The ACMA

e-security

Spam

Spam FAQ

Questions about unwanted emails

Questions about unwanted SMS and MMS

Questions about unsubscribing

Making complaints

Other common questions


How can I stop receiving spam in my email inbox?

In the first instance, speak to your internet service provider (ISP) about arranging a spam filtering service with your internet connection. Many ISPs in Australia are able to stop most spam emails from reaching your inbox.

If you are using a web-based email address, such as Gmail, Yahoo! or Hotmail, activate the junk or spam email preferences. You can also purchase spam-filtering software for your email account. Visit the Internet Industry Association website for more information.

Other spam-reduction tips:

  • do not disclose your email address and mobile phone number online
  • check the terms and conditions when you purchase products or sign up for services or email newsletters
  • boost your internet security to ensure that spammers can't send spam via your computer.

More information on protecting yourself against spam is available.

I've received an email message I think is spam. What can I do?

Some spam messages are sent by professional spammers, while others are sent by legitimate businesses that may not be complying with Australia's spam laws. If you think you have been spammed, you have a number of options:

  • if you think the message looks suspicious, do not respond to it—just delete it or report it
  • if the message seems genuine, you can contact the business and ask that they stop emailing you, unsubscribe using an unsubscribe link in the email, or make a complaint.

I've unsubscribed from email messages, but they do not stop. What can I do?

If you continue to receive email messages after opting out, keep the messages and make a complaint.

I receive unwanted emails from a registered political party, registered charity, government body or registered educational institution. Is this spam?

Unsolicited emails with commercial content from these types of organisations are called designated commercial electronic messages and are permitted under the Spam Act as long as they meet certain requirements. The message must contain the name, logo and contact details of the sender and an unsubscribe facility.

Why does an email look like it comes from my email address?

If you are receiving returned emails that look as if they've been sent by you, your address or domain name has probably been misused or 'spoofed', by a spammer. In other words the spammer is pretending to be you. For more information on spoofing and what to do to address it, visit protecting yourself online.

How can I spot a scam?

Email and SMS can be used for fraudulent purposes. Scammers may use electronic messages to cajole or demand you provide personal information, credit card details, usernames and passwords. These messages could look like they come from a well-known bank, financial institution or telecommunications provider; or contain heartfelt stories of financial hardship and loss. Do not respond to these messages. Be suspicious of any offer that sounds too good to be true, because it probably is.

Tips on spotting common scams and fraud are available at www.scamwatch.gov.au. If you think the message is a scam, you can complain or report it.

I receive a lot of spam from overseas. Should I try to use the unsubscribe function?

It is not advisable to use the unsubscribe function provided in messages from senders who are people or businesses you do not know or do not have a relationship with. Spammers may use computer programs to harvest email addresses from the internet and send millions of identical messages across the world. While it may seem like they know who you are because they have your email address, this is probably not the case. Unfortunately, using the unsubscribe function will indicate to the spammer that the email address is real and could result in more spam.

In all circumstances, these messages should be deleted or reported.

I've received an unsolicited SMS or MMS message on my mobile phone. What can I do?

If the message appears to be genuine, reply 'STOP' to the message. Keep the message and make a complaint. If you suspect the message may be a scam, do not respond and report it to the ACMA.

I've been charged for receiving SMS messages I didn't request. What can I do?

Charges for receiving SMS may be for a mobile premium service. To stop the messages you can:

  • call the premium content supplier's helpline about charges or to stop the service
  • call your telephone service provider about charges and ask them to stop the service
  • text 'STOP' to the number included in the message or on your bill. You should then receive a message from the content supplier confirming the cancellation of the service.

More tips and information about mobile premium services are available. Complaints about the billing of these services should be directed, in the first instance, to your mobile phone service provider. In the event your complaint remains unresolved, you can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on 1800 062 058 or visit its website at www.tio.com.au.

When is it safe to use an unsubscribe facility?

It is generally safe to unsubscribe from emails from senders you know or have a business relationship with. Using the unsubscribe facility is a way for you to withdraw your consent to receive electronic messages. However, if you are not certain, try contacting the sender by telephone or letter.

If you continue to receive email messages after opting out, keep the messages and make a complaint.

If I did not consent to receive the message in the first place, why should I unsubscribe?

If you think the message sender is a legitimate business who is sending unsolicited commercial electronic messages, using an unsubscribe facility is the most efficient way to ensure the messages stop. However, you can make a complaint to the ACMA about the unsolicited nature of the message. You may wish to read the ACMA's spam complaints-handling policy for more information about how spam complaints are handled.

I've replied 'stop' to an SMS message as per the instructions, but I have received another message. What can I do?

If you continue to receive SMS messages after opting out, keep the messages and make a complaint.

Why should I make a complaint?

Complaints and reports of spam activity to the ACMA are an integral part of spam investigations. Without assistance from the public, the ACMA would be limited in its capacity to fight spam.

The ACMA's spam complaints-handling policy provides guidance on how complaints, reports and enquiries about spam are handled.

I have concerns about my personal information being passed from one business to another. Where can I find information about privacy issues?

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has a comprehensive website of frequently asked questions that may assist you with your concerns. The privacy of your personal information is regulated by the Privacy Act 1988.

I want to sell second-hand goods online. How can I stop unsolicited emails and SMS from dealers and non-genuine buyers?

Including a statement with your advertisement that clearly states you do not wish to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages, for example 'No Spam' or 'No unsolicited email or SMS' is a way to ensure consent is not provided to send you commercial electronic messages.

Under the Spam Act, the mere fact that an email address or mobile telephone number has been published does not mean that a person has consented to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages. However, consent can be inferred if the purpose of the commercial electronic message relates to the reason the address was published in the first place.

What laws are there against spam in Australia?

