Spam (stylised SPAM) is a type of canned cooked meat, which came to be associated with unsolicited emails due to a Monty Python sketch in which two diners at the fictional Green Midget Café attempt to order a dish that does not contain the aforementioned meat product. 

The word was later used to describe the practise of sending large amounts of unsolicited emails and messages, recounting the repetitive and unwanted presence of spam in the sketch.

In recent years, spamming has been used by many unscrupulous individuals and organisations in the aim of spreading marketing and malware alike. 

By its very nature, a ‘spam’ message is not worth the time spent reading it and may cause you harm, so it’s vital to separate the junk from important messages.

While many people are able to single out bogus messages in their inbox, some people struggle to see through the lies and time-wasting schemes of the spammers. 

This guide is aimed at informing people on how to effectively protect their computer, finances and sanity from spam messages, and below are 5 simple techniques for detecting spam:

1. The message is in Your Spam Folder
Most email and messaging programs include a ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ filter that helps to separate unsolicited or dishonest emails, though many people still check their junk or spam folders for important emails. It goes without saying that a message categorised as spam probably is spam, but because most people put their own judgement first, many people second guess the spam filter.
If you’re concerned that important emails have mistakenly been filed as spam, you need to deal with these on a case-by-case basis and should avoid any suspicious or unexpected messages.

2. Examine the Email Address
Legitimate companies usually send emails through servers based out of their official website (such as or a professional sounding alternative (like if they don’t yet have a site. If you see a string of numbers and/or letters or the name of a free email service – gmail, Hotmail, etc. – before the @ sign, exercise caution.

3. Examine the Content
Most email programs allow you to scan the content of a message before opening it – often just the first line – which is a safe way to examine the email without opening it. Be wary of emails that tell you to act right away (or within a certain time-frame) and links included in emails, as these encourage you to act without due caution. Lastly, spelling and grammar errors within the email are massive red flags, as any legitimate company will avoid these basic mistakes.

4. Do not Reveal Personal Information
Most organisations plainly state that they won’t ask for personal information by email, and if you’ve dealt with them in the past, they should already have your details on file. If you receive an email asking for personal information (think passwords, your address, etc.) just delete it. You should only enter your personal information in secure, encrypted forms, and never in unsecured emails.

5. Examine the Greeting
Emails that address you directly, using your first or last name are more likely to be genuine, as they show prior knowledge – the sender already knows you. However, unsolicited emails generally refer to you in general terms (such as “Valued Customer”) and should be considered spam until proven otherwise. Senders of genuine emails want to catch your attention and will use the information at their disposal (like your name) to stand out in your inbox.