What to do with Suspicious Email?

One of the most common questions we get from clients: “Is this email legitimate? What should I do with suspicious email in my inbox?”

The answer to “Is this email legitimate?” is almost always “No.” With rare exceptions, if you’re wondering if something is wrong with a message then there probably is.  Your instincts are normally correct.

The statistics on emails transmitted across the internet boggle the imagination. The average US worker reads 120 messages and sends 40 email messages every day from their primary account. Around a half of the 7.5 billion people on earth have email accounts, with most users averaging 2 accounts. Of the 280 billion messages sent worldwide every day, somewhere around 50% of them contain unsolicited spam, malware, viruses, or phishing attempts.

The major email providers like Google and Microsoft have to route and store trillions of messages a year. As a result, they have become very good at eliminating the vast majority of unwanted and malicious messaging before they reach your inbox, or even your “Junk Email” folder. Both Microsoft and Google tout their automatic protection against over 99% of spam and malware messages.

Unfortunately, a lot of money can still be made in the spam/malware business for those creative enough to get their messages through the automatic filters, and so all of us continue to receive unwanted messages.

So what should you do with suspicious or unwanted email?

There are times when it makes sense to manually blacklist a nuisance domain or sender, and if Howard Tech is managing your email connections, we can do that for you. But the most effective way of dealing with the few messages that come in is to report them directly to the Spam Filter teams of your email host.

For email hosted though Microsoft’s Office 365 servers, this is easily accomplished by using the “Report Message” button in the Outlook toolbar (See screenshot on right).


If you receive a spam message, you can highlight the message and click on “Report Message” and say whether it is Junk, Phishing, or Not Junk. (Junk is just unsolicited email, usually trying to sell you something. Phishing messages use false premises to get you to give up personal data). In addition to moving these Junk/Phishing messages to your Junk folder, the “Report Message” button will also report the message back to Microsoft so that their filters can learn and help improve the experience for all Office 365 customers. If you see a legitimate message that has been filtered into your Junk Email folder, you can select that message and hit Report Message -> Not Junk.

If you don’t have the “Report Message” button available in Outlook, then you may need to install this Microsoft Add-in.

Click on the “Get Add-ins” button, and when that dialogue launches, search for “Report Message” and then click “Add” to install it.

Making use of this tool from Microsoft will help their filters continue to improve, and keep your inbox clear of even more bad email.



At Howard Tech Advisors, we manage your IT infrastructure so that you don’t have to. Whether you need assistance creating a disaster recovery plan or you’d like to outsource your IT needs, we can help! Keep up with our weekly blog to stay up-to-date on the latest tech trends, security information you need to know to stay safe online, and tips and tricks to effectively navigating an increasingly mobile world.

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