How to Stop Emails You Don't Want

By Hans Fredrick

Creative spammers find ways to circumvent regular junk mail filters.
i Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Unwanted emails fall into two primary categories. Spam is email sent to you illegally without your permission. Other unwanted emails are often received because you have unwittingly offered that permission somewhere on the Internet. Most email programs or Web platforms offer options that allow you to stop or greatly reduce both types of unwanted mail.

Spam Filters

The integrated spam filters in email programs are configurable. Increasing the sensitivity of your spam filters to the highest level eliminates some emails that might leak through with lower settings. The default setting in Microsoft Outlook is "low." If you increase it, it will detect and eliminate more spam, but you might also remove some legitimate emails. Check your junk folder to see if it ever flags nonspam emails by mistake. Mark these as legitimate mail to avoid filtering out mails from that sender in the future.

Legitimate Commercial Email

Some emails that come from legitimate sources are still not emails you want to receive. This happens when you provide your email address to a site when making a purchase or signing up for access to certain parts of the site. The site then starts emailing you to keep you updated on the company or to sell you products and services. These are called opt-in mailing lists, and they are required to have a simple way to opt out. To avoid spamming, which is illegal, legitimate companies must include an "Unsubscribe" link in their emails. In addition, the CAN-SPAM Act states that the "Unsubscribe" option must be easily visible and easy to use. To opt out of mailing list, click the "Unsubscribe" link in the email.

Blocked Senders List

Unwanted emails might not be classified as spam and could be noncommercial. Those types of email addresses need to be added to the blocked list. This allows your program to specifically block all incoming emails from a given email address. This might be necessary if you're receiving incessant emails from an individual with whom you no longer want to communicate. Email clients like Outlook and webmail programs like Gmail have blocked sender lists designed to prevent selected emails from appearing in your inbox.


Ultimately, people who want to send unwanted emails find a way around filters. If you avoid giving your email address to anyone except when absolutely necessary, you can reduce the overall amount of unwanted email you receive. Every time you sign up for a website membership, provide your email to get past a landing page or purchase something from a website, you'll be asked for your email. If you don't provide it, you won't be added to all these lists. Even worse, if you visit an unscrupulous site, your email could be sold or shared with other spammers.