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Yikes! Here Is What Happens When You Respond to Spam Emails, Plus Five Tips

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Spam is tasty if you buy it from Hormel Foods, but otherwise it is junk email and a hassle. Whether you use Hotmail, Gmail, Apple Mail, Yahoo Mail or some other lesser-known web-based email provider, you likely face messages in your inbox that you did not want. Some of these emails are crafty and seek to get you to respond resulting in bad consequences. I share five tips for protecting yourself in 2020 from these bad actors.

Get started on your cybersecurity degree at American Military University.

First, you give the scammer/spammer sender notice that the email made it all the way to your inbox, and not a spam folder. This is known as “phishing” and can have multiple consequences – from helping them to keep trying to confuse you.

In the Pay The Ransom Or Else post mentioned below, I shared: “Using a security program, such as, Kaspersky, McAfee, Norton, Avast, or EmsiSoft, is one of the best ways to protect yourself from malware and other security viruses. Again, ransomware as a type of malware, can be devastating to an individual or corporate entity (any entity). It often spreads through phishing emails (where someone sends you a provocative message trying to get you to respond and reveal personal information) or you visit an infected website.”

Some of my 2019 Forbes posts about email and cybersecurity.

Second, and this is even more critical, the spam email leads you to an impressive copycat website so that you feel confident you are entering private information into what you think is your bank’s website or some other service with your username, password, or personal information. Anything you enter, from the above information to credit card details, account numbers, are now in the spammer’s possession. The goal of these emails is to trick you into thinking that your bank sent the request when in fact it is the spammer.

Third, just as often as phishing, a spammer is sending an attachment that contains a link to a virus or spyware that lets the bad guy (or gal) record your typing and send your information to the hacker. In addition, these people are also scraping your contacts so they gain more emails to target, thus why some of these efforts result in your friends and family asking if you sent them a virus.

These cybersecurity posts and tips can wear you down, so I thought I would share this TED Talk (above) from writer and comedian James Veitch, which is funny. However, it is not what you should do. Replying to spammers just opens more doors into your computer and digital life. So please do not reply to spam.

What To Do To Protect Yourself From Spam Emails?

  1. You probably already have a good antivirus program. If not, do it today. Here is the list again: Kaspersky, McAfee, Norton, Avast, or EmsiSoft.
  2. I love this step: Click the Report SPAM button available in almost all web-based email services today. If not, you can do it with Outlook or Apple’s Mail, too. Train that spam filter to recognize the bad stuff because it does still miss some.
  3. If you are totally fed up and feel your email provider or program is not enough, look into a service like Email by Edison (listed above in the post on Email Is Under Threat), Cleanfox (or the iPhone version here).
  4. Do not forget that some of the emails you choose to subscribe to can sometimes look like spam. Google Gmail reminds you that you can “unsubscribe” first when you click Report Spam, that keeps you from penalizing a company from which you actually wanted to receive information.
  5. Last, you can create “burner email addresses” by starting a new account on another service, but I do not recommend that. With this idea, you simply start new accounts to use when requesting info from others. It is already tough enough to keep up with the volume of emails and adding more accounts is just one more thing to maintain. Gmail lets you create unique emails that you can later filter out or delete. I will look into doing a post on that in 2020.

May you have a spam-free new year and decade.


This article was written by Tj McCue from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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