Understanding Outlook Spam Filters & How They Work

April 18, 2024

Do you want to avoid sifting through endless junk in your email? Understanding Outlook spam filters can transform your inbox from a cluttered mess to an organized command center.

In this blog, we dive deep into the essentials of Outlook spam filters. You'll learn exactly what they are, how they function, and how you can master the art of filtering out unwanted emails

By the end of this read, you'll regain control over your email interactions and ensure that important communications never slip through the cracks. Ready to clean up your inbox and boost your productivity? Let’s get started! 

Outlook spam filters: Problems with spams

The high cost of spam messages for businesses

With billions of emails sent daily around the globe, a small percentage of these are malicious, but even this small fraction can have severe implications.

In 2023, according to DataProt, 347.3 billion legitimate emails circulated, and a startling 2.5% of these were potential threats. These include scams or fraud attempts to deceive employees or harm operations.

Businesses face real financial damage due to these unsolicited messages, with estimated losses of around $20.5 billion annually. These costs come from direct losses like fraudulent transactions and indirect impacts such as decreased productivity, wasted resources on spam management, and compromised business data.

Here’s how spam impacts you and what it could lead to:

• Decreased productivity: Employees spend valuable time sorting through and deleting spam emails, time that could be better spent on productive tasks.

• Increased risk of malware and phishing attacks: Some spam mail contains malware that can infect your network or phishing links that attempt to steal sensitive information.

• A strain on IT resources: Managing and securing email systems against spam overload requires significant IT resources and sophisticated systems, which could strain your budget.

To protect your business, it's crucial to have strong Outlook spam filters and educate your team about the dangers of opening suspicious emails. 

Regularly updating your security protocols and conducting training sessions on identifying and handling potential spam can drastically reduce the risk to your business.

Does it really work?

Do Microsoft Outlook spam filters work? 

Yes, Microsoft Outlook comes equipped with a built-in spam filter, which is crucial for maintaining the cleanliness of your inbox by automatically sorting out unwanted emails.

This feature, known officially as the Junk Email Filter, is adept at identifying suspicious or unsolicited messages and promptly moving them to a designated "Junk" folder.

The Junk Email Filter relies on several criteria to evaluate incoming emails. It checks the sender’s reputation, analyzes the content for typical spam characteristics, and compares the message against known spam signatures. 

This process is quite dynamic, as Outlook spam filters continuously update their filtering criteria based on new spam trends and user feedback.

For instance, if you consistently mark emails from a particular sender as not junk, Outlook adjusts accordingly and allows future messages from that sender into your inbox. 

Conversely, if you flag an email as junk, Outlook will remember your preference and treat similar future emails with increased suspicion.

Moreover, you have the option to customize the filter’s sensitivity. You can choose from various levels of protection, ranging from low, which allows more mail through but with the risk of letting some spam slip by, to high, which blocks the majority of spam but might mistakenly catch legitimate emails, too. 

This flexibility allows you to tailor the filter according to the specific needs of your business, ensuring you receive all vital communications without being overwhelmed by spam.

How do you activate the junk email filter?

How do you activate the Outlook spam filter? 

Keeping your inbox free from clutter and potential threats starts with activating your Outlook spam filters. Here's how you can easily switch on this essential feature to ensure you're getting all the important emails.

• Step 1 - Open Outlook settings: Start by clicking the gear icon in the upper right corner of your Outlook screen to open your settings menu.

• Step 2 - Navigate to 'View all Outlook settings': At the bottom of the pane, find and click "View all Outlook settings."

• Step 3 - Select 'Mail' then 'Junk email': In the settings window, click "Mail" to expand your mail settings options, then select "Junk email."

• Step 4 - Adjust your junk email preferences: Here, you’ll find options to block or allow specific senders and domains. You can also set the protection level of the Outlook spam filter. If you're dealing with spam, consider setting it to "High" to be more restrictive.

• Step 5- Save your settings: Don’t forget to hit "Save" at the top of the page to apply your changes.

Make sure you review and adjust these settings periodically as your needs and email interactions evolve.

How do you prevent your important emails to get deleted by filters?

How to ensure the filter spam doesn't delete your legitimate emails

When you rely on email for business communications, your Outlook spam filters mustn’t mistakenly delete important messages. Here’s how to adjust your settings to keep crucial emails in your inbox and out of the junk folder.

Step 1: Mark as safe from junk mail filter

Directly tell Outlook which emails are essential:

Open an email you trust.

Right-click the sender’s name.

Select "Junk" then "Never Block Sender" or "Never Block Sender’s Domain" to ensure all future emails from this sender or domain go straight to your inbox.

Step 2: Create a safe and blocked senders list

This list tells Outlook to allow emails from specified addresses and gives you a safe senders list: 

Go to the settings menu by clicking the gear icon.

Choose “View all Outlook settings.”

Click “Mail,” then “Junk email.”

Under "Safe senders and domains," click “Add” and enter the email addresses you trust.

Step 3: Check your junk folder regularly

Sometimes, emails slip even with Outlook spam filters. Regular checks can prevent missing something important:

Visit your junk email folder.

