Scam of the Month: To Unsubscribe or Not To Unsubscribe?

Looking to “spring clean” your inbox? We received an interesting question last week: “I've often been told that unsubscribing from email distribution lists actually elicits more unwanted email. Is this true?”

We’ve heard this, too. As the story goes, spammers include “unsubscribe” links to determine if the account is being actively used. If you click the link, they know they’ve got a “live one” and send you even more spam as a result. Tricky.

Spam (unlike phish) aren’t inherently dangerous - they’re basically the mosquitos of our email accounts - but clicking any unsolicited link could potentially land you in a (cyber)pickle. So here’s the scoop on “unsubscribing,” best we can tell (and thanks to The Spam Primer for the following info!):
If you didn’t sign up for an email list to begin with, there’s little reason to believe they’ll let you off the hook with their unsubscribe link. So ask yourself the following:
  • Does the spam come from a real address? (i.e. list@companyname.com, not 23r8g4@yahoo.com)
  • Does it come from the same address each time?
  • Are the opt-out instructions the same every time?

These are all good indications that unsubscribing is a safe approach. But unsubscribing, when legit, should work the FIRST time you try it, so if it doesn’t, don’t keep trying. Just resign yourself to deleting those messages. Forever.

And if you *did* sign up for those emails but you’re now sick of seeing them? Take the time to unsubscribe rather than marking them as “spam,” which ends up punishing the company unnecessarily for trying to market responsibly.

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