Privacy and Information Security | University of Illinois

Dealing With Spam

Minimize the impact that spam emails have on you and your inbox.

An introduction to spam

Anywhere in the world that you find email, you will also find spam. Junk email, malicious emails, phishing scams and unwanted announcements make up more than 80% of the email that is sent worldwide. There's no way to completely stop these spam messages from being sent, but it is possible to minimize the impact that junk emails have on you and your inbox.

Spam messages can lead to a wide variety of problems including identity theft, the installation of viruses and other malware on your computer, and the loss of your password. A bad email scam might even cost you money.

Don't interact with spam

But those problems listed above only arise when people interact with the spam that makes it into their inbox. The types of interactions we're talking about include:

  • Opening attachments sent with the spam
  • Clicking on links found within the spam
  • Replying to the spam message, including sending your password, credit card or other personal data

You eliminate the potential threats posed by the email by simply deleting junk mail -- even after you've opened it, read it, and determined it to be junk. So don't worry if a few spam messages sneak into your inbox from time to time. And it's okay if you open the email and just read it. You're still safe. But never do anything beyond reading and deleting a piece of junk mail.

Limiting how much spam you receive

Again, there is no 100% foolproof way to keep every last spam message out of your inbox. But there are steps you can take to dramatically reduce how much junk mail you have to deal with.

Enable CITES Spam Control on your @illinois account
CITES Spam Control gives you the choice of whether to ignore, quarantine, or automatically delete email that appears to be spam. All students at the University of Illinois have CITES Spam Control turned on by default. Many faculty and staff members have already turned on Spam Control, but some may not have. To find out more about the service and your Spam Control settings, please visit the CITES Spam Control page.

Never respond to junk messages
Spammers value active, live email addresses above all others. If you receive a spam message, one of the worst things you can do is actually respond to the email, even if you're following the email's instructions for unsubscribing. Often times, a spammer will take an unsubcribe request as nothing more than a signal to send you more junk mail and even sell off your active (and therefore "premium") email address to other spammers. Ignoring and deleting junk mail is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of future junk mail you receive.

Limit the visibility of your email address
People that send junk mail are constantly on the lookout for live email addresses. You can reduce the amount of junk mail that you receive by limiting the public exposure of your email address. If at all possible, avoid posting your University email address on publicly viewable web sites. Sign up for commercial services, giveaways and web sites with a second email account that you don't mind filling up with junk mail.

Reporting spam

When spam arrives in your inbox you can delete it, or you can forward it to When reporting spam please forward with full headers so CITES can gather as much information about the spam as possible. By forwarding spam that arrives in your inbox you can help CITES refine the spam control system and better catch new threats to campus accounts.

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