Frequently Asked Questions About Spam Email

Due to unauthorized use of WebMD's name in spam emails, we've created a Frequently Asked Questions section for you about spam.

Spammers from time to time, copy WebMD's email templates to send unsolicited email using the WebMD name and logo. Spammers (and hackers) choose to do this for various reasons, for example:

  • Using WebMD's name to sell you medication.
  • Install hidden software (called malware) to control your computer or steal data.

Please be assured that all of our emails will come to you from a WebMD email address, and any link within our newsletters or emails will link back to our site. Here are a few answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Spam. We hope these help. To contact WebMD, you can send us an email using the Contact Us link found at the bottom of every page of our site.

Spam is a popular term used for unsolicited email. According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, spam is defined as "unsolicited usually commercial e-mail sent to a large number of addresses." More formal synonyms for spam include UCE (unsolicited commercial email) and UBE (unsolicited bulk email).

Phishing is a technique used by hackers to obtain information from your computer (such as usernames, passwords, and financial data). Phishing is typically carried out as a forged, unsolicited email (similar to spam) containing malicious web links and/or attachments. Clicking the malicious link or opening an attachment can infect your computer with malicious software.

WebMD takes privacy and security issues very seriously. Read our Privacy Policy.

It is difficult to determine exactly how spammers and hackers (people who send unsolicited email) collect email addresses because there are so many ways to do it. Popular methods include: getting email addresses from chat rooms, search engines, unsecure email lists, and "mailto" links on Web pages. Many companies and individuals who spam use "Web crawlers," or automated programs that look through (or "crawl") Web traffic or Web pages to harvest email addresses. Unfortunately, if your email address is listed on a public Web page, it is very easy for the spammers to get it.

Sometimes spammers and hackers obtain email addresses by mailing to common names or common words used in email addresses, for example "[email protected]" or "[email protected]." They may also keep databases by known Internet domain names (like ""). They constantly probe that domain for real email addresses. There are known viruses that will send email to all the addresses in your email program address book.

Most email providers provide tools to filter out suspected spam email into a bulk folder commonly named "Spam" or "Junk". You should also have the ability through your provider or email client to adjust filtering and enable "safe email" settings.

In addition to filtering, you can also:

  • Avoid posting your email address on public Internet forums, blogs, chat rooms, social networks and directories.
  • Choose an email address that is hard to guess.
  • When signing up on an Internet site, check the privacy policy to ensure your email is kept private. Opt out of email you wish not to receive in connection with the signup.

Phishing through email relies on you either clicking on a malicious web link or downloading and opening an email attachment. It is best to avoid links and attachments in email from unknown senders. Review web links in email (without clicking on them) to ensure they point to a website you trust. If an email appears to be suspicious in nature (even from someone you know) exercise caution.

You can further protect your information by:

  • Keeping your computer up-to-date with the latest security patches and anti-virus signatures.
  • Trusting your personal information with sites cautiously and submit such information securely through https (SSL).
  • Download software from sites that you know and trust.
  • Choosing strong passwords.

Spammers often disguise the sender information. Usually, the "to" and "from" fields will be forged, or invisible. Sometimes they can make it look like email came from you, TO you! Even the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are faked. These techniques make it difficult to determine who the spam came from.

You can however review the Internet path; that is the systems the email has traversed to get to you by looking at the header information of the email. Reviewing header information varies by email provider and program. Generally, you can start by looking for your email provider "help" section for directions.

Asking to be removed from a spam email list lets the spammer know your email address is real and may even add you to a database. We strongly urge you to not reply to any spam messages. Doing this confirms that your email address is real. The spammer that received your confirmation can do two things:

  1. Send you more spam.
  2. Sell your confirmed email addresses to other spammers, leading to even more spam to your address.

The best solution for combating spam still remains: Delete the mail without opening it, adjust your email filters, and/or report it to your Internet Service Provider!

WebMD places unsubscribe directions in every email newsletter we send. Our goal is to give you every opportunity to unsubscribe from our email.

Most legitimate commercial email will include instructions on how to unsubscribe from their list. This is almost always done in the case where you asked to be on an email list. This email is technically solicited by you and isn't considered spam.

Did you forget that you filled out a form on a company's web site? Many people do. Or they forget to uncheck the boxes that automatically subscribe them to receive information from a site. WebMD only uses opt-in email sign-up (you have to fill in a form or place a check mark in a box) to help make it easy for you to know exactly what you are signing up for.

Always use caution when you agree to "opt-in" to a list. You may be giving a site the right to sell or trade your email address to another company. WebMD recommends that you always read a site's privacy and data use policy and understand how they will use your information before you agree to opt-in to any email lists or other data collection.

Several other resources are useful starting points for combating the scourge of spam:

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