The "unsubscribe" button seems like a pretty surefire way to stop unwanted emails from clogging up your inbox. However, clicking this seemingly innocuous button could come with a risk. Surprisingly, it actually isn't safe to unsubscribe from spam emails this way — in fact, some scammers rely on your click to access even more of your information.
According to Rick's Daily Tips, a blog run by an A+ certified computer tech, you shouldn't click the unsubscribe button in any questionable spam emails. As the blog outlines, doing this can have multiple negative consequences. For one, it can confirm that your email address is indeed valid, which will likely prompt a spammer to continue contacting you, at the very least, the website says. Furthermore, clicking the unsubscribe button in a spam email can also sometimes result in you being linked to spam websites, including ones that can download viruses to your computer or encourage you to participate in some type of fraudulent online activity, the blog emphasizes.
Total Defense, a cybersecurity company, agrees with this assessment. Unsubscribe buttons can " ... be used against you by spammers," the company noted on its website. "Clicking one of these buttons confirms your account is in active use and in some cases redirects to you a compromised webpage," it continued.
Instead of clicking unsubscribe, both Total Defense and Rick's Daily Tips agree that you should simply just mark the message as spam in your inbox instead. This should cut down or eliminate the messages you get from that address — and also help you clean out your email inbox. If this does't work, you can also try setting up a filter to automatically remove similar spam emails as opposed to clicking unsubscribe.
That being said, if you want to unsubscribe from an email list that you know is from a legitimate company, it's usually okay to click the unsubscribe link, McAfee, a computer security software company, says. Just make sure that when you hover over the unsubscribe link, it goes to a web address that's associated with the company or person who sent you the email.
AARP also says in an online bulletin that you should feel confident clicking an unsubscribe button if it's designated as being run by a service called "SafeUnsubscribe." As the organization indicated, SafeUnsubscribe is a "reputable service provided by a firm called Constant Contact, which more than 500,000 businesses and organizations pay to remove recipients from mailing lists." Emails from companies using the SafeUnsubscribe feature typically have a trademarked "SafeUnsubscribe" link at the bottom of their messages.
So, there are certain instances where it's safe to hit the unsubscribe button — but definitely not always. If you do happen to accidentally click unsubscribe in a spam email, don't fret. Instead, Rick's Daily Tips recommends you take two key steps. First, be sure to mark the email as spam or junk. Then, run a malware scan on your computer. PC users can reference this helpful malware scan guide from Rick's Daily Tips, while Mac users can use this MacWorld article on removing computer viruses to help guide them through the process.
Notably, after the passage of the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003, it actually became illegal for for companies to send people commercial emails without providing a way for them to easily opt-out of future messages. While scammers typically aren't legitimate companies, you can still certainly file a complaint about spam messages with the Federal Trade Commission. In fact, the FTC's Complaint Assistant even has a specific website section dedicated to spam emails. So, if you're encountering lots of these types of messages in your inbox, don't hesitate to take action.