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Mac 101: dealing with iCloud email spam

Dealing with an email inbox filled with spam can be a tedious process. Some spam emails, like those saying you have an inheritance overseas, are easy to spot, while others are cleverly crafted to appear legitimate. If you use an iCloud email account, here are some tips to help you curb your incoming spam.

Avoid opening obvious spam emails

Mac 101 dealing with iCloud email spam

First and foremost, you should not open an email that you recognize as being spam. Sometimes, the act of opening an email will alert the sender that the email has been viewed by the recipient. If the spammer knows that he has a fresh set of eyes, he will send even more spam your way.

Enable junk mail filtering

Mac 101 dealing with iCloud email spam

The Mail client built into OS X Mountain Lion has a Junk Mail filtering option that you should enable, especially if you get a lot of spam. You can access the settings by opening Mail > Preferences > Junk Mail (icon) and selecting "Enable junk mail filtering." The default settings should capture most of your spam, but you can tweak the settings if you want more control over you junk mailbox.

If you enable the Junk Mail option, make sure you take the time to mark messages as junk mail. Every time you mark an email as junk, the entry is added to the junk mail database and the next message from this sender will be pushed into your junk mail folder. Over time, the amount of spam hitting your inbox will gradually drop.

Manage your junk mail folder

Apple's mail server is good at filtering spam, but it is not perfect. You can improve its filtering by marking inbox spam as junk. You can either Choose "Mark as Junk Mail" from the Action pop-up menu at the top of the window if you are using iCloud email in a web browser. You can also manually drag an email and drop it in the junk folder.

All email messages in the junk folder are flagged as spam and stay in this folder for 30 days. After 30 days, they are deleted. It's a good habit to remember to check this folder on a regular basis. Sometimes, important emails are accidentally identified as spam and routed to this folder. Select a message, then click the Not Junk button to move this and subsequent emails from that sender to your inbox.

Disable automatic image loading

Mac 101 dealing with iCloud email spam

Besides not opening suspicious emails, you should also disable automatic image loading in emails. I know that it's great to be able to view your cousin's cute cat pictures as soon as you click on an email, but some spammers will use this automatic image loading feature to determine whether an email account is active. You can turn off images in the OS X Mail app by selecting Mail > Preferences > Viewing (icon) and deselecting "Display remote images in HTML messages." Don't worry, this won't strip the images from your incoming emails. You will just have to manually choose to load the images instead.

Use an alias email address

Signing up for a new online service or joining a new online mailing list is another surefire way to get additional spam. To keep your primary iCloud email in pristine condition, you should use your primary account to email only your close friends and create an alias email account for all your online ventures.

Users are allowed to create three email aliases per iCloud account. To create an alias, you should open the web-based version of iCloud email by logging in to iCloud.com. Open iCloud email and click on the gear-shaped Action pop-up menu in the top-right corner of the window. Click on Accounts to open the account management console and then select "Add an Alias."

Mac 101 dealing with iCloud email spam

You will have to create a new iCloud email address that includes between three and 20 characters. You can also add in your full name, assign a label color and add a description like "online shopping" for this alias.

Once you create a alias, you can send and receive email from the account. You can also disable it when you don't want to use it for a while and turn it back on when you do. When an alias is disabled, all incoming email is returned to sender. You can also delete an alias, but deleting an alias is permanent. If you think you may use the alias again, you should simply turn it off.

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