Best Spam Filters of 2018

Nicole Johnston ·
Updated
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We spent 64 hours researching and testing spam filters to help us determine which standalone program is best for blocking unwanted email. After using each program, we believe SpamBully is the best one overall for both standalone mail servers, such as Outlook, and email services that use IMAP and POP3, such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail. It protects against phishing schemes and blocks harmful attachments, plus it has a Bayesian filter.    

Best Overall

SpamBully

SpamBully is easy to install and works both inside Outlook and with free email accounts. It checks attachments, blocks phishing schemes and learns your email habits so it can recognize what you consider spam.
View on SpamBully
Best for Mac

SpamSieve

Exclusively designed for Mac products, SpamSieve comes with a Bayesian filter and blocks messages from senders listed in public spam lists. Plus, it blocks phishing messages.
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Best for Mobile

MailWasher Pro

MailWasher Pro is compatible with all versions of Windows, including XP and Vista, and it’s effective at filtering email on iOS and Android cell phones.
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Product
Price
$29.95Viglink
Check Price
Check Price
$59.99CJ
$45.95Avangate
$30.00-
Overall Rating
9.9
9.8
8.9
8.6
8.1
8
Price
10
10
9
8.3
8.5
10
Blocking & Filtering
10
10
8.5
7.8
7.8
6.3
Compatibility
9.5
9.5
10
10
7.5
8.5
User Experience
10
8.5
8.5
10
9
7.5
Price
$29.95
$29.95
$39.95
$59.99
$45.00
$30.00
Quarantine Area
Sensitivity Settings
Public Block List
Block Attachments
Country Code Filtering
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Bayesian Filter
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Challenge Response
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Identity Theft & Antiphishing Protections
Antivirus
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IMAP & POP3
Mobile Email
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Gmail
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-
Outlook
Yahoo Mail
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AOL Mail
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iCloud
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-
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Ease of Use Score
95%
80%
85%
95%
90%
75%
U.S. Telephone Support
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Community Forum
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Searchable Knowledgebase
Windows 10
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Windows 8
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Windows 7
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Android
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Mac OS
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Mac iOS
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Best Overall

SpamBully

SpamBully is easy to install and works seamlessly with most email programs. It’s especially good with mail servers that run from your desktop such as Outlook. However, it also supports IMAP and POP3, the programs used by free email services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail. SpamBully’s biggest drawback is it isn’t compatible with mobile devices.
This software automatically blocks and deletes messages sent from blacklisted addresses and checks attachments for threats. It also automatically places your email contacts on its whitelist so it never blocks their messages. SpamBully includes a Bayesian filter, which it uses to recognize and block personalized spam messages. The software can block messages based on the sender and the sender’s IP address. It’s also one of the few programs we reviewed that can filter by an email’s country of origin, so you don’t receive messages sent from places known to have lots of spammers. SpamBully has a clean, updated interface. It’s easy to install and set up in your email program, and you can customize some of the settings, such as the filter’s sensitivity level. If you need help, you can reach out to customer service via email or telephone.
Pros
  • Blocks malicious attachments
  • Includes a Bayesian filter
  • Has adjustable sensitivity settings
Cons
  • Doesn’t work on mobile phones or tablets
  • Isn’t compatible with Mac devices
  • Doesn’t have a community forum
$29.95SpamBully
Best for Mac

SpamSieve

SpamSieve is the only Mac-specific standalone spam blocker we looked at, and it works on both Mac computers and iOS mobile devices. Though it’s a Mac program, SpamSieve is compatible with IMAP and POP3 email programs like Yahoo Mail and Gmail.
Its control presets are effective, but you can adjust the filter’s sensitivity setting. The software taps into public block lists to keep messages from known spammers out of your inbox. While SpamSieve doesn’t filter messages by country of origin or block malicious attachments, it does recognize and block phishing schemes. Also, the program’s Bayesian filter recognizes when the sender’s email address and signature don’t match, when the header includes common spam language and symbols, and when a message is addressed to you but misspells your name. We found SpamSieve was difficult to install, and the developer doesn’t offer telephone support. Instead a dated manual walks you through the setup steps, and you must know basic coding for some tools to work. There is a community forum where you can talk to other users and get answers to common, and not so common, questions.
Pros
  • Compatible with Mac computers and iOS mobile devices
  • Includes a Bayesian filter
  • Has adjustable sensitivity settings
Cons
  • Can’t filter message by country of origin
  • Doesn’t include antivirus protection
  • Lacks live support
$30.00SpamSieve
Best for Mobile

