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IT Support - Spam E-mail Information

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Support type: E-mail: Spam Information
Last updated: Apr 16, 2012
Topic ID: 83

Topic Summary

Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (SPAM)

Frequently, Outlook/Exchange users have a problem with receiving large amounts of messages from unknown sources, typically trying to sell you something. Sometimes these messages are fraudulent, sometimes they are offensive, and sometimes they fill up your mailbox with useless messages and waste your time.

In general, these are "Unsolicited Commercial E-mail" or "Unsolicited Bulk E-mail", commonly called "SPAM".

There are a few things you should know about SPAM:

  1. Don't respond; responding to their "remove" request address is a great way for them to verify that your email address is correct in their database, as well as to flag you as somebody that actually reads their messages and believes some of what they say. (In other words, responding to be removed marks you as a prime target; almost as good as somebody that actually bought something advertised in SPAM messages)
  2. In fact, it's best to not even open the messages at all, if you can help it; it's possible for them to verify that you opened the email by including images (or other linked material; some can be invisible) in the email that link to their server with the email address they sent the message to encoded in the link.
  3. It's quite likely that SPAM is fraudulent. Unsolicited e-mails of this type frequently are scams, designed to prey on the gullible. A very common one, for example, asks for your help getting money out of an African country (particularly Nigeria, but elsewhere, too) by placing the money in your account and promising you a share; people that try to follow up end up spending money to get the money, and in a very few cases even traveling to dangerous territory to attempt to retrieve the money. That "Nigerian scam" is actually a very old scam known as "The Spanish Prisoner", reformulated to work on the Internet.
  4. They like to lie about you voluntarily subscribing. Every once in a while they honestly think you volunteered to be on the mailing list they're sending to, because whoever sold them the list lied to them.

Filtering SPAM

Set your SpamAssassin Preferences here:

IT has a SPAM filtering program in use called "SpamAssassin". It simply marks messages as being potential SPAM. The subject line will have ***** SPAM ***** added to the beginning. If you wish, you can configure outlook to filter the messages into a "SPAM" mailbox that you look through every so often (to make sure nothing important accidentally got grabbed), and then delete the rest. Also, there is a hidden "score" which Outlook can use to automatically move messages that are almost certainly SPAM, but not move messages that are "marginal." IT can assist if you want this.

IT doesn't suggest setting Outlook to automatically delete messages, as there will be some messages marked as SPAM that aren't, including:

You can configure many of your SPAM filtering options at For example, you can:

If you set up filtering, you can either filter in the header, looking for "X-Spam-Level: **********" (the number of asterisks is the level) or on "*****SPAM*****" in the subject line. If you use Outlook Web Access you'll need to set up filtering on a PC (not a Mac) so that the rules go onto the server.

Questions or comments may be sent to: