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Is there any way to stop ‘adult’ spam emails?

Man looking at Yahoo homepage

For some time now, I have been receiving from five to 20 unwanted “adult” emails per day. I followed Yahoo’s advice on how to block these emails, but I still am receiving them. I contacted Yahoo again, but within the blink of an eye, I received a standard response email stating that my case was closed. I have also emailed the CEO of Yahoo UK, and I am angry with the complete indifference that Yahoo has shown.

How can I stop these emails? I was thinking of sending them back to the sender, but I’m wondering if it will have any impact. Ruth

Adult emails are spam – and you can’t stop spam. Anybody who has your home or office address can send you letters and anybody who has your email address can send you spam. You don’t get much junk mail because it costs a lot to send. You will get lots of junk email because it costs nothing to send.

Email service providers such as Yahoo, Google and Microsoft filter out billions of spam emails per day. Only a few get through, and five to 20 per day is not an unusual number.

However, the ones that get through should arrive in your spam folder. If you are seeing obvious adult spam emails in your inbox then either the filtering is turned off – which isn’t easy to do in Yahoo Mail – or the filters are failing.

Unfortunately, spam filtering is a tricky business. If the filters are loose, you will see a few spam emails in your inbox. If the filters are too fierce, then legitimate emails will end up in your spam box.

A few services offer better control. Plus.net, for example, lets you select the aggressiveness of the spam filter on a scale from 1 to 5. I haven’t seen this option on free email services such as Google’s Gmail, Microsoft’s Outlook and Yahoo Mail.

In my experience, Yahoo’s filtering is a little loose, while Gmail is so fierce that it produces a lot of false positives. Which you prefer is a matter of taste, but if you want aggressive spam filtering, you could switch to Gmail. The drawback is that you may have to look in your spam folder every day or two or you could miss some important emails.

Switching to an alternative free email service such as Gmail or Outlook has an obvious disadvantage: you will have to tell all your contacts to use a different email address. However, both Gmail and Outlook will collect all your old emails from Yahoo, so switching is not as difficult as it sounds.

The main drawback with Gmail is the miserly amount of free storage space. I am using 98% of Gmail’s 15GB but only 1.6% of Yahoo Mail’s free 1TB (ie 16GB). Outlook free storage just expands as you use it.

Spam filtering

All email filters need some training, and it takes a while to build up a profile. This will be based, to some extent, on the emails you mark as spam. You should therefore keep reporting all the adult emails that reach your inbox.

However, never open these emails to see what’s in them. Spam emails may contain invisible “web beacons” that tell the sender you have opened the email, so this is an active account. The result will be more spam. By contrast, the correct way to handle unwanted but legitimate emails – newsletters, marketing offers etc – is to open the email and click the “unsubscribe” or “change preferences” link. Don’t just put them in the spam folder.

You can also set up your own filters to block emails from particular senders or about specific topics. In Yahoo’s case, select an email in the inbox or spam folder then click on the down arrow next to the word “more”. The drop-down menu should – but does not always – include the option to “Filter emails like this … ” Selecting this option pops up a dialog box with entries such as From, Subject and Body. You could, for example, filter out all emails that include words such as Viagra, Cialis and porn in the body of the email.

Sadly, there’s no point in trying to block specific email senders. Spammers use millions of From addresses, which are ridiculously easy to fake.

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