Mac Mail not recognising junk mail? Here’s what you need to do

If spam is getting into your inbox, deal with it using these features in Mail on the Mac

Around 86% of all email is junk mail or spam as it is often called. That is 400 billion spam messages every single day. If it seems like they are all landing in your inbox, here’s what to do.

Junk messages in your inbox is a huge problem these days and it takes time and effort to clear them every day. What’s worse is that the emails you want are often amongst the junk and it is hard to find them. They might even get accidentally tossed out with the spam.

Is Mail on the Apple Mac automatically dealing with the incoming spam? It should be, but if it is not, here are some suggestions to get the spam filters working again. Hopefully they will soon have the junk in your inbox cleared.

If you are spending too much time in the Mail app, create smart responses to save time and effort.

Turn on the junk filter

The Mail app in macOS has a junk mail filter, so the first thing to do if spam is filling your inbox is to check that it is enabled.

Go to Preferences and click Junk Mail. At the top, tick the box Enable junk mail filtering.

Enable the junk mail filter in Mail on the Apple Mac to filter out junk email

Under When junk mail arrives, select either Mark as junk mail, but leave it in my inbox, or Move it to the Junk mailbox. Do not select the Perform custom actions option. There’s nothing wrong with it, but if junk mail is getting through, temporarily choose one of the first two options.

Reset the junk filter

On the Junk mail tab in Mail Preferences is a Reset button. Mail learns what is and isn’t spam and clicking the Reset button will lose what it has learnt. However, it might fix the problem. It is perhaps worth trying as a last resort.

Reset the junk mail filter in Mail on the Apple Mac

Check the exemptions

There are three exemptions and if any of the conditions are met, the junk mail will not be detected. For example, if the sender has managed to get into your contacts, or if they have managed to discover your full name, their spam will get through.

If you get undetected spam, check the Contacts app and see it contains their name or email. Remove it if it does.

Clearing the ticks against these three options might cause some real emails to be classified as junk. It is best if they are all enabled, but you might want to try disabling them and seeing what happens. Is more spam detected? Are legitimate emails mistaken for spam?

Train the Mail app to recognise spam

The junk mail filter in the Mail app uses several techniques to identify spam. One way of improving it is to train the system. Select the inbox and select an email that is spam. Click the Junk button in the toolbar to teach the Mail app that it is spam.

Select the Junk mailbox and select any email message that is not junk. Click the Junk button in the toolbar to teach Mail that messages like this are not spam.

The more time you spend training Mail to recognise spam, the more accurate it will be.

Train the Mail app on the Apple Mac to recognise junk email messages

If a particular sender is often mistaken for a spammer, add them to the Contacts app. Exemptions are usually set for contacts and so that they are never mistaken for spam.

Check the rules

Rules can be created to deal with incoming email messages, such as marking them, moving them, deleting them and so on. It is possible for rules to interfere with the spam filters, so go to Mail Preferences and click Rules.

Double click each rule and see what it does. Is it doing something with certain emails that are spam?

Use rules in the Mail app on the Apple Mac to deal with incoming emails

Clear the tick in the Active column to make rules inactive. Make them all temporarily inactive and see if Mail starts correctly marking or dealing with spam.

If junk messages are still getting through, you could create rules to detect it and deal with it. Here's how to create rules in Mac Mail.

Hopefully, Mail should now be correctly identifying spam and automatically dealing with it.

Alternative spam filters

The best alternative to Mail’s built in spam filtering is SpamSieve. It isn’t free, but a lot of people reckon it is worth the money.

 

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