ITS Helpdesk

Phone: 810.762.3123 opt. 1 - Email:

What is Spam?

Last Updated: Jul 03, 2018 12:27PM EDT

Intended Audience

This Quicknote is for the benefit of faculty, staff, and students.


This Quicknote does not require anything specific, and is only for informational purposes.


The purpose of this Quicknote is to explain spam and some of the methods you can use to protect yourself from different spamming, spoofing or phishing schemes.

What is Spam?

Spam is unsolicited email on the Internet.  It is a form of bulk mail from the sender’s point-of-view and often sent to a list gathered from subscribers to a discussion group or obtained by companies that specialize in creating email distribution lists.  In much the same way that retailers and businesses use postal mailing lists to send potential customers catalogs and other information, an increasing number are using email messages as a direct marketing tool.  In general, it’s not considered good internet etiquette to send spam. 


Email spoofing is the practice of changing the From: field of an email so that it looks like the email came from someone or somewhere else.  Email spamming may be combined with email spoofing, so that it is very difficult to determine the actual originating email address of the sender.  Some email-distributed viruses that use spoofing, take a random name from somewhere on the infected person’s computer and mail themselves out as if they were from that randomly chosen address. Recipients of these viruses are therefore misled as to the address from which they were sent, and may end up complaining to, or alerting the wrong person.  As a result, users of uninfected computers may be wrongly informed that they have, and have been, distributing a virus.


Email phishing is the act of sending an email to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate business in an attempt to scam the user into providing private information.  The email usually directs the user to visit a website where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords, credit cards, social security, and/or bank account numbers.  This website is bogus and set up only to steal the user’s information.   If you feel that you have received a phishing email, you should forward the email to the ITS Helpdesk at


Sometimes you may receive seemingly unsolicited emails from services you previously sign up for. This is, in fact, email that you agreed to receive when the account was registered with a site and a box was checked agreeing to receive postings about particular products or interests.  This is known as both opt-in email and permission-based email.

Tips to Avoid Getting Spam:

  • Never post your real email address on a forum or bulletin board. Spammers use special programs which harvest these and use them to build spam lists. Once your email address has been caught in this way, you'll never get off the spam lists.
  • Set up multiple email addresses. If you regularly sign up to a lot of web sites, which may sell email addresses as a source of revenue, consider having one email address just for this purpose, while keeping your other – real – email address private to friends and family.
  • When you register with an internet site, make sure you do not give them the right to sell your email address to spammers. (Watch for little checkboxes and make sure to remove any which are checked by default)
  • Use the email filters to reject spam with obvious catchphrases in it (debt consolidation, porn, sex, Viagra, hot singles, etc.)

Dealing with Spam:

If you suspect a message is junk mail, treat it as such by deleting it without opening it.  Common clues include information in the subject headings and unknown senders.  Do take action to stop spam.  Users can setup rules to filter incoming messages to stop spam and block spam sites.

All incoming email at the University is now being filtered by Barracuda Messaging Security Gateway.  Users will no longer need to setup a filter to move messages tagged as spam.  For more information on Barracuda and how it works, please read our Quicknote What is Barracuda?.  


If you have any questions or experience any issues with this Quicknote, please visit or contact the ITS Helpdesk for assistance.

Locations: 206 Murchie Science Building or 3174 William S. White Building
Phone #: (810)-762-3123 (option 1)
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