Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Protect Your Email Address

Internet users have many options to reduce the amount of unwanted commercial email filling up their mailboxes. Following these recommendations should reduce the amount of unwanted spam you receive:

  • Avoid displaying your email address in public – If it is not required, do not provide your email address when filling out Web registration forms, surveys, etc. If you must provide your email address, look for a box that asks if it is okay to send you offers or information. Make sure you say "no."
  • Contact your Internet Service Provider. Authorize it to disclose that you have a Washington email address. Encourage your ISP to provide this disclosure service if they don't have it
  • Protect your address from list members. If you subscribe to a list, ask the list administrator to shield you from outside email commands that allow a third party to view names on the list.
  • Avoid posting your email address on social media sites, sales sites and other Internet sites. Spammers often send scavenger bots (programs that "harvest" email addresses) to these sites.
  • Don’t list your email address directly on a Web page, even your own. Use an alias or a secondary account that you can delete later if necessary.
  • Use an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that offers spam filtering.
  • Check the privacy policy when you submit your address to a website – See if it allows the company to sell your address. You may want to opt out of this provision, if possible, or not submit your address at all to websites that won't protect it.
  • Read and understand the entire form before you transmit personal information through a website. Some websites allow you to opt out of receiving email from their "partners" – but you may have to uncheck a pre-selected box if you want to opt out.
  • Decide if you want to use two email addresses, one for personal messages and one for retail or commercial email. You also might consider using a disposable email address service that creates a separate email address that forwards to your permanent account. If one of the disposable addresses begins to receive spam, you can shut it off without affecting your permanent address.
  • Use a unique email address. Your choice of addresses may affect the amount of spam you receive. Spammers use "dictionary attacks" to sort through possible name combinations at large ISPs or email services, hoping to find a valid address. Thus, a common name such as jdoe may get more spam than a more unique name like jd51x02oe. Of course, there is a downside: it's harder to remember an unusual email address.
  • Use an email filter. Check your email account to see if it provides a tool to filter out potential spam or a way to channel spam into a bulk email folder. You might want to consider these options when you're choosing which ISP to use. In addition, you and your family may wish to consider purchasing commercial software that filters out many spam messages or offensive materials.

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File a Complaint with the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission is the appropriate government agency for filing complaints concerning junk email.  Click here, to be directed to the Commission's various resources on spam.  You can automatically be routed to the FTC's online complaint form by following the link below.   

File A Complaint with the FTC

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