iStock_000030113816_SmallSpam emails are the “junk mail” of today. Your real-world mailbox might not be stuffed as full as it used to be, but in exchange most of us are forced to deal with an overwhelming amount of useless emails. Making matters even worse, many spam emails come with dangerous viruses attached. If you want to reduce the amount of spam emails that reach your inbox, follow these helpful tips.

1. Protect your email address. Spammers can gather your email address from just about anywhere it is released or posted online. Some people use an alternate email address to sign up for message boards and comment on news stories, knowing that email inbox will be the one flooded with spam.

2. Watch for default options. Any time you subscribe to an online service, you might notice various options that are automatically checked during the sign-up process. Uncheck the ones that relate to sending you emails or releasing your email address to third parties.

3. Check the privacy policy. Before giving your email address to a company, check their privacy policy. Most will clearly state under which circumstances they will share your email address with others.

4. Check your inbox settings. Many email programs allow you to tag and filter spam emails, so that any further communications from those senders will be set aside in a separate folder.

5. Never click on links or reply to spam messages. Some spam emails are just “guessing” at email addresses. If you click on the links inside them, or reply to the messages themselves, you will verify with the sender that they did hit upon a valid email address. This will only encourage, rather than discourage, further spam emails from that sender.

6. Utilize privacy settings on social media sites. Most social media sites, like Facebook, allow you to set your contact information as “private” or “friends only”. Don’t leave that information open for the world to view, or you will probably invite a lot of spam emails.

7. Disable automatic graphics downloading in HTML email. When you open a spam email, your email program might automatically download attached graphics files. This tells the spammers that you opened their email, verifying your address and possibly putting you at risk of viruses. Disable this feature, or disable HTML entirely and view emails only in the plain text setting.