Google's Gmail Spam Filters Blatantly Suck

Why are the Gmail spam filters so pathetic?

For example... I hate the letter I: Some asshat (who can be described using no other word), has sent me about 1,300 spam emails in the last week. Every email has the subject line of I and the from name of I. After labeling over 1,000 of these in the past week as spam how is it possible that Gmail has not picked up that footprint? How many real messages have 1 letter in both the sender name and the subject line?

Same Spam Name: Another asshat (or maybe the same one) is doing a spammer phrase dictionary attack. Surely they know the person named Buy Viagra Online Discreetly who uses the same thing as the subject line is a spammer? Yet I get about a hundred of these random spammer keyword emails in my inbox each day as well.

Many of my blog comments are not spam: Gmail is now sending many of my blog comments to the spam bin, in spite of me not labeling them as such. I even set up a custom filter for them to label it as important.

Good job starring the messages and spending them straight to the spam bin. I am sure you realized that is what I wanted when I set up a filter requesting the messages be starred as important. What is even dumber is that after I report dozens of these as not spam they still star new ones and send them to the spam bin. Why isn't there a filter to prevent something from being labeled as spam?

If Gmail doesn't improve I am probably going to have to try something new pretty soon.

Published: September 7, 2006 by Aaron Wall in google


February 5, 2007 - 11:58pm


I find gmail's spam filter better than average. I have 3 gmail ids. One is my regular id that I use daily. The second is an ID I created just for signing up in different forums and other places. The third id is the one I created exclusively for selling on E-Bay.

1. I get 25 to 30 spam mails per day. But 99.9% of them go to the spam folder.

2. I get almost 500 spam emails per day, but these go to the spam folder too. I rarely get one or two spam mails in my inbox.

3. I have NOT got one spam email till date. As I said above, I use this ID exclusively for E-Bay.

But, of course, I have seen emails sitting in the spam folder for more than 30 days.

March 16, 2007 - 11:22pm

Actually, Gmail's spam filters are very good. It's Gmail itself that sucks. I created a Gmail account some time ago, intending to replace another free email address that had proven to be unreliable. But I'm good at procrastinating, if nothing else, and I didn't want to face the hassle of notifying all my friends and family and getting them to actually change over to the new address.

A few months later, I logged on to my Gmail account to see if it was still alive. It was, and to my surprise it had accumulated some spam. Not a lot, mind you, but remember that this was an account that I had never given out to anyone. I decided to just keep an eye on it.

Now, nearly two years after creating my account, I am up to over 300 spam messages a month. I know this because I just let all the spam go to my spam folder, from which Gmail deletes it automatically after 30 days. So, at any time, I can check in and determine immediately how many spam messages have come in during the last 30 days. Today it reads exactly 306. That's 10+ a day -- on an account that nobody knows about but me!

Gmail advertises itself at virtually spam-free. Bah, humbug. The spam is still there. It just goes to my spam folder instead of to my Inbox, which is still empty. Good filter, but that's hardly the solution I was looking for.

The reality is, the big name e-mail providers will always be a very attractive target spammers, via whatever the method du jour is, with dictionary attacks being the most common. Your best bet is to get your own obscure domain -- and then never tell anyone your address!


January 11, 2007 - 3:55am

This is an email complaint I sent to Gmail in June of 2006:

I got a Gmail account about a year ago and never used it, never gave the address to anyone. I decided to start using it again, went into my inbox today for the first time in a year or more and saw 60+ spam emails! Most of them were already in the Gmail Spam folder so I just deleted them all. But still! I find this shocking. I have two Yahoo email addresses - that I HAVE given out to numerous people and websites - and I hardly ever get spam at those addresses! I check those accounts maybe once a month and there will only be 1 or 2 spams in there at most. How could I possibly have more than 60 spam emails in my Gmail box when I've never given this address to anyone? If you figure that over a year, that's an average of maybe 6 spams every month. That's triple what I get at Yahoo with two accounts that are widely used. Are you blocking any spam at all? If so, you're letting WAY too much crap through.


