Spotting spam, can you do it, should you make the effort?

Back on the 15 of September Patricio Roblesm for Econsultancy listed out 10 ways to avoid spam in all of it’s forms. Were about email.

One of those 6 was “Be careful about unsubscribing” – I believe that this needs some elaboration. The last thing the industry needs is people not trusting the optout link on legitimate emails.
“Surely if the email is legit the recipient will know the sender, be expecting their email and know to trust the optout link” – I hear you cry (faintly in the distance).

Well, there is a lot of email marketing going on and some people don’t know it as well as others and as new fads and conventions come about some users just on certain band wagons. For instance on company sends a B2B email once a quarter to a few thousand people, one day they read an article about re-targeting so they get their old list of people and try to bring them back on board. Half of these people might not remember this brand, yes it is not the best practice but it still happens.
If the creative is rubbish you might not even trust to load the images but it still happens.

You need to know what to look for in an email which you do not recognise but has an unsubscribe link. You need to know that when you hit that opt-out link you are actually opting out and not telling a spammer that your address exists.

But what is the point, why care? If you don’t recognise it, just hit spam!
Fair point, if the sender gets it wrong, they have abused the trust you have given them so mark it as spam.
If they use an ESP, marking as spam in at least Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL should also get you optout because the EPS should be on their feedback loop. Strangely I can’t see Gmail with one, they seem to be about those List Headers!
If not you just tell your email client to not put it in the inbox any more and tell your ISP that this lot or spammers. The ISP then knocks a load of point of the IP reputation of the sender and gets on with it.

Is there a way? Nothing consistent to be honest. The old way was to take the domain out of the email address and paste it into the address bar and see if you get to a web-site that resembles the company sending it.
But nowadays from sending domain is often a dedicated sending domain for email and night not always got back to the home page, often this is a bi-product of using an ESP. This also counts for the links. Mark at Email Marketing Reports wrote a cool one about tracked links – and also said that Pure360 was one of the best too!
So that kicks that idea into touch.

Phishing
One thing to always check is the link text and the link destination. If the link text you can read on the page says something like http://www.natwest.co.uk but when you hover over the link and look at the bottom of the browser, where it says where the link is actually going, if it says http://www.imgonnastealyourmoney.com you can be fairly sure that it is a phishing email. Most email clients will spot this for you and either junk it or a least flag but it is still the first thing to look out for.

A recent load of spam that I have seen is to me and from me. This is quite cheeky as it get past a lot of the filters because my domain is white listed on my email server.

One thing you can always do if you are worried about the optout link but you want to try and optout is to forward the email to abuse@ the domain sending the email and the domain in the reply address if it is different. If there is an ESP that should get you optout out too if it is an agency they’ll jump on it and optout you out and if it is a business their postmaster should taker action. IF it is a proper spammer, you’ll probably get a hard bounce back!