Is there a “spam folder” that contains the spam I’ve received?

Some email companies give their customers a “spam folder” — a place where the company puts all incoming mail that they think might be spam.

While a spam folder seems like a good idea, our experience suggests they can cause more problems than they solve. We don’t use them by default (but see below for a way you change that).

On this page:

Why we avoid spam folders

The theory of a “spam folder” is that it saves you time by putting unwanted mail in a separate place where you don’t usually look at it. (If you were looking at this separate place all the time, the mail might just as well be in your Inbox.)

But that causes a new problem: if you’re not routinely looking at your spam folder, it’s easy for a real message to disappear into a “black hole”, with neither the sender nor the recipient knowing that it wasn’t read. This is especially true when companies shovel any “borderline” mail into the spam folder, as many do.

Because of this problem, we do things differently by default. We want to make sure that someone always sees a message right away:

  • If we don’t reject a message, we’ll always put it in your Inbox where you’ll see it.
  • If we think a message is “spam”, we’ll reject it outright, returning it to the sender instead of accepting and filing it somewhere that you don’t usually look at. The sender will immediately know it didn't reach you and can try to contact you another way.

This probably seems alarming if you’ve used a company that frequently puts legitimate-but-slightly-spammy mail into a spam folder. If we rejected the same kind of borderline mail, we’d be constantly returning real mail to senders.

However, our spam filters try to be much more careful than most filters, taking extra steps to avoid “false positives” like this. As one example, our spam filtering never blocks messages from any address that you’ve written to, making sure that we never block a reply someone sends even if the message would look like “spam” to most filtering systems.

As a result, this problem should never happen with legitimate mail. We never consider “false positives” acceptable, and we receive fewer than one report of this happening per million email messages we block. If you do hear of it happening to you, please let us know immediately so we can investigate it.

What if I want to use a spam folder anyway?

If you do want to receive and file mail that we would normally reject as spam, or mail that we would normally deliver because it’s “borderline”, you can easily do that, with more flexibility than most companies offer.

First, set the spam filtering level in the “E-mail Options” of our “My Account” control panel to “Low”. This prevents our filters from outright rejecting most messages we believe to be spam. (We don’t recommend that you set it to “Off” unless you knowingly want to receive thousands of messages that are absolutely, definitely spam).

Then use Webmail to create a rule that files suspicious messages into a “Spam” folder. Although you create the spam filtering rule within Webmail, the rule will affect all mail delivered in the future, even if you use a different IMAP mail program or device to read the mail instead of Webmail.

First of all, create a folder called something like "Spam" if you haven't already done so:

  1. In Webmail, click Settings at the top
  2. Click Email Account in the left column
  3. Click the Manage Folders tab
  4. Create a folder named “Spam”

Then add a filtering rule:

  1. Click Settings at the top
  2. Click Email Account in the left column
  3. Click the Filters tab
  4. Click Add Filter
  5. Create a rule where the “X-Spam-Level” header contains ******* (that is, seven asterisks). It should look like this:
screen shot

After you create the rule, click Save.

This rule will make our mail servers examine any new messages to see if they have a SpamAssassin score of 7 or more (because those messages have seven or more asterisks in a "X-Spam-Level" header). If you want to make it more sensitive and treat more messages as spam, you could use fewer asterisks in the rule (but that may lead to more "false positives").