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Mark Spam to Avoid Phishing through Unsubscribe Link

Unsubscribe link in an email could be used for stealing information from unsuspecting users.
Samyak Lalit | December 23, 2013 (Last update: September 23, 2017)

Samyak Lalit is an Indian author and disability rights activist. He is the principal author and founder of projects like TechWelkin, WeCapable, Viklangta, Kavita Kosh among many others.

We all hate email spam. But we all get it anyway! In my honest opinion, Gmail’s spam filter has made the life much easier for me. Gmail is probably deploying the best spam filter out there. Moreover, if you mark and email as spam, Gmail also automatically tries to unsubscribe you from the mailing list.

I strongly recommend that if you don’t like receiving an email, don’t use unsubscribe link/button given in the email. You should mark any email as spam which is unwelcome and bothering you. Besides being used for the stated purpose, the unsubscribe link is also being used for malicious purposes, so it is better to avoid clicking on it.

First of all, if any unwanted email does not contain an unsubscribe link –you should know that the email did not originate from a responsible source. All the responsible bulk senders are required to give an unsubscribe link (typically at the bottom of the email). But even if the unsubscribe link is present, not all of them are good links.

Your clicking on unsubscribe usually takes you to a new web page. This web page, in the very least, is used by email marketers to record the fact that you indeed opened the email sent by them.

Unsubscribe Link As a Tool for Phishing

Then there are folks who ask you to enter your email ID before unsubscribing you. This is not also done in good faith. They don’t need to ask you to enter your email ID because they already know your email ID!

People with even more malicious intent will ask you to “login” before proceeding to unsubscription. They can record the information that you enter in their disguised form. Such a trick for stealing information is called Phishing.

Unsubscribe link in an email could be used for stealing information from unsuspecting users.

Unsubscribe link in an email could be used for stealing information from unsuspecting users.

You MUST NOT enter anything in a so called “unsubscribe form”.

You should also try to match the target of the unsubscribe link given in the email. I have published an article on how to know target of a link without clicking it. Read this article to know how to go about it. If the email’s originating domain and the domain given in the unsubscription link don’t match –you better be more cautious before clicking that link.

My Advice

As I said in the beginning, just mark any unwanted email as spam. This is the easiest and most secure way of getting rid of spam emails. But if you really want to click the unsubscribe link given in the email, make sure that you don’t enter any information on the unsubscribe page. The email sender already knows all the information needed to unsubscribe you. Ideally a click on unsubscribe link should take you to a page which simply displays a success message (e.g. “You’ve been successfully unsubscribed”)

Be cautious and be safe! Keep reading TechWelkin to stay updated on such important information.


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