I sent this email a minute later, that same day:

This is an addendum to a message sent just a minute ago. WOW - I just went in to my Gmail spam folder and saw your statement that 30-day old emails sitting in the spam folder are automatically deleted. So the 60 emails I saw in my spam folder this evening were just from ONE MONTH??? That's nearly 60 times as much spam as I get at my widely-used Yahoo addresses! I would like to start using Gmail more, but I have some serious doubts now.


My posting today (Jan 10, 2007):

I checked my Gmail account for the first time in 6 months and found about 10 spams in my inbox and 213 (!!!) in my spam folder. If the automatic monthly purging of the spam folder is still intact at Gmail, then this means those 200+ spams came in just this month!!

Three of the emails in my inbox were phishing schemes, exploiting PayPal - I know they are phishing because PayPal does not have my Gmail email address. Know how many messages were in my inbox sent by someone I know? ZERO, because to date, I have STILL never given out my Gmail address to anyone.

This is inexcusable. I get almost no spam at my Yahoo addresses. The only thing I get outside of personal emails at Yahoo are marketing emails from companies where I already make online purchases on a regular basis using those addresses. No emails from strange companies I've never purchased anything from. No porn, no Viagra emails. Yet plenty of these in Gmail!

So until Gmail does a better job of filtering spam, I will continue to use my Yahoo email addresses.

Some people seem to have the opposite experience from me. In other posts I've read in other forums, some people say they get lots of spam at Yahoo and very little at Gmail. It's very bizarre.

December 14, 2006 - 7:21pm

I completely agree with Aaron.

For some reason my staffing agency's emails are consistently marked as spam by gmail's spam filter. I consistently mark them as "not spam," and they consistently get caught by the spam filter anyway.

Messages filtered as "important" should otherwise not make their way to the spam folder. Gmail needs to add a way to mark a sender as "not spam" that actually works.

September 7, 2006 - 8:28pm

Aaron, I guess you're paying the price for fame. I (a relative unknown) only get around 1,000 viagra emails per week ;)

Enjoying the post explosion. You should take "two weeks off the web" every couple months.

September 7, 2006 - 9:39pm

Interesting. I find that the Gmail spam filter is quite good, but the critical thing is to not *sit on the Gmail page* but to log out and let others categorize incoming bulk mail as spam. Then it never makes it into your inbox.

Kinda weird, but I only check Gmail 2-3 times/day and rarely have ANY spam in my inbox at all. If I keep a Window open, however, mail never gets pulled out of my inbox even if others categorize it as spam.

September 7, 2006 - 10:19pm

I'll raise you 707 Spam Emails in my Hotmail Account.

September 7, 2006 - 10:49pm

and i thought i was the only one.. I get 1000s of spam emails everyday through my gmail account.. It used to be rock solid but now lets through just about anything

especially those emails with a image in it (the stock info) and then some arb blurp of text (normaly fantacy) which lets it slide through..

really doing my nut in.

September 7, 2006 - 11:43pm

I have not much complaints about GMail filter. The only coplaint I have is one similar to yours about the comments. But that was a time when I subscribed a kinda spammy mailing list, but I still wanted to receive all the spammy messages and I've set up filters and the messages kept going to spam folder.

Joseph Bryan
September 7, 2006 - 11:59pm

My experience has been the same as Daves. I get maybe 5 spam emails in my inbox a month, and I get at least 200 filtered every day. And only once or twice has it filtered things that weren't spam.

September 8, 2006 - 12:01am

Are you suggesting that Google is being "evil"? :)

September 8, 2006 - 12:34am

"Asshat" is funny no matter how many times you say it.

September 8, 2006 - 2:18am

The stock info ones are the ones I get the most, followed by the viagra ones in my gmail.

I stopped using both my hotmail and yahoo emails because they don't filter worth crap.

September 18, 2006 - 4:06pm

Used to get almost no spam on gmail, no I spend all day cleaning it up. From my persepctive, things are worse. There may be a correlation, however. Things seemingly have gotten worse since I access mail from my Blackberry. Could it be related?

September 8, 2006 - 3:31am

I actually moved back to using my ISP Pop Box from Gmail for this reason. I also found that emails I sent from Gmail were being considered spam, because Gmail doesn't supply an originating IP address, as it considers that a privacy issue or something.

Spam cop considers mail servers that don't supply originating IP address as potential spammers.

