5 ways to stop spam in Apple Mail and avoid junk in your inbox

Ban the spam and keep your inbox clear on the Apple Mac

Illustration of a person emailing on a laptop computer

Junk mail has been around forever and it is not going away anytime soon. However, there are steps you can take to minimize it and deal with it. Here are five things to do in Apple Mail.

Spam in our email inboxes is not as bad as it used to be. If you think it is bad today, you probably were not using email in the early 2000s. Back then I remember getting over 1,000 junk messages a day in one email account I had.

Some email providers have automatic spam filters that remove much of the spam that circulates the internet, but still some messages get through. It depends on the email provider, so you may see a lot or little spam. If you are seeing junk messages in your inbox and you use the Mail app on the Apple Mac, here are some tips for cleaning up the junk.

1 Unsubscribe from newsletters

We often subscribe to email newsletters and later decide that we don’t want them, don’t have time to read them, or they just are not relevant to us. Sometimes we sign up for newsletters by accident and you should have to opt in, but sometimes the opt-in box is automatically ticked and we don’t notice.

Newsletters are not junk or spam simply because you do not like them. If you don’t want them, then unsubscribe. All newsletters should have an unsubscribe link at the bottom of each email message (real spam does not). It is often in a very small font and sometimes the sender makes it hard to see.

If an email has an unsubscribe link, then click it. The best ones just unsubscribe you straight away, but some ask are you sure? Then remove you. Never enter any information at the destination page. On nearly every occasion where I have clicked an unsubscribe link, it has worked, although it may take a few days, which may be due to newsletters being queued for sending.

2 Block senders

Although spam filters are good, they are not as good as blocking a sender. No matter what is in an email, a blocked sender’s message will not appear in your inbox. It is 100% effective.

The downside is that you can’t block every spammer on the internet because there are just too many. However, it might be worth blocking the worst offenders and any that are somehow bypassing spam filters.

Stop spam by adding senders to a blocked list

To block a sender, open the email, click the down arrow next to their name and then select Block Contact. They are added to a blocked senders list that can be accessed at Mail > Preferences, Junk Mail > Blocked.

The blocker senders list in the Mac Mail app

Enable blocked mail filtering with the checkbox at the top and choose what you want to do with a blocked email. Move it to the Bin seems the best option, why block it and leave it in the inbox? If you change your mind about a blocked sender, select them in the list and click the minus button at the bottom to unblock them.

3 Sort incoming emails with rules

Rules can be automatically applied to incoming emails that perform actions on them. For example, if an email contains a particular word in the subject or body, it can be moved from the inbox to another folder or the Bin.

Spam filters keep most junk mail out of the inbox, but it can be helpful to create a few rules to deal with emails that get through spam filters. Rules can be used to block whole domains, so that anyone from somewhere.com is blocked, no matter what email address they use.

Create an email rule in the Mail app on the Apple Mac

Open Mail > Preferences > Rules and then click Add Rule. Enter a description like Junk Sender, and then use the conditions and actions to identify junk mail and deal with it.

An example of a condition is where From contains junkmailsender.com and the action could be Move Message to mailbox All Junk. No emails from that domain will appear in your inbox.

4 Enable junk filters

Go to Mail > Preferences > Junk Mail > Junk Mail Behaviours to set up many configuration options for dealing with spam and junk in your inbox. Enable junk mail filtering at the top.

Junk mail filters in the Apple Mail app

When junk mail arrives, it can be left in your inbox but marked as junk, but why clutter up your inbox? Select Move it to the Junk mailbox. It is useful to check what is in the Junk mailbox occasionally, like once a week, just in case the system mistakes a real email for spam.

There are some exceptions to junk, such as if the sender is in your contacts or it is addressed to your full name. Most spam does not have your name in and they certainly won’t be contacts.

The checkbox at the bottom needs your attention. Should the spam filter deal with junk mail before or after your email rules are applied? It is possible that the junk mail filter could mistake an email for spam and remove it before a rule you created could move it to a special folder, like Work, Personal, Family or whatever folders you have.

If you find that emails end up in the Junk folder that your rules should have dealt with, clear the checkbox to apply filters after rules instead of before rules.

Advanced options for junk mail in the Apple Mail app

If you choose the Perform custom actions option, the Advanced button at the bottom becomes available. Click it and a list of rules is displayed. They enable you to choose the conditions for detecting spam and the action to be taken. Normally, it is best to let the system handle junk mail, but the options are here if you need them.

5 Where to send junk mail

There are several options when dealing with junk mail and it can be marked and left in the inbox or moved to another folder. We saw the option in the previous section Mail > Preferences > Junk Mail > Movie it to the Junk mailbox.

Where is the Junk mailbox? There can be one or many.

There is a global Junk mailbox and each email account can have its own Junk mailbox. So if you had five email accounts in Apple Mail, you could have five separate Junk mail boxes, one for each account.

This means that you could have to check multiple folders to see if any messages had been classified as spam by mistake. The Junk folder is listed under each account’s folders in the sidebar.

You might find it easier to have just one global Junk folder that contains all junk and then there is just one folder to check.

Choosing where to move junk mail to in the Apple Mac app on the Apple Mac

Go to Mail > Preferences > Accounts. Select an account and then click the Mailbox Behaviours tab. Click Junk Mailbox and select the folder to send junk to, such as All Junk.

The All Junk folder appears in its own section in the sidebar where account folders are listed. You may still see Junk folders under each account, especially if they already have spam messages in, because they will not be deleted. However, new spam is moved to All Junk when that option is set.

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