Look through the emails and right-click any that aren’t junk.

Select “Not junk” to move them back to the inbox.

Step 4: Adjust the filter list level on your spam folder

If you find too many false positives:

In the same junk email settings, you can adjust the filtering level.

Lowering the filter’s aggressiveness might reduce the chances of essential emails being marked as spam.

Step 5: Create email rules vs spam emails

For more control, use rules to direct emails:

Back in Outlook settings, select “Mail” then “Rules.”

Create a new rule that includes specific words in the subject or from certain senders to ensure these emails stay in your inbox.

Can you stop all junk emails?

Can you completely stop junk email? 

You might wonder if it’s feasible to achieve an entirely spam-free inbox. While completely blocking all spam emails is challenging due to the sophisticated tactics of spammers, significant strides can be made toward minimizing unwanted messages.

Enhancing your email filter vs spam in Outlook

• Upgrade your Outlook spam filters: Start by enhancing the Outlook spam filters you currently use. Most email services, including Outlook, offer customizable settings that can be adjusted to increase sensitivity and block more spam.

• Use third-party anti-spam tools: These tools provide an additional layer of defense by using advanced algorithms to detect and quarantine spam.

Educating your team about the Outlook junk email filter

• Regular training: Conduct regular sessions to educate your team on spotting and handling potential spam. Knowing what to look for can prevent spam from ever reaching your inbox.

• Best email practices: Teach employees about safe email practices, such as not subscribing to unverified services or using their work email on public platforms.

Implementing advanced IT protocols to filter junk email and spam

• Email authentication methods: Implement protocols like SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail). These help verify incoming emails and ensure that spammers can’t spoof emails from your domain.

• Regularly update security software: Keeping your security measures up-to-date is crucial in combating new spam tactics that evolve continuously.

Maintaining vigilance on junk email filter lists

• Monitor and adjust regularly: Even the best settings and tools need regular updates and adjustments based on the types of spam that are getting through.

• Feedback loop: Encourage team members to report spam that slips through. Use this feedback to fine-tune your filters and settings.

While you might not achieve a 100% spam-free inbox, these steps can drastically reduce the volume of unwanted emails. 

More importantly, they protect your business from the security risks associated with spam. With diligent application of these strategies, you can maintain a cleaner, more secure email environment.

Why choose Sterling Technology?

Enhance your cybersecurity with Sterling Technology

Understanding the full benefits of Outlook spam filters can significantly improve your business's cybersecurity measures.

At Sterling Technology, we specialize in leveraging these features and customizing them to fit your unique needs. As a dedicated IT service provider since 2003, we know the ins and outs of email security and are poised to help you strengthen your defenses against ever-evolving cyber threats.

Sterling Technology stands out with its Level 3 Engineer support, ensuring that any issue you encounter is handled swiftly and efficiently. Our commitment to exceeding customer expectations is backed by a history of clear, personable communication and a proactive approach to technology management.

With services ranging from IT security to cloud services and beyond, our team is equipped to provide comprehensive tech solutions that protect and enhance your business operations.

Contact us now!

Strengthen your level of junk email protection; contact us now! 

Ready to take your cybersecurity to the next level? Contact us at (704) 271-5001 or visit our website at Sterling Technology to learn more about how we can tailor our IT services to your company’s needs.

Frequently asked questions

How can you manage email and spam in Outlook more effectively?

To manage email and spam in Outlook more efficiently, you should adjust your spam filter settings regularly. This ensures that your Outlook inbox remains organized and free from unwanted junk messages. Review the junk email options frequently to keep your settings optimal.

What steps should you take to optimize your Outlook spam folder?

To optimize your Outlook spam folder, ensure that emails from specific countries or specific email addresses are not automatically moved to the junk. Adjust your settings so that only emails classified as junk or considered spam are moved to the junk email folder.

How do you use the safe senders list in Outlook to stop spam emails?

Using the safe senders list in Outlook helps to stop spam emails by ensuring that emails from trusted email addresses or domain names are never treated as junk. This list prevents important communications from being mistakenly moved to the junk folder.

What are the benefits of using Outlook on the web for email management?

Outlook on the web provides enhanced flexibility for managing your email settings on the go. It allows you to adjust filter settings quickly and to set specific email addresses or domain names to be moved to the junk email directly from your browser.

How can you prevent emails from being automatically moved to the junk folder in Outlook?

To prevent emails from being automatically moved to the junk folder in Outlook, adjust your spam filter settings to a less aggressive mode. This can be set to no automatic filtering, which helps reduce the number of legitimate emails automatically classified as junk.

What should you do if legitimate emails are moved to the junk email in Outlook?

If legitimate emails are moved to the junk email in Outlook, review and adjust your junk email options to include the email addresses and domain names of trusted senders. This adjustment ensures that these emails remain in your Outlook inbox.

How do you customize Microsoft 365 to manage Outlook’s spam filter effectively?

Customize Microsoft 365 to manage Outlook spam filters by using Microsoft support resources to understand the latest spam filter settings available in the new Outlook for Windows. Regularly update your version of Outlook to ensure you have access to the most advanced tools for managing junk messages and automatic junk filters.