Recognizing and reporting spam

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Learn how to distinguish spam from legitimate emails, texts and social media messages, and what to do about spam if you receive it.

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What is spam?

The simplest definition of spam is unsolicited email, though spam can also include unsolicited text messages and software.

The legal definition of spam also encompasses:

Spam includes malware, spyware and false or misleading representations involving the use of any means of telecommunications, short message services (SMS), social networking, websites, URLs and other locators, applications, blogs, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and any other current or future Internet and wireless telecommunication threats prohibited by Canada's anti-spam legislation.

A lot of spam is sent by botnets, which makes it hard to track down the source. Botnets are collections of internet-connected devices that are infected and controlled by malware. They can be PCs, servers, mobile devices and Internet-of-things devices.

Spam: Nuisance or threat?

Spam can range from being a nuisance to a significant threat.

If you voluntarily give a retailer your email address (such as by placing an online order), they may have permission to send you email. However, commercial electronic messages from legitimate businesses may still contravene Canada's anti-spam legislation (CASL) if they are sent without your express or implied consent, if the sender has not properly identified themselves and included contact information, or if there is no unsubscribe mechanism. Even though unsolicited texts, emails or other forms of commercial electronic messages sent by legitimate companies are more of a nuisance than a threat, they're still spam if they contravene CASL.

Some spam may be connected to scams and other devious activities by illegitimate businesses or individuals. For example, spammers may find your email address through social networking sites, company websites or personal blogs. They can "phish" for your information by tricking you into following links or tempting you with offers and promotions that seem too good to be true. Spam can also contain malware, scams, fraud and privacy threats. This type of spam presents a more direct threat to your privacy and the security of your information.

Worried it's spam? 8 things to look for

Spam has a number of typical hallmarks. It's probably spam if:

For more tips about how to recognize different types of spam, see Internet threats associated with spam.

Got spam…. Now what?

If you think you've received spam:

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