ITS Help Desk - Learn about junk email and phishing

This article summarizes different types of junk email and how to keep your account safe.

What do I do if  I think I responded to a scam or if my account was compromised?

Here are some tips if you suspect that you've responded to a scam email with your personal information:  
  • Change your password on any accounts that you think might be compromised. This includes any accounts that are linked to the compromised account (e.g. if your banking information comes to your email address). If the account in question is your SIUE e-ID,  you have the following options:

    • Use your last working password to obtain a new password (go to and choose the option "I know what my password is and I want to change it").
    • Use the secret phrase associated with your account to obtain a new password (go to and choose the option "I have an e-ID but forgot my password").
    • Contact the ITS Help Desk and we will assist you in resetting your account.

  • If you think they may have had access to your financial information you may want to place an alert with any one of the three major credit bureaus. They will flag your account to help protect you from identity theft. You also may want to contact your bank directly so they can watch for any unusual activity.
  • If you downloaded or ran anything questionable you may want to scan your computer for viruses and malware.  The ITS Help Desk can help you if you haven't done this before.

Types of junk email

Junk Email

Junk email, also known as spam, is unsolicited email, usually commercial. It can strain networks, clog email servers, and fill mailboxes with unwanted and possibly offensive messages and images. Most of it is annoying but harmless. Most junk email will be blocked by the email server that hosts your account.


Phishing is a specific kind of junk email that's used to obtain private information for use in identity theft and other scams. The email message appears to come from a trusted source, such as your bank, and often includes the actual business logo and an apparently legitimate reply address.

For more information about how to identify phishing email messages and how to protect yourself from them, see Email and web scams: How to help protect yourself.


"Graymail" is generally characterized by newsletters, sales pitches, and stuff trying to pass as legitimate marketing. It's a result of your address(es) getting on marketing lists, and then being sold to other email marketers. These messages are particularly difficult to get classified as spam because they are usually being sent on behalf of otherwise legitimate companies (for varying degrees of "legitimate"), and there are many recipients who consider the messages completely legitimate.


'Backscatter' is the name given to bounceback messages generated when a spammer uses your mail address in the 'From:' line of their messages. This does not mean they have access to your account, however, if you feel your account has been compromised, please change your password. If the spammer's message can't be delivered for any reason, the receiving host will send back a bounce or non-delivery report to the address in the 'From:' line.

Backscatter messages takes several forms:

  • DSN (Delivery Status Notification) advising that the message cannot be delivered - or that delivery is delayed.
  • Auto-replies - often advising that the mailbox is no longer in use due to spam or that the recipient is on vacation.
  • Challenge/response requesting that you confirm you sent the message.

If a spammer sends a large number of messages, you may receive literally hundreds or thousands of 'backscatter' messages.


When a spammer uses your address as the "From" address, but they are not sending from your account, this is called 'Spoofing.' This means that they are just using your address so it appears that you sent the message, though the header information will often display the true sending address. For more information about 'Spoofing', please review this article:

Important: There is not a way to stop 'Backscatter' or 'Spoofing' from occurring. However, spammers will eventually switch addresses, not out of respect for you, but simply because if they use the same address or domain for too long, spam filters will eventually start blocking it.

What can I do with messages in my "Junk Email" folder?

When you receive a message that might be junk email, it will be moved to your Junk Email folder. You can treat messages in your Junk Email folder like any other message.

Legitimate spam

There are a couple of options for dealing with legitimate spam in your "Junk Email" folder:

  • Do nothing: Messages will automatically be deleted after 30 days.
  • Delete: Like any other message, you can delete it. Deleted messages will go into your "Deleted Items" folder.

Misidentified spam message

If a message in your Junk Email folder is one that you want to keep, you will be able to mark the item as not junk and the item will be moved to your inbox.

  • Outlook on the web: Right click the item in your Junk folder you would like to keep and click Mark as not junk.
  • Outlook Desktop Clients: Select an item in your Junk folder and from the ribbon click Junk and click Mark as Not Junk or Not Junk depending on the version of Outlook.

How can I prevent getting spam and/or graymail?

The only way to not get spam is to make sure that spammers do not know your e-mail address or make them think that your account is not being read. There are many ways that you can try to limit the amount of spam you receive.

  1. Unsubscribe from the mailing list if the organization is reputable (you should be able to tell from their web site if they have one). Have you ever filled out one of those web forms and forget to check whether the "Send me Info" box was checked or unchecked? It's usually set on by default.
  2. Don't reply to spam messages and don't click the link that says "unsubscribe" if company is not reputable. Spammers often use this to verify that your address is valid. They rarely remove your address from their mailing list; or if they do, then they may just put you on another list.
  3. Obtain a "throwaway" e-mail address. Use this address if you have to enter your email address in an form online. Check the account periodically to make sure that no legitimate messages get sent to that address. Options include Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.
  4. Read web site privacy policies before submitting personal information. This will help you determine if the company is reputable enough to handle your private information. If you determine that the company may abuse this information, give them your "throwaway" address instead.
  5. Don't put your email address on a web page. Spammers use "spider" programs to scour the internet looking for email addresses. If you absolutely have to publish your real email address on a web page there are some ways to hide your address so that people can read it, but spider programs can't. Look up these tactics with your favorite search engine.
  6. Create custom rules If you can reliably detect a specific pattern or content within these messages, you can try creating a unique inbox rule to automatically detect and filter these messages. If you need assistance with this, you can contact the ITS Help Desk.
  7. Create a block filter Mail identified as possible junk email can be automatically moved to the Junk Email folder. Learn more.

What else do I need to know?

  • You can also use the junk email settings options to manage your junk mail: go to Settings OWA_settings_icon | Options | MAIL | Accounts | Block or allow. You can add multiple email addresses to the Blocked Senders or Safe Senders and Recipients lists. You may also block or allow mail from an entire domain by adding it to either list. For example, to trust/allow email from anyone who has an address, add to the Safe Senders and Recipients list.
    • Note: When several hundred email addresses have been added to your Blocked Senders list, blocking of messages may become inconsistent. If more than 500 addresses have been added to your Blocked Senders list, mail blocking will no longer work. You will need to remove blocked addresses from the list to bring it below 500 addresses for mail from blocked senders to be properly routed to your Junk Mail folder instead of your Inbox.
  • You can also move a message from the Junk Email folder to another folder by dragging it from the Junk Email folder to any other folder.
  • If you right-click the Junk Email folder and click Empty, the contents of the Junk Email folder will be moved to the Deleted Items folder.
  • If you are forwarding your account:
    • To another Office 365 account: The spam message will be forwarded.
    • To an account outside of Office 365: The spam message will be quarantined.

Keywordsmicrosoft office o365 web client outlook web app help calendaring overview messages categories flags color reminding arranging filtering junk email phishing spam owa whitelisting block senders safe inbox rules filters client 2010 2013 mac windows graymail backscatter scam scammer compromised   Doc ID63097
OwnerJeff P.GroupSouthern Illinois University Edwardsville
Created2016-05-02 15:31:18Updated2023-02-02 12:42:11
SitesSouthern Illinois University Edwardsville
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