The ACMA enforces the Spam Act and accepts complaints, reports and enquiries about spam in Australia. The Spam Act specifically relates to messages sent to Australians by email, SMS, MMS and instant message that:

  • offer, advertise or promote the supply of goods, services, land or business or investment opportunities 
  • advertise or promote a supplier of goods, services, land or a provider of business or investment opportunities 
  • assist a person to dishonestly obtain property, commercial advantage or other gain from another person. 

These are called commercial electronic messages.

The Spam Act contains three main rules that message senders must comply with—consent, identification and unsubscribe facilities.

Consent

In Australia, commercial electronic messages sent to you must be sent with your consent. The Spam Act provides for two types of consent—express and inferred.

Express consent means you have deliberately and intentionally opted-in to receiving electronic messages from the message sender. Some examples include:

  • ticking the box next to a statement seeking permission to send you marketing messages 
  • entering your mobile telephone number on a website to opt-in to receive regular ringtones and games on your phone, then replying to a subsequent SMS to complete the opt-in process 
  • entering your email address on a competition entry form and ticking a box next to a statement that says you wish to receive regular updates on the activities of the business 
  • contacting a business directly, in writing or on the phone to ask for information to be sent to you on an ongoing basis. 

All of these examples demonstrate that you have been informed that providing your consent means you will receive electronic messages and have had the opportunity not to receive commercial electronic messages.

Inferred consent relies on a relationship you have with the message sender. The Spam Act provides that consent can be inferred from your conduct or the relationship that a message sender has with you. The message sender may decide that because you have an existing relationship, you would be interested in receiving electronic messages about similar products and services. For example, if you subscribe to a magazine or newspaper, it could reasonably be inferred from your ongoing relationship with the publisher that you would be amenable to receiving electronic messages promoting other services the publisher may offer.

In some circumstances, message senders may rely on inferred consent if you have consented to your email address or mobile telephone number being on a marketing database that is sold to businesses.
More information about complying with the Spam Act's consent requirements is available.

Identity

All commercial electronic messages must contain clear and accurate identification of the sender of the message and information on how you can contact the sender. If a message sender does not clearly and accurately identify themselves, the message should be reported to the ACMA.

Understanding identifying information

Identifying information about the message sender may be found in:

  • the 'from' field or subject line of an email
  • the body of the message text
  • a website address
  • the sender identification of an SMS or MMS message. 

If you can't determine who has sent the message, or feel the sender is not clearly identified, lodge a complaint with the ACMA.

More information about complying with the Spam Act's identity requirements is available. 

Unsubscribe

Finally, all commercial electronic messages must contain an unsubscribe facility. This means there must be instructions on how you can opt-out of receiving messages. Whatever consent you may have given to receiving commercial electronic messages, you can withdraw it if you no longer wish to receive those messages. You should always use the same email address to unsubscribe as that used to subscribe.

A message sender has five working days to act on unsubscribe requests, and they will often be dealt with more quickly.

If a message does not contain an easy to use unsubscribe facility, the message should be reported to the ACMA.

Understanding and using an unsubscribe facility

Some examples of unsubscribe facilities include:

  • A sentence at the bottom of an email advising 'to unsubscribe, reply to this email with unsubscribe in the subject line' or 'to unsubscribe, click on this web address and enter your email address'.
  • A notification in a text message to reply 'stop' to opt-out or 'unsub'.
  • A notification to 'change your preferences' in your account to opt out of receiving commercial messages. 

Important note: The unsubscribe facility should only be used if the message sender is known to you and you have established that the message is legitimate. If you have any doubt or are unsure about the message, delete it without replying or unsubscribing.

All commercial electronic messages must contain notification of how to unsubscribe from receiving further messages. If you receive a commercial electronic message that does not contain notification of how to unsubscribe, or continue to receive messages from a sender you have previously unsubscribed from, lodge a complaint with the ACMA.

Protecting your privacy and personal information

There are laws protecting your privacy and personal information in Australia. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has extensive information on its website that can help you to understand how your personal information can be used and how to protect it.

If you think an email, SMS, MMS or instant message looks suspicious, do not respond to it—just delete or report it. If the message seems genuine, you can contact the business and ask that they stop emailing you, unsubscribe using an unsubscribe link in the email, or make a complaint. 

Are some messages under the Spam Act permitted?

Certain types of electronic messages are partially exempt from the Spam Act. Permitted messages can be from: 

  • government bodies
  • registered political parties
  • charities
  • educational institutions (sent to current and past students and their households). 

Purely factual messages are also exempt.

Permitted messages must still comply with the provision in the Spam Act which requires that a message must contain accurate information about the person or organisation that authorised the sending of the message, and how to contact that person or organisation.

What is the ACMA doing about spam?

The ACMA has a strategy for dealing with spam, including enforcement of the Spam Act, the development of technological solutions, partnerships with industry, cooperative activity with international regulatory bodies and education and awareness.

Summaries of the ACMA's enforcement action to date are available.

I'm receiving fax spam to my fax or home phone. What can I do?

You can now register a fax number used exclusively to send and receive faxes on the Do Not Call Register. More information about the inclusion of fax numbers on the register is available from the Do Not Call Register website.

My mobile telephone number is registered on the Do Not Call Register. Why do I still receive commercial SMS messages?

The Spam Act regulates the sending of commercial electronic messages by email, SMS, MMS and instant message. If you have received an unsolicited commercial SMS, lodge a complaint.

The Do Not Call Register was established to prohibit most telemarketing calls and marketing faxes to numbers listed on the Register. The Register does not deal with prohibiting the sending of commercial SMS to registered mobile telephone numbers.

Where can I get more information about spam?

The ACMA provides comprehensive information and practical tips about spam on this website. You can find out more about:

Last updated: 16 March 2017

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