Common Spam Myths

Spam has its own mythsWe tend to look at mythology in terms of fascinating stories from ancient times that told stories of heroes, deities and maidens. While we pass classical mythology off as literature, we often forget that long ago, these stories were believed to be true. They answered many questions for people to explain things that they did not quite understand and to insinuate that these stories were false could easily get a person labeled as a blasphemer.

Myths pervade every society and ours is no different. There are things that we hear, or read on the Internet, that we take as gospel truth because we fail to understand the truth behind the statements.

When it comes to spam, there are many different myths that surround it. None so epic as people flying too close to the sun or men fighting Cyclops on their way home from a far away land; however they are stories that shouldn’t be trusted none the less.

Myth 1 – If I include an unsubscribe link, I am not a spammer.

If you send unsolicited marketing messages indiscriminately, you will be considered a spammer. Including an unsubscribe link is only one of the requirements that marketers must do to be compliant with CAN-SPAM Act laws. Simply placing a link, and even honoring unsubscribe requests, will not help you shed the label of spammer.

To legitimately send bulk marketing messages, your recipients need to opt-in to receive messages from you. A double opt-in process is actually considered a best practice here so that people can confirm that they want to hear from you.

Myth 2 – Anti-spam software or appliance will stop phishing attacks.

While phishers use similar methods as spammers, the differences between the two are quite complex. Enough so that traditional spam filters have a hard time catching phishers who know what they are doing. Since phishing attacks are more sophisticated and targeted rather than random, anti-spam filters have a hard time finding these attacks.

Most quality anti-spam filters, both software and hardware based, include some type of anti-phishing engine that protects users against these attacks. Installing, and properly managing, anti-phishing technology can help prevent users from falling victim to these scams.

Myth 3 – If I click on unsubscribe, I won’t get any more spam.

When a legitimate marketer sends you a message and you unsubscribe, odds are they will remove you from their list. But remember, spammers aren’t legitimate marketers. And if they cared about CAN-SPAM they wouldn’t be sending you junk messages in the first place. What happens when you click unsubscribe is that the spammer realizes that they have an active email address. Knowing this, they will send you more spam. Worse than this, these links sometimes take you to a malicious website where malware will infect your computer so now you have something worse to deal with.

Only click on unsubscribe links from mailers that you know you subscribed to. Everything else you should add to your spam box and simply delete it.

Myth 4 – Spam is an email problem.

When we think of spam we tend to think of email messages offering pharmaceuticals, European lottery winnings or promises of instant riches from a Nigerian prince. But spam keeps up with technology and as we use more and more tools to communicate, spammers have more tools at their disposal to get their messages out. Text messaging, search engines, social networks and blog comments are just some of the newer targets for spammers.

Using appropriate spam fighting techniques for the various ways spam is sent can be a big factor in reducing the amount of junk messages you are sent.

Myth 5 – Educating users is the best way to fight spam.

Even the most technology-wise user will still be sent spam. Once a spammer has a way to contact them, efforts will be made to send them spam. While educated users are less likely to fall for the scams and lofty promises of spam, they are still the recipients of these messages. All it takes is one slip up and they could easily find themselves infected with malware or falling victim to illicit claims.

Education is a key component of any spam fighting strategy but it needs to be complimented with trustworthy anti-spam, anti-phishing and anti-malware technologies.

Written by Jeff


  1. Scott Collins · July 26, 2011

    I would say I disagree with #5 on your list. Sure, educating people isn’t going to stop the sending of spam, and people will always be at risk of receiving it, but a smarter user is one that is less likely to expose themselves further to spam, or to get phished or scammed out of their belongings.

    Not to mention an educated user is more likely to keep their spam and malware filters current and active. The actual fighting of spam is pretty much left to the government agencies that are shutting down botnets and legally pursuing violators of CAN-SPAM.

  2. Lisa Richardson · July 30, 2011

    Regarding 1, many people just don’t remember what and whom they have subscribed to, so it is hard to distinguish a legit email from an unsolicited one. As for users’ training, I also disagree that it is a myth. It is the users’ ignorance that made spam the monster it is.

  3. Andy E. · August 17, 2011

    I don’t agree with point # 5. For me, educating users is STILL the best way to fight spam. It’s not a myth or pure hearsay. However, I admit that this is not the only solution as spam is more complex and it’s becoming more and more sophisticated each day.

    Efficient laws and regulations, being proactive, and aggressive spam hunting campaigns (by both law enforcers and IT organizations) should be enough to lessen spam – if not completely eradicating it.

  4. Chris Silvey · June 11, 2012

    You are wrong on #1
    There is no law on unsolicited email
    Spam equates to those that do not follow the Can Spam act and those that do not comply with ISP and recipient spam filters.
    99.9% of Internet marketers email end up in the spam folder because of these reasons. It has nothing to do with opting in.
    Subscribing just lifts the spam filters.
    Have you ever wondered why you receive email in your Inbox from people and companies you don’t know?
    Spam can mean unwanted email, but that does not mean all unsolicited email is spam.

    If that was the case we would have no open commerce on the internet.

    Know your facts

  5. Kyle · August 6, 2012


    You must be a spammer. Only a spammer would try to defend spam. All unsolicited email IS spam. If a recipient didn’t (1)directly seek out and request email from the sender AND (2) verify that the email address is theirs…it’s SPAM.

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