Gmail subscriptions flooding? How to deal.

One Wednesday a little after 8:30 AM, my phone dinged. And it dinged four more times that minute. Some bot was signing me up for subscriptions at the speed of light, and my inbox was floding. Here’s how to deal with Gmail subscriptions flooding.

“Just unsubscribe.”

Gmail subscriptions flooding
The best thing you can do when faced with Gmail subscriptions flooding is to mute the messages as they come in. It doesn’t immediately halt the flood but slows it to something controllable.

The conventional advice, to unsubscribe, wasn’t any help in this case. A lot of the stuff was indeed subscriptions, but the bot was signing me up multiple times to flood me with the subscription confirmations. And some of it wasn’t subscriptions either, but random stuff. The bot even sent me information about a COVID-19 vaccination event in Virginia, 800 miles away. And 30-50% of the messages I was receiving weren’t even in English.

I found a script that would scan messages for unsubscribe links and bulk unsubscribe me, but I fed it over 400 messages, and not one had an unsubscribe link.

Gmail’s spam filters caught more than 550 messages, which was a real relief. These messages weren’t really spam, but they looked suspicious enough that the filters grabbed them. I was fine with this malfunction.

This led me to two possible solutions. I realized the bot was running out of new things to send and was repeating itself, a lot. And Gmail was threading these messages. That’s why my phone wasn’t dinging as much. I thought the bot was slowing down. The messages were still coming in fast and furious, but 2/3 of them just piled onto an existing message.

Use the mute button against Gmail subscriptions flooding

When you check a message, then click the icon that looks like three dots to bring up the submenu, one of the options is Mute. This moves the conversation into the archive, along with subsequent messages that are similar enough. More importantly, it clears your inbox. I had legitimate, important mail, like my actual COVID-19 vaccination appointment, buried in the flood of hundreds of random junk messages. Judicious use of the select all button to select 150 messages at a time, followed by unselecting the handful of legitimate messages, then clicking Mute, helped me to clear the inbox and unbury my important mail.

These floods are often used to hide suspicious activity. They hope by flooding your inbox with junk, you won’t notice the suspicious activity alerts or other messages from your credit card, Paypal, or other institutions.

It can take some time to contain the damage, but it’s a good idea to contain the damage the same day. That way, if something bad is happening, you can find it before your inbox is drowning in noise.

Muting the messages will take some time to take full effect. And even after muting, I was receiving several junk messages an hour. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but over the course of a week, it ends up being too much.

Use the spam button against Gmail subscriptions flooding

Ultimately I had to use the spam button to stop the flood.Judicious use of the spam button on anything that got through the mute filter had an immediate effect. A day or two of training the spam filter reduced the flood to more like one message a week. I was getting a lot of messages in foreign languages, and I think that helped.

I was afraid I was going to have to get a new e-mail address after 17 years. The spam button helped me save it.

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