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Unsubscribe From Email Spam

How to safely get off mailing lists and avoid unscrupulous spammers

Q. Spam sometimes has a button that’s marked “Unsubscribe.” Will the stuff really stop coming if I click on it?

A. It depends on who sent the mail.

With email spam, the longtime rule has been not to click the unsubscribe button because that can merely tell unscrupulous spammers that your email account is live, and typically results in getting more. That advice remains true for most spam — especially obviously bogus messages such as unsolicited offers for low-cost drugs and loans, free merchandise or lottery winnings, misspelling-riddled pleas for help transferring money, and mail that claims to be from a government agency.

But legitimate companies also send emails — to past customers and sometimes to noncustomers whose names were on purchased lists of prospects. These messages often have an unsubscribe button. If it’s marked as being run by SafeUnsubscribe, click away. That reputable service is provided by a firm called Constant Contact, which more than 500,000 businesses and organizations pay to remove recipients from mailing lists.

Other companies, such as a car dealership from which you bought a vehicle, often include an unsubscribe option on their email but manage it themselves. Your request usually will be honored.

With text spam sent to cellphones, never reply to the sender’s offer to opt out. Instead, copy the text and send it to 7726 (SPAM). You’ll then receive an automated message asking you to enter the phone number from which the spam text was sent. Future texts will be blocked. This service is available to customers of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some other carriers.

Also check your carrier’s website for instructions on other ways to block messages from specific email addresses, phone numbers or websites. Also, consider using free or low-cost spam blockers for smartphones.

Finally, you can block or reduce spam by adjusting filters that are built into your machine’s software. Here’s advice for users of Windows and Macs. Gmail and other free email services also provide this service.

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