchasing a product or providing personal information.

    Types of email spam

    ✅ Unsolicited Commercial Email

    Unsolicited commercial email, also known as UCE or “spam”, refers to promotional messages sent to a large group of recipients who did not request or consent to receiving them. These emails can be advertisements for products or services, or they can promote a particular business or website. Unsolicited commercial emails are often sent using automated software and can be difficult to stop once they begin.

    Example: An email advertising a new weight-loss supplement that promises quick results and includes a link to purchase the product.

    ✅ Phishing Emails

    Phishing emails are designed to trick the recipient into providing sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or bank account information. These emails often appear to come from a trusted source, such as a bank or other financial institution, and will usually ask the recipient to click on a link and provide personal information. Phishing emails can be very convincing, and it is important to be cautious when opening any email that asks for personal information.

    Example: An email that appears to be from a bank and asks the recipient to click on a link to verify their account information.

    ✅ Malware-Containing Emails

    Malware-containing emails contain viruses, spyware, or other harmful software that can infect the recipient’s computer or device. These emails may look harmless, but once the recipient clicks on a link or downloads an attachment, the malware is installed on their device. Malware can be used to steal personal information, damage the device, or gain unauthorized access to the recipient’s computer.

    Example: An email that appears to be from a shipping company with an attachment that the recipient is asked to download to track a package.

    ✅ Scam Emails

    Scam emails are designed to trick the recipient into sending money or providing personal information for fraudulent purposes. These emails often promise large sums of money or other rewards in exchange for the recipient’s cooperation. Scam emails can be very convincing, and it is important to be cautious when opening any email that seems too good to be true.

    Example: An email that claims to be from a foreign prince or government official who needs help transferring large sums of money out of their country.

    ✅ Chain Emails

    Chain letters are emails that encourage the recipient to forward the message to others. These emails often contain a message of good luck or a promise of some reward for those who forward the email. Chain letters can be harmless, but they can also be a way for scammers to collect personal information from unsuspecting recipients.

    Example: An email that promises good luck or a reward for those who forward the message to ten or more people.

    Preventing email spam

    Preventing email spam is important to protect your personal information and avoid the negative consequences of being targeted by spammers. Here are some tips and strategies for preventing email spam:

    1. Using Email Filters

    Most email service providers offer email filters that can automatically identify and move suspected spam emails to a separate folder. By using email filters, you can keep your inbox free from unwanted emails and reduce the risk of being targeted by spammers.

    2. Avoiding Opening Suspicious Emails

    One of the most effective ways to prevent email spam is to avoid opening emails from unknown or suspicious senders. Spammers often use deceptive subject lines and sender addresses to trick recipients into opening their emails. If you receive an email that looks suspicious, it’s best to delete it immediately.

    3. Never Clicking on Links in Spam Emails

    Spam emails often contain links to malicious websites or attachments that can infect your computer with malware. To avoid this, it’s important to never click on links in spam emails, even if they appear to be from a trusted source. Instead, delete the email or report it as spam.

    4. Being Cautious When Sharing Personal Information

    Spammers often use phishing tactics to trick recipients into sharing their personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or social security numbers. To avoid falling victim to these scams, it’s important to be cautious when sharing personal information online and only provide it to trusted sources.

    5. Reporting Spam Emails to Relevant Authorities

    If you receive a spam email, it’s important to report it to the relevant authorities, such as your email service provider or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Reporting spam emails helps to identify spammers and prevent them from targeting others.

    The other side of spam is email deliverability issues. Spam traps and spam filters.

    Email deliverability issues can arise when emails are marked as spam by filters and not delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox. This can happen when the email is considered spammy by the email service provider’s spam filters or when it triggers a spam trap.


    A spam trap is an email address that is not actively used by a real person but is designed to identify and catch spam emails. These email addresses can be created by email service providers, anti-spam organizations, or even by spammers themselves. When an email is sent to a spam trap, it indicates to the email service provider that the sender is not following best practices for email marketing or may be sending unsolicited emails.