Unfortunately many of the ISPs my customers use (big ones like bigpond here in australia) take spamcop spam filtering as gospel, and rather than mark the item as spam and still deliver it, they just bounce the email as spam.

Until Gmail works it's spam issues out, I'm not able to use it for business.

March 10, 2007 - 12:11am

I agree. so I moved to No Spam

September 8, 2006 - 6:51am

I've been using the Gmail for your domain for a few months and until recently I had thought it to be a perfect solution for my business's needs. It started slowly over the last month, but my inbox/Blackberry is now hit with 15 "lottery" or "inheritance" emails a day. I also learned today that two of my emails didn't reach their recipients due to spam filters.

I agree with Michael that Gmail is just not suited for businesses right now.

September 8, 2006 - 8:31am

I get arround 1000 (mixed) spam mails into my gmail account but 98% are in my junk mail box (I'm lucky)

So I though that gmail spam filter is best of the world, but it looks like not for every one... (Aaron be strong) ;)

June 7, 2007 - 10:46pm

I've never gotten any spam on google, at all, and I've had the account for some time now. I do send spam, though, according to google - email from my site goes into the spam folder when it is decidedly not spam. I think the key is not putting your address online anywhere, and not having an address that's easy to generate - when you've got millions of accounts, it makes it easy to generate addresses that happen to exist.

September 8, 2006 - 12:07pm

Count me in as one of those who used to not get any spam at all. But all of a sudden I'm getting a ton of it. Something's changed.

September 8, 2006 - 2:18pm

I think Rebecca is dead on. Google's spam filters may be a problem, but if it inspires creative obcenities like Asshat, perhaps we should all be using Gmail.

October 24, 2006 - 6:07pm

Screenie: virtually all other free email services use your personal IP for the email sending. Gmail is an anomaly in this sense, and the spamcop or whatever sees a generic IP (one of google's servers), and thinks it must be spam, since it has seen spam sent from this IP before.

This ups the 'spam count' header (or whatever it gets called), which most spam filters look at, and they will assume it's spam.

long story short, configure gmail to send via a different type of account (or use a different account entirely), and it will solve the problem.

September 8, 2006 - 5:35pm

I have to say I like gmail's spam filter it is not yet mastered but it is a lot better than some of the other so called spam filtering software I have tried. I use gmail for my business and I love it, my favorites are the conversational tools and of course you guessed it the search feature. If google is really making you unhappy I suggest spam assassin and spam box on a IMAP server.

September 8, 2006 - 7:11pm

I think Dave Taylor had nailed it. I too rarely get spam in my Gmail inbox (but tons of it in the Spambox, although very few false positives). I'm guessing Google regularly update their spam filters, but the filters only get loaded once per session. I use the gmail notifier so I don't need to keep the Gmail window open. If you do keep it open for days, you probably are the main spam tester for gmail!

September 8, 2006 - 8:19pm

I know what you mean, I have the same problems at times, good stuff going into the trash without realizing it.

However, I couldn't help but think of a certain StrongBad cartoon Email episode on the web when I read your post :) ...


September 11, 2006 - 7:42pm

I agree with Dave Taylor. Logging in and out, I rarely get Spam in Inbox of Gmail. I am astounded at how many men must suffer from Erectile Dysfunction, however, and small size in general, given the amount of Spam that focuses on this.

September 11, 2006 - 7:55pm

I agree that right now gmail spam filters suck. However, up until about 2 weeks ago they were great.

Hopefully they'll fix it again soon

October 17, 2006 - 3:58pm

The problem with Gmail isn't that I get spam - which I can deal with - the problem is that when I send messages to others, they are always marked as spam so they never get them.

It is completely unacceptable for all of my e-mails to go into people's spam folders! I guess this is related to the IP address issue mentioned by Michael above? What e-mail providers would not have this issue (yahoo?)

September 29, 2006 - 4:09pm

Add me to the list of people suddenly getting tonnes of spam in my inbox. But to get back to the original point of the posting, the only time I've had trouble with "false positives" (things classified as spam that shouldn't be) it was after I accidently classified something as spam that was really sent to me individually. I had to go back through my spam, find it, un-spamify it (then I deleted it). That was back when I didn't have 6,000 spams in my gmail spam folder per month, fortunately.

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