Spam is unsolicited bulk email—indiscriminate, network-wide broadcasted messages which distribute advertisements and solicitations. Chain letters, items for sale, get-rich-quick schemes or any other unwanted email that people often receive are examples of spam. However, email offers from sites at which you have an account are not considered spam.

Get instructions on how to report spam and phishing.

If you receive a spam message, it is best to ignore and delete it. Never reply to these messages, and never send money or personal information. Many email applications have filtering capabilities that block messages from specified addresses, but spammers often vary their addresses and hide their real identities.

Since spamming is against the Code of Computing Practices, you are responsible to avoid sending spam yourself. Do not send emails to large groups of people unless you know each of them personally, and make sure your message is appropriate for all of the recipients. Users who are found to have initiated or propagated chain email messages or spam messages from a university account (even with good intentions) will be locked from that account for two business days. Subsequent violations of this policy will result in additional administrative sanctions.


When spammers use someone else's email address to send email to potential victims, it is called spoofing. Sometimes they will use the addresses of major service providers such as PayPal, eBay, Microsoft or a university when mass mailing. You could receive a spam message that appears to be important information from an important source.

Spammers might also use one of the email addresses from a list of harvested addresses. Emails that cannot be delivered will be bounced to the address in the From field. If your address was harvested and used as the From address, you could receive returned messages that you did not send.

Chain Email

A message sent to several people requesting that each recipient send out multiple copies of the email to increase its circulation exponentially is a chain letter. Chain letters share a similar pattern:

  • The hook—something to catch your interest such as "Make Money Fast," "Virus Alert" or "People are dying"

  • A threat—something bad will happen to you if you break the chain

  • A warning—you are responsible for letting all your friends know about a (usually fake) computer virus that is going around

  • A guilt trip—something to play on your sympathy, such as telling you that a sick child has requested that the chain letter be sent on

  • The request—usually last, asking the recipient to send the message on to several others

Since chain letters are sent to ever increasing numbers of users, a chain email has the potential to waste great amounts of bandwidth and disk space and clog up networks. The use of university computing resources to send chain email or spam mail is a violation of the Code of Computing Practices, and user accounts initiating chain email messages or spam messages may lose access for two business days. Chain mail that contains requests for money or items of value is also illegal (in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute).