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The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Services › Anti-Spam › Avoiding Spam

See also:

Email spam

It is better to protect yourself from becoming the target of spam than deal with it later. Once your address is on a spammer’s mailing list it can be difficult to get it removed. Here are some tips to avoid spam:

Safeguard your email address when online

Use an email address that cannot be easily ‘guessed’ by software that spammers use to automatically generate addresses. Ask your friends not to add you to their address books.

Give your email address to people and organisations you know and trust. If you must give your email address to an unknown organisation look for options, such as tick boxes, that state you won’t be sent further offers or information.

Use a separate email address for posting to newsgroups, bulletin boards and for performing online transactions that may involve your address being passed on to a third party. Keeping a personal ‘friends and family’ address can help sort and prioritise your email.

Don’t open emails that seem to be from a dubious source, and don’t open email attachments you weren’t expecting.

Safeguard your email address when posting on a website

If you want to include your contact details on a website, but don’t want to be flooded with spam, you have several options:

List a non-personal email address, such as These email addresses can generally be set up as a separate inbox which can be accessed by more than one person. If they do become a target of spam purging the inbox is not the burden of one person.

Use a web-based form for site visitors. When a visitor submits the form you’ll get an email, and can reply as if the person had emailed you directly. These forms defeat spammers’ automated mailing systems.

Write your email address so it is harder to harvest. Possible ways to do this include posting it as an image rather than text, or omitting the @ symbol. Instead of ‘’ write ‘my-name (at) example (dot) com’. Some organisations describe the format of their email addresses (i.e. at the Department of Internal Affairs our email addresses follow the form:').

Don’t respond to unsolicited mail from an unrecognised source

If you receive mail from an unrecognised source don't reply, just delete it.

Even if the email contains instructions for ‘unsubscribing’, responding usually serves only to inform the sender that your email address is active, and you are likely to receive more spam as a result.

Use a filter

A filter is a piece of software that sorts incoming emails and blocks those it thinks are spam. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is likely to be running filtering software, or you can buy the software from your computer store.

Free spam filtering software is available over the Internet. In addition, most web email services (such as Hotmail, Yahoo etc.) include the ability to filter out spam. Check your email service / ISP to find out how to configure this feature.

Filtering is very useful, but it’s not perfect. Sometimes filters may let spam slip through, or mistakenly block a genuine message. Adjusting the filter settings helps minimise these risks. Check with your ISP or computer store to find out how to adjust your filter settings.

You can also choose to direct your spam into a ‘spam folder’, rather than automatically blocking it, so you can regularly scan for genuine messages that your filter may have mistakenly identified as spam.

Check terms and conditions

Check terms and conditions, privacy and consent policies before disclosing personal information. Also check that organisations commit to not passing your information on to other parties. Read the fine print on competition entries so you know what you are agreeing to.

The office of the Privacy Commissioner gives advice on protecting your privacy:

Mobile phone spam

Mobile phone spam can be particularly annoying and also expensive. Be cautious when giving out your mobile phone number - you could be sent commercial messages as a result.

Be especially careful when signing up to enter competitions, receive subscription or ‘chat’ services such as ring-tones, jokes, wallpaper, horoscopes and text flirting. Often you will pay to actually receive these messages, rather than paying to send them, as with normal SMS (this pay-to-receive system is known as ‘reverse billing’ or ‘mobile terminated billing’).

If you sign up for these reverse-billed mobile services, make sure you read the terms and conditions and know how to unsubscribe. Check the website or advertisement for details of how to do this. You should be able to send the word 'stop', 'unsubscribe' or a similar command to discontinue the service.

In addition, carefully check your contract with your network provider. The contract may include a clause allowing your network provider to send you promotional texts.