    Email service providers use spam filters to identify spammy emails and prevent them from reaching the recipient’s inbox. Spam filters use a variety of techniques to identify spam, including analyzing the email’s content, sender reputation, and recipient engagement. If an email is marked as spam by a filter, it may be sent to the recipient’s spam folder, or it may not be delivered at all.


    To avoid spam traps and spam filters, it is important to follow best practices for email marketing, such as obtaining permission from recipients before sending emails, avoiding the use of trigger words and phrases commonly associated with spam, and regularly cleaning up email lists to remove inactive or invalid email addresses.

    Interesting stories about email spam

    There are many interesting stories about email spam that have made headlines over the years. Here are a few examples:

    ✔ Sanford Wallace.

    Sanford Wallace is widely considered to be one of the most infamous spammers of all time. Wallace, also known as the “Spam King,” was a notorious figure in the early days of the internet, and he was responsible for sending billions of unsolicited emails to users around the world.

    Wallace’s spamming career began in the 1990s, when he founded a company called Cyber Promotions. Cyber Promotions specialized in sending mass emails to consumers, and Wallace quickly gained a reputation for using deceptive tactics to get his messages in front of users. He often sent emails with misleading subject lines or false sender addresses, and he even created fake user accounts to make it look like his emails were coming from legitimate sources.

    Over the years, Wallace’s spamming activities led to a number of legal battles, and he was eventually sued by AOL, EarthLink, and other internet service providers. In 2006, he was fined $4 million by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for his spamming activities, and he was barred from sending unsolicited emails in the future.

    Despite these legal setbacks, Wallace continued to engage in spamming activities, and in 2011, he was indicted on charges of fraud, electronic mail fraud, and criminal contempt of court. He was accused of using phishing emails to steal Facebook login credentials and then using those credentials to spam users with unwanted messages.

    Wallace eventually pled guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $310,000 in restitution to Facebook and to refrain from accessing the internet without court approval.

    The case against Sanford Wallace is just one example of the serious consequences that can come from engaging in spamming activities. In addition to facing legal action and potential imprisonment, spammers can also damage their own reputations and harm the businesses and individuals they target with their messages.

    ✔ The Nigerian Prince Scam.

    The Nigerian Prince Scam is one of the most well-known examples of email spam. The scam involves an email from someone claiming to be a Nigerian prince or government official who needs help transferring money out of the country. The recipient is promised a large sum of money in exchange for their assistance. In reality, the scammer is looking to steal the recipient’s personal information or convince them to send money to cover “fees” or “taxes” associated with the transfer.

    While it may sound like an obvious scam to most, many people fell for the scheme, losing thousands of dollars in the process. The scam became so well-known that it even spawned a popular Netflix documentary called “The Lost Scammer”

    ✔ The Mirai Botnet.

    The Mirai Botnet was a massive botnet consisting of hacked internet of things (IoT) devices that was used to launch DDoS attacks against websites and services. The botnet was controlled through a network of compromised devices and was used to send spam emails promoting various scams and fraudulent websites.

    ✔ The Viagra Spam.

    The Viagra Spam is a classic example of email spam that has been around for decades. The emails typically advertise fake Viagra or other prescription drugs and often contain links to malicious websites. While these types of spam emails may seem harmless, they can be a major nuisance and can lead to identity theft or other forms of fraud.

    Despite efforts to combat email spam, the problem persists to this day. In fact, in 2020, spam made up over half of all email traffic worldwide. While many internet users have become desensitized to the never-ending stream of spam messages, it remains a significant issue and one that continues to have a massive impact on the way we use email.

    📜 Related article:

    ◾ Spam filters: everything you need to know

    ◾ How to deal with spam traps?

    ◾ What is a Spam Trap & How to Avoid It | Warmy.io


    To protect yourself from the risks of email spam, it is important to be aware of all the types of spam out there and actively work to maintain a safe digital presence. 

    By becoming more informed about email scams and using caution when navigating the internet, you can avoid compromising your security and give yourself peace of mind by taking small steps toward eliminating your risk of falling prey to email spam.

    Great point! And in order to protect your emails from getting filtered into the spam folder and improve your email deliverability rates, consider using an email warm-up service like Warmy.io. Take the first step towards improving your email deliverability and test out Warmy.io today!

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