Turns out that "unsubscribing" from spam actually works

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At this point, they’re actively harming their own ability to achieve what they’re trying to accomplish. In the political arena, for example, there are many causes that I would want to support, but, due to the fact that my contact info has been shared around, the signal to noise ratio is so bad that I just end up mass-deleting the lot of it every weekend.

It’s basically donor-fatigue, but for attention, not money.


Think before you click ‘unsubscribe’
Spammers send fake unsubscribe letters, in an attempt to collect active email addresses. If you click ‘unsubscribe’ in one of these letters, it may simply increase the amount of spam you receive. Do not click on ‘unsubscribe’ links in emails that come from unknown sources. With email spoofing who can tell what’s real just hit the spam button.


Is it spam if you signed up for a list in the first place? Like MrHarley said, actual, unsolicited spam can include fake unsubscribe links that are actually there to verify the message found a legitimate recipient.

I have never, ever signed up for any list whatsoever, and I always take the time to unclick the “subscribe me” button that is invariable pre-clicked for me whenever I make an online purchase. They STILL send it.

The number-one annoying feature of online shopping is that the companies I buy from ALWAYS assume that they have a God-granted right to fill my inbox with spam for ever more.



The fact that we refer to “unsolicited spam” sort of implies that you can have solicited spam, yeah. The important thing about spam is that it’s canned, comes in large quantities, and you don’t want it. (even if you agreed to it, I have agreed to receive spam before because something I wanted was gated behind it for instance. Admittedly I agreed to receive it at a throwaway account!)

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One nice thing (mobile) Outlook does is to shuttle all mass mails into a folder called Subscriptions. Of course is then up to you to read your desired subscriptions, but I find that a great way to ensure that important emails are given prominence.

I get mail from a dozen life insurance companies who want me to sell their brand - and I don’t even sell life insurance, although I am licensed to. I should probably unsubscribe them, but it’s easy to delete. Also, a couple of years ago I used Obamacare for a year for myself. Now I have good employee benefits but holy hell, heathcare.gov sends me daily notices to sign up again! I think they’re got me for life.

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I’ve also mostly had good experiences with unsubcribe - with a work email that has to be public, it attracts a lot of attention from various optimists that think I will pick a conference or supplier by dint of unasked-for email. At least 99% stop emailing me once I click unsubscribe.

Never tried it with the Chinese spam tho, where they want to sell chickenwire / corrugated iron / nets in large quatities. Those guys really shotgun it… I’m very far from the kind of business that buys that kinda stuff wholesale.

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What’s weirder is that I discovered that most of that spam was coming from organizations I knew, even ones I supported and had worked with, but whose mailing lists I’d never asked to join.

For my email I use a system that lets me add an extra bit of text into the email address as an alias that gets ignored by the server. This lets me give individual services their own, personalized email address to contact me through, which makes it really easy to know where any given spammer got my address from and make a complaint.

Definitely worth it, though your email provider needs to support it. For instance, Gmail apparently does, though I haven’t tried their implementation.


when I tried to find a central list of all the Mailchimp emails I’d been added to, they refused to provide it

What a bunch of bastards.

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Pngs are fine but that would be more helpful if it were a jiff!

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There;s some kind of new system or method that is actually unsubscribing me from the Niagara of effluent that has been making my communications utterly miserable.


I used that technique with Gmail, and then stopped when I found that most, if not all, of the systems with which I did business errored out on the email address because of the “plus” sign in the address. When it worked, though, it was an outstanding technique.


This isn’t so. Think about it: a spammer could spend an hour of their time setting up an email harvesting robot that might collect a few thousand verified email addresses from clicks on the unsub links in their spam… or they could spend the same amount of time downloading a hundred million verified email addresses from the latest data breach of an online retailer. They could spend a few bucks harvesting a few email addresses from random web sites with a robot, or they could spend a few bucks buying millions of email addresses from a direct marketing company.

As someone who has gone through and clicked unsubscribe links on tons of actual spam when I helped my mother get her email account under control after my dad died, I can say that for some kinds of spam, the unsub links at the bottom actually work. 4 classes of spam:

  1. scams, aka “your email has won the Microsoft Lottery” – there’s never an unsubscribe link
  2. Attempts to sell you dodgy crap, like Viagra or low interest loans – hardly ever has an unsubscribe link, and I really wouldn’t try clicking on one if it had one, because dodgy.
  3. Marketing emails from direct marketing firms, the modern version of junk mail - always has an unsubscribe link, as required by US federal law, and the unsub links actually work (after a month, because they get paid per email sent, so they take the maximum time allowed by that federal law to actually remove you)
  4. Mailing list messages from people you made the mistake of giving your email address to – usually has an unsubscribe link, if not, they’re doing things old school and replying to the message with a request to be removed often works.

Telling type 2 from type 3 is usually pretty easy - type 3 is always professional looking, usually correctly spelled, and is selling real products from real companies you’ve heard of (who you will now try to actively avoid because they spammed you), type 2 is the opposite.


I do this once a month or so. Usually the legit places where I had to sign up for something or they got my email some other way will take you off the list. What seems to not work well are the ones that seem to come from the same place. The emails are all different, but when you hit unsbuscribe, it always takes you to an identical looking page. This company must have literally thousands of domains as each one is different, and usually the domain you go to has nothing to do with what the email was about.

So - my theory is they take me off that one list (or not) then add me to 2 others. haha. I dunno. It seems my spam is less, but still, I wish I could get rid of it.

I HAVE been fairly good at deleting it every day. I used to just let it go - and before you know it you NEVER can find the one email you remember getting and can’t find again (well, with out search help).

Actually, it is so, surprisingly enough. I see a fairly regular stream of these kinds of attempts to completely nonexistent addresses on my server, or to working email addresses that haven’t actually been used anywhere (and so can’t have been downloaded from anywhere). I’ve also had the displeasure of looking through the internals of spam operations that tracked those. It’s not quite as common as it was a year or two ago before mail services started rate-limiting senders of rejected messages, but it still goes on.

That’s not to say that every unsubscribe link is being tracked just to send out more spam once you’ve verified that a living person actually looked at the email, but there’s a non-zero amount that actually is.

My new policy for bad mailers, where feasible, is to find an official email address for the company and change my subscribed email to that one. It can be scuppered in a number of ways, but it’s gotta be funny when it works. I did this for Band Lab recently. It will fail, but I so badly want to do this for PayPal, who don’t provide any unsubscribe for their shitty junk mail.

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I wonder how much electricity is wasted on spam emails. If it’s coming from an international server, it could easily pass through a dozen systems on it’s way to the recipient. Multiply that by the millions (billions?) of spam sent everyday, that’s a ton of wasted energy!