Spam, phishing and bulk email defined

While all mass-mail appears to be the same, there are differences in the types of messages received. These differences are what helps to mange mail before it ever arrives in your mailbox.



Telling the difference between a legitimate email, instant message or popup and a fraudulent one is not easy. If you receive any email or other message on your computer requesting personal information (such as an account name, password, date of birth, or social security number), please review the following information before continuing any further.

Always remember that Bowdoin Information Technology will NEVER request your personal information over electronic mail. Furthermore, you should always avoid sending any personal information via electronic mail. 

What is a Phish?

“In computing, phishing is an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. eBay, PayPal and online banks are common targets. Phishing is typically carried out by email or instant messaging and often directs users to enter details at a website, although phone contact has also been used. Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques used to fool users. Attempts to deal with the growing number of reported phishing incidents include legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical measures.” (

What to do with an email you believe is fraudulent?

Delete it. These emails are generated by the same computers who bring spam to your inbox on a daily basis. Reporting them does very little good. Never click on a link in a fraudulent email or message—it may make matters worse by introducing viruses to your computer.

Common methods to identify fraudulent messages:

  • Claiming to be from a company or vendor that you do not have an account with
  • Spelling or grammatical errors in the subject line or text
  • Vague references in the subject line or text, such as ‘RE: Your Account’ or ‘Dear Valued Customer’—if they know you have an account, they should know who you are
  • Requests for unnecessary or irrelevant information (such as a date of birth)

Steps to take if you believe you've fallen victim:

If you think you may have accidentally responded to a phishing attempt, make sure to immediately change any accounts or passwords that may have been compromised. If it is a Bowdoin account, follow the instructions here: Reset your password. If it is a vendor (bank, credit card, online merchant) account, contact that vendor to have your information changed.

As always, if you have questions about email fraud or computer security, contact the Bowdoin IT service desk for assistance at or 207-725-3030.

Bulk Email

While many of us consider bulk email spam, it actually isn't. Bulk email are those messages received from legitimate senders for whom you, at some point, signed up and agreed for them to send mail to you. This could include retail stores, travel sites, subject matter lists, etc. These messages aren't blocked by a lot of spam filters because they aren't technically spam. 

How do you stop bulk email?

Most bulk email will get moved into your Junk Mail folder in your mailbox. If you'd like to stop receiving all messages from a particular sender, you can either setup a mailbox rule to delete the messages or you can look to the bottom of the messages and use the "Unsubscribe" link that most bulk messages carry. Be careful, however because many of these senders will add you back to their lists if you engage with them again in the future.


Spam messages are those that you may not have signed up for, have varying messages or offerings and are sometimes offensive. Spam can start coming to you because your name ended up on a list that was sold to other parties or accounts that you may be a contact on had been compromised at some point in the past. Most real spam will be stopped in the Quarantine folder in Exchange Online Protection (or EOP) and can be released if something gets caught by mistake.

How is something considered spam?

All mail that comes into Bowdoin's email servers receive a score. The score is based on a variety of elements including links that may be contained in the message and where they actually go, the origin of the message (known good or bad sender), header information and more. Each item is added up and if the score is higher than a set threshold, then the message will be considered spam rather than bulk email.




Article ID: 34844
Tue 8/8/17 9:57 AM
Thu 11/12/20 9:21 AM

Related Articles (4)

How to report a suspected phishing or spam email
Office 365 offers Bowdoin two sets of tools that work in conjunction to protect your mailbox and the entire Bowdoin community from the constantly evolving phishing attacks and malware targeting campus.