Learn about spam and how to protect yourself

Spam is junk email. It's annoying at best and a security risk at worst. Some spam is harmless, though irritating. However, some spam is sent by cybercriminals who are attempting to capture your personal data through innocent looking marketing emails.


Learn how to protect yourself against spam, how spam works, and how spammers get your email address.

Top tips for spam defense

These are some top tips to defend yourself against spam: 


  • Use a spam filter — most email programs offer this tool. Your CenturyLink email includes an automatic spam filter.

  • Install and use a good antivirus program. CenturyLink High-Speed Internet customers get McAfee Security for free.

  • Be cautious when you see unexpected or unknown content in your email.

  • If you get a spam message in your CenturyLink account, report it by selecting the message and clicking the "spam" button.

  • Report it to Spam Cop.

  • Report the email to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.

IMPORTANT: When reporting spam, DO NOT FORWARD the original spam email. This may cause you to be flagged as a spammer! Instead, save the email and send it as an attachment.

  • Read more tips for email safety.

  • Note that when you flag a message as spam in your email program, it's not the same as blocking the sender. To be sure you don't get any more emails from that sender, follow the instructions for your email program to block a sender.

Unsubscribe from bulk emails

Not all bulk email is spam. If you provided your email address to a company or website to receive a newsletter, product updates, coupons, or be entered in a drawing, this is a reputable way to get your email address. Some companies provide you a service or software in exchange for your email address and permission to send you advertisements. These are examples of bulk emails that are not spam. 


To be removed from these non-spam mailing lists:

  • Follow the instructions provided by the sender. Almost all email programs provide an "unsubscribe" link, though some are easier to find than others. 
  • Some email programs provide an unsubscribe option right in the email header. 

It can take several days for your request to be fulfilled, and it's not uncommon to be subscribed to more than one list from a company, which means you have to unsubscribe from each list separately (unless that company's email program provides an option to unsubscribe from multiple or all lists when you follow the "unsubscribe" link). The CAN-spam Act requires that a mailer process an unsubscribe request within 10 business days. 


If you did not sign up to receive emails from a company or if an email claims to be from a reputable company, but it looks suspicious, consider this: If the email is from a spammer, and you follow the removal instructions, the spammer uses this process to verify that your email address is going to a real person, making the email address more valuable so that it is then traded or sold to others. Rather than following any links in the email, mark it as "spam" in your email program, and block the sender.

How does spam work?

Spammers send massive amounts of junk email in hopes that at least some of the recipients will click on the links or attachments. When someone clicks on a spam email, they're sent to phishing or malware websites, where they're tricked into providing personal information, activating a virus, or downloading malicious software.


For an email to be considered spam, it must be both unsolicited and sent in bulk. Not all bulk email is spam. Not all unsolicited email is spam. If you agreed to receive an email from a company, it is not spam.

How did they get my email address?

Spammers collect email addresses from chatrooms, websites, customer lists, newsgroups and email viruses that harvest users' address books. The addresses are then sold to other spammers. Here are more details about the ways in which email addresses are collected: 


  • Email messages that are forwarded multiple times, like jokes or email hoaxes, videos.

  • Directory Harvest Attacks (DHAs) are carried out against email servers to acquire a list of users on your server that will accept email; that list is sold to spammers.

  • Email spambots (web crawlers) scour newsgroups, forums, social networking sites harvesting email addresses.

  • Buying and trading via mailing lists.

  • Randomly generating (guessing) common email addresses.

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