- Delete junk e-mail messages without opening them. Sometimes by opening spam you alert spammers.
- Don't reply to spam unless you're certain that the message comes from a legitimate source. This includes not responding to such messages that offer an option to "Remove me from your list."
- Don't give personal information in an e-mail or instant message. It could be a trick. Most legitimate companies won't ask for personal information by e-mail. If a company you trust, such as your credit card company or bank, appears to ask for personal information, investigate it further. Call the company using a number you find yourself from the back of your credit card, a bill, phone book, or the like—not a number from the e-mail message. If it's a legitimate request, the company's customer service department should be able to help you.
- Think twice before you open attachments or click links in e-mail or instant messages, even if you know the sender. If you cannot confirm with the sender that an attachment or link is safe, delete the message. (If you must open an attachment that you're un sure about, save it to your hard disk first so that your antivirus software can check it before you open it.)
- Don't buy anything or give to any charity promoted through spam. Spammers often swap or sell the e-mail addresses of those who have bought from them, so if you buy something through spam, it might result in even more spam. Plus, spammers can make their living (and a lucrative one, too) on people's purchases of their offerings. Resist the temptation to buy products through spam, and help to put spammers out of business.
Criminals use spam to prey on people's desire to help others. If you receive an e-mail request from a charity you'd like to support, avoid donation scams and call the organization directly to find out how to contribute.)
- Don't forward chain e-mail messages. Not only do you lose control over who sees your e-mail address, but you also might pass on a hoax or aid in the delivery of a virus. Plus, there are reports that spammers start chain letters expressly to gather e-mail addresses. If you don't know whether a message is a hoax or not, a site like Hoaxbusters can help you separate fact from fiction.
Note: It can be troubling to receive spam from what appears to be your own account. Your first suspicion might be that someone has hacked into your account to send you mail—or worse, send others e-mail that is allegedly from you. The truth is these fears are not likely to be real. More likely, a spammer has forged the headers (which include your e-mail address) to lend authenticity to their junk e-mail, and also potentially help the message bypass some e-mail filters.
Report fraudulent, abusive e-mail
If you receive abusive, harassing, or threatening e-mail messages or have been the target of a phishing e-mail scam, report it. If nothing else, perhaps you'll save someone else from becoming a victim.
- Report abusive, harassing, or threatening e-mail messages to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Find out how.
- Report phishing scams and other fraudulent e-mail to the company that has been misrepresented. Contact the organization directly and not through the e-mail you received. The company might also have a special e-mail address to report such abuse—for example, firstname.lastname@example.org to report abuse of MSN.
Tip: If you use MSN Hotmail, you can report junk e-mail before you even open it using the Junk button. If you use any Microsoft e-mail programs, such as Microsoft Outlook or MSN Hotmail, find out exactly how to report abusive or fraudulent e-mail.