Why You’re Getting So Much Spam

And what to do about it

Key Takeaways

  • Spam emails, phone calls, and text messages have significantly increased since the start of the pandemic.
  • We’re getting more spam much more frequently.
  • Experts say there are simple things you can do, and services you can utilize, to prevent the bombardment of spam.
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The global pandemic has multiplied spam emails, phone calls, and text messages at a higher rate than ever before, experts say.

If you’re receiving more spam now—you’re not alone. According to a report by spam blocking app Truecaller, spam calls in the US increased by 56% in 2020. Experts say scammers are thriving off the pandemic, but there are still things we can do to stop the incessant spam. 

"Not one person can say they haven’t been impacted in one way or another due to the pandemic, giving scammers the opportunity to prey on an unprecedented number of unsuspecting consumers," wrote Kerry Sherin, a consumer advocate at BeenVerified, to Lifewire in an email. 

Why So Much Spam? 

It’s become the norm for our inboxes to be bombarded with bogus prescription goods, doubtful loans, and various adult sites provided through spam emails. And experts say it’s not just emails—it’s also spam texts and phone calls making their way into our daily lives. 

"They’re likely to persist, claiming they’re 'trying to solve your problem.'"

Sherin said BeenVerified analyzed over 180,000 complaints through its Spam Call Complaint Monitor and found the top five spam phone calls/text messages were delivery scams, social security scams, credit card offers, debt-collection or consolidation schemes, and insurance pitches.

"Spam calls and text messages can happen more when there is a catastrophic event that spammers [can] take advantage of to prey on susceptible populations," Sherin said.

It makes sense why there is so much more spam, especially considering the digitalization of our lives since the pandemic began. We tend to browse more frequently over the internet than before, therefore, we click more pop-ups, download free software, purchase products online, and perform other activities that make us susceptible.

woman staring at a text on cell phone
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"The truth is, we leave our digital footprint everywhere—if we purchase something online, fill out a questionnaire, make an account on social networks, etc.," wrote Nebojsa Calic, founder and editor of CyberCrew, to Lifewire in an email. "Our emails are easily reachable, and companies use them to advertise their services. Whether you like it or not—you’ll get it."

Limiting Spam

You don’t have to accept the constant bombardment of spam messages; experts say there are plenty of ways to clear your life of digital junk.

Don’t respond and don’t click any links

Sherin said any response (either by email, text, or calling back) indicates to the scammer that they’ve successfully got your attention. 

"They’re likely to persist, claiming they’re 'trying to solve your problem,'" she said. 

Ignore and delete the spam altogether, but be sure not to click any links in the spam message, which Sherin said happens a lot in delivery scams.

"That ‘USPS’ URL could be a trap—delivery scams often invite you to click a link to claim a parcel and end up asking you for a credit card number," Sherin added.

"The truth is, we leave our digital footprint everywhere."

Limit where you give your personal information

Scammers receive your information easier than you think since it’s already available online. Experts say avoid browsing websites that require you to input details, and definitely don’t post any contact information to your social accounts.

Also, Sherin said never give out your personal information to an incoming caller. 

"If you need information about a package or a payment, call the delivery company or government agency yourself," she said.

Use spam detection or an extension

Gmail has spam detection built into the platform, and you can use its "Report a spam" feature whenever you see a spam email, which will filter them out in the future.

Calic also said there are helpful extensions and third-party services that act as spam filters to do the unsubscribing and blocking for you. For your phone, call-blocking apps like PrivacyStar use crowd-sourced databases to help you control calls and texts from specific numbers.

Don’t unsubscribe from anything you haven’t subscribed to

Finally, experts say spammers often put an option for you to unsubscribe in their emails, but it’s actually bait to confirm if your email address is indeed active.

"Before clicking any unsubscribe button, be diligent to check if you have actually subscribed to that newsletter in the first place," wrote Ted Liu, founder and CEO of Just SEO, to Lifewire in an email.

"If not, then chances are that’s a fake unsubscribe button that will do you more harm than good."

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