How To Tell The Difference Between Spam And Junk Mail

spam and junk mail

What’s the difference between spam and junk mail? Most people use these terms interchangeably. However, you should know that the two aren’t the same, and you should treat them differently. 

Both spam and junk mail have one thing in common — they clutter your inbox. But the motives behind them are vastly dissimilar. In this article, you’ll learn the technical differences between junk and spam. 

First, a quick disclaimer — although you will discover why you shouldn’t treat these types of emails the same way, your email app may not let you take advantage of this new information. Some clients may let you mark emails as “junk.” Another might allow you to mark it as “spam.” And another gives you both options. There’s a lack of industry distinction, which causes confusion and can lead to security risks. 

In this article, you will learn:

  • The definition of junk mail spam
  • The best defense strategies against spam and junk mail
  • How to use SaneBox features to prevent these types of messages

What Is Spam?

When you think of the word “spam,” you probably think of email, but it fits a more broad definition. You can also receive spam via text, in a direct message, or even as comments on websites. While not all spam messages are scams, many have malicious intent. 

We all know by now that criminals send out spam emails with the motive to steal our personal information, our money, or both. Yet many of us could be caught off-guard given the right circumstances. Countless people do still fall for things like the “Nigerian Prince” type of scams. So we can never be too careful, with so many threats on the rise. 

Different types of spam include:

  • Ads 
  • Chain Letters
  • Email Spoofing
  • Hoaxes
  • Money Scams
  • Malware Warnings
  • Porn Spam

Criminal spammers make money by taking advantage of the massive volume of emails they send out. If they send an email advertising fake medicine to fifty thousand people, and only a few place an order — they’ve still collected credit card information for dozens of people. They may use each card for various purchases or cash advances. 

What Is Junk Mail?

Junk mail comes in many forms, too. The “snail mail” equivalent is all of the paper advertisements and special offers that show up in your mailbox every day. For example, if you bought some running shorts from a store in the mall a month ago, a catalog promoting new arrivals might show up at your door. These are legitimate offers, but if you’re not interested, you can call it “junk mail” and throw it in the bin. 

Junk mail’s electronic equipment is the same; it just ends up in your email inbox. You may find it annoying and send it to Trash, but it’s not fraudulent or illegal. When the same store sends you an unsolicited 20% discount code to entice you to make another purchase, that’s the email equivalent of junk mail. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of those companies knew that it’s best to include information a recipient finds useful and has agreed to receive, to avoid classification as junk. 

How To Defend Against Spam and Junk Mail

Spam defenses are one of the most important factors when choosing where to host your email. Email hosting servers are the best defense systems for pre-inbox spam, so it’s wise to use one with security features built-in, including using your host’s process for “Mark as Spam.” Check out this list of the best email hosting services

As for junk mail, you might assume that emails from legitimate senders are safe to unsubscribe. However, the act of clicking “unsubscribe” sends a signal to the email sender that your email address is active. Unsubscribing can then put you on additional lists, causing the number of unwanted emails to go up instead of down. We’ll discuss a better solution in the next section.

Prevention Is Key

Everyone is promoting something these days, and you might find that a large percentage of your email is from businesses trying to sell you something. It’s tough to keep up with an overflowing inbox that pulls your attention and focus every which way. That’s why it’s essential to have a solid strategy to prevent these messages from showing up in your inbox in the first place. 

SaneLater is a SaneBox folder that filters out the noise, i.e., junk mail. Having your unimportant emails automatically moved from your inbox into another folder is strategic. It helps put a stop to unwanted distractions. Those unimportant emails are transferred into your @SaneLater folder for you, right inside your email account.

spam and junk mail

Using SaneBlackHole is safer than clicking unsubscribe on a spam email. Unsubscribing from suspicious email is dangerous and can expose you to more spammy mailing lists. Your success depends on the integrity of the sender. It’s also far more efficient to drag and drop an email into SaneBlackHole than to go through the time-consuming unsubscribe process.

To review, these are the best ways to guard your inbox against spam and junk mail:

  • Keep your email address private, and never list it publicly online. 
  • Use an email hosting service that offers reliable junk and spam protection.
  • Never click a link in a message from a sender you don’t trust. 
  • Close an email immediately if it looks like phishing, even if it’s from a sender you trust. 
  • Use SaneBlackHole instead of unsubscribing. 
  • Use SaneLater to filter promotions and other email distractions from your inbox.

Do you have any other email security tips? Tweet us @SaneBox and let us know.