Missing emails? How to find and check your spam folder

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spam folder
Getting to the bottom of your spam folder is not as scary as it sounds. (Photo: Getty)

"Have you checked your spam folder?" You've probably heard this question before. But perhaps you weren't quite sure what your spam folder even is, never mind how to check it.

What is a spam folder?

Here's the 411: your spam folder is basically a catchall spot in your email account that automatically filters out junk mail, or "spam." Digital junk mail is just like the unwanted coupons, flyers and other stuff you get in your mailbox, except your spam folder is separate from your main email inbox — so if you never check it and delete the junk, it quickly becomes a digital dumping ground. Plus, you won't know if it filtered out important emails by accident. This is more common than you might think!

On the flip side, junk email can easily make its way past the spam folder filter and into your main email inbox. Sometimes, that spam can contain phishing links and other malicious code. A software package like My Privacy Junk Mail for ID Protection for AOL filters out 80% of junk mail, so it has little chance of ever making it to your inbox — and even less of a possibility of infecting your computer.

Try My Privacy Junk Mail for ID Protection by AOL free for 30 days, then $9.99 per month*

spam folder
Your spam folder might be labeled 'spam' or 'junk.' (Photo: Getty)

My Privacy Junk Mail for ID Protection for AOL helps protect you from scammers and thieves trying to obtain your data through unwanted emails — including many of those messages disguised as harmless marketing material. But it also keeps just-plain-annoying junk mail out of your inbox, intercepting it and redirecting it to your spam folder. The software does other helpful things, too, like keeping your personal information off of people-finder sites and other public databases. It helps facilitate your online anonymity and protect your most precious asset: your identity.

Try My Privacy Junk Mail for ID Protection by AOL free for 30 days, then $9.99 per month*

How do I find my spam folder?

The location of your spam folder depends on which email service provider you use, but they're all pretty similar. Spam folders are typically located in the lefthand navigation bar, and you might have to collapse arrows to shorten the list of inboxes and make your spam folder easier to find.

spam folder
You know how good it feels to clean clutter from your home? The same applies to clutter in your email inbox. (Photo: Getty)

How do I clean out my spam folder?

Now that you've discovered your spam folder — and the hordes of emails hiding inside — here's what to do to clean up the mess.

First, if you're in search of missing emails, you'll want to sift through the most recent ones in your spam folder. You can also use the search bar to hunt by keyword or sender (type in "spam:" then the keyword). Many email services also offer filters (and advanced filters) that let you search the messages in your spam folder by sender, date, attachment and more.

Second, look for a box next to each email that lets you select that message. Once you select a message, a variety of options should appear. You'll have the option to mark it as some variation of "not spam," which sends that email to your main inbox. You'll also have options to delete it (it will either "delete forever," or it will be sent to your Trash, which you can empty at another time), move it to another folder or create a filter to make sure emails from that sender always go straight to your spam folder.

Depending on the email provider you use, your options will vary. But if you want to totally clean out your spam folder and delete all spam emails in one fell swoop, look for the option to select all spam emails, then delete them with a single click. It's equivalent to throwing all your junk mail in the garbage pail at once.

How to manage your spam

Your spam folder automatically captures junk mail, but if a legitimate email ends up there, you can mark it as "not spam." Alternatively, if junk mail makes it into your main email address, you should mark it as "spam" before deleting it, so your email provider understands to filter messages from this sender to your spam folder going forward.

And remember to periodically check your Trash folder, as it often houses messages you deleted and thought were gone forever. However, you'll need to empty your Trash to make sure emails are truly and permanently deleted.

Try My Privacy Junk Mail for ID Protection by AOL free for 30 days, then $9.99 per month*

*To avoid being charged the recurring subscription fee, simply cancel before the free trial period ends.