7 Ways to Tell if an Email is Spam (Unsolicited Email)

Email spam, it seems like this has been in existence for as long as the internet.  Usually spam is easy to pick out and ignore but spammers have gotten much better about disguising their emails.  Some spam emails can get past the filters. With the amount of emails we receive on a daily basis, including business and personal messages, newsletters, and others, it is very important to be able to recognize spam email.

What is Email Spam

Generally speaking, spam emails have the following characteristics:

  • Sender Anonymity: The sender of spam emails is always anonymous and many senders use international IP addresses to further shield their identity and circumvent U.S. law.
  • Mass Mailing: Spam emails are sent to many people at once, not just your email address.
  • Unsolicited: The recipients never request spam email and there is no way to “opt out” or avoid future spam emails. Sometimes spam emails are sent with malicious intent, asking for sensitive information.

Spam Email Example:

Spam Email

How to Tell if an Email is Spam or Unsolicited Commercial Email

Not all spam ends up in the spam folder. Therefore, it is important to know how to tell if an email in your inbox is spam mail.  The following are 7 effective ways to recognize a spam email:

  • Look at who the email is addressed to: If the email is not addressed specifically to your email address, that means it was sent to many other people.
  • Check the “from” email address: If the email was sent by a legitimate company or institution, the “from” email address usually contains the domain name of their main website. Email addresses that contain random combinations of numbers and letters or a free email service domain name could very well be spam.
  • Check the greeting: Generally, legitimate emails address you by name in the greeting to get your attention. Companies and institutions can use email marketing tools that create a personalized greeting for each person on their email lists.  If an email has a generic greeting such as “Hello” or “Dear Valued Customer,” there is a good chance it is spam.
  • Look at the Subject of the Email: If the subject seems odd, makes no sense, or says “problem with your website” with a domain that is not your website, this is a sure sign of spam. Spam emails with “problem with your website” in the subject are sent to many people and are not about your website.
  • Your domain is forwarded to another domain: If the domain referenced in the email is forwarded to another domain, the sender did not open your website and is most likely a spammer.
  • Bad Grammar and Spelling: Legitimate newsletters from companies and institutions are typically put through an editing process before being sent out to ensure that they are free of bad grammar and spelling errors. Spammers are not concerned with creating good content that makes sense and many spam messages do have poor grammar and spelling.
  • No phone number in the signature: Company emails almost always have an email signature at the bottom or some block of text that includes full contact information. If the email does not include a phone number or other contact information, it could be spam.


Spam emails are annoying and are usually after your sensitive personal information.  Most email clients contain spam filters to help keep these messages from reaching the inbox, but some spam mail can still make it past the filter.  Knowing how to recognize spam emails can help you avoid opening and responding to these junk, sometimes malicious messages.

For help with email security and managed IT services, click here.


Key Takeaways:

  • Spam email is any email that was not requested by a user but was sent to that user and many others, typically (but not always) with malicious intent. The source and identity of the sender is anonymous and there is no option to cease receiving future emails.
  • Spam (Unsolicited Commercial Email) messages are junk and have to be deleted. Do not reply to spam emails.

The team at Proceed Innovative is always available to answer your questions regarding email spam and unsolicited website promotion proposals.


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