MailWasher Pro

MailWasher Pro is one of the easiest programs to use, and it is just as effective at blocking spam on mobile email apps as it is on desktop accounts. It has a Bayesian filter that recognizes patterns in spam messages, for example if a sender’s email address and signature don’t match, and blocks new threats based on the patterns it detects.
MailWasher works with every popular email service, including Outlook, and with free and standalone email programs like Gmail. It’s compatible with Android and iOS devices, as well as with computers running Windows. However, it doesn’t work on Mac computers. You can change filter settings and make custom rules about which messages MailWasher checks, blocks and deletes, or you can keep the program’s default settings. It filters emails by sender, IP address and information on public block databases. However, it doesn’t filter by the messages’ country of origin. MailWasher Pro searches all incoming emails, including attachments, for malware such as viruses, keyloggers and phishing schemes. For technical support, you can contract a representative directly via telephone or email, and the MailWasher knowledgebase has FAQs and online user guides. There is also an online community forum where you can connect with other users for help.
Pros
  • Compatible with iOS and Android cell phones
  • Imports and whitelists your contact list
  • Checks email images and attachments
Cons
  • Doesn’t filter by country
  • Not compatible with Mac computers
  • Doesn’t generate challenge responses
$29.95MailWasher

Why Trust Us

Top Ten Reviews has researched, evaluated and tested internet security software, including spam filters, for 15 years. We subscribe to news outlets and internet security blogs as well as attend security conferences and trade shows to learn about how these programs work, changes in the industry and current threats. We also develop and foster relationships with other internet security experts, including security consultants and company network managers, to help us learn about the tools and features these programs should come with and to more fully understand consumers’ needs. On top of testing programs for our readers, we think about our own families and look for software we would be comfortable using to protect them.

How We Tested

We couldn’t perform in-depth testing on spam filter programs because the process runs the risk of our own email servers being tagged and blocked as malicious. However, we downloaded each program to get a feel for how easy it is to set up and configure, as well as to find out how it generally works. We also spent two days collecting as much info as we could about each program by reading user guides and watching demos.

Recently we spent 120 hours physically testing free email services, which include some spam blocking tools, and six weeks testing antivirus programs, which often include a spam filtering component. As such, we understand how spam filters work and what features are most important. We chose the best standalone spam filters based on their feature sets, user feedback, ease of use and the support resources provided by their developers.


Do I really need a spam filter?

Mitch Stephens, a security consultant for Emagined Security, said the biggest source of malware is email, with phishing schemes being the most dangerous. Phishing emails are messages that look like they were sent from someone you know or a company you do business with. When you click on links or provide personal information asked for in these messages, hackers have enough information to break into your bank accounts, steal your identity or send malicious viruses to attack your computer. This makes it important to have a good spam filter that blocks phishing schemes.

Email services come with filters that do a good job, and most internet security programs, such as Avast and eScan, include spam filters among their protection tools. However, there still is use for a standalone program. They cost less than an all-inclusive internet security programs and are dedicated to blocking spam, so they typically include extra tools for that purpose such a Bayesian filters and customizable settings

How does a spam filter work?

Antispam software integrates with your email program, and the spam blocker tools should appear alongside the regular toolbar in your email account so the features and filters are easy to find. The best antispam programs let you set custom filters and can connect with public databases that list email addresses known to send spam.

Programs with Bayesian filters learn which spam messages are created to specifically target you and quickly block them. A few programs have another important filter that blocks messages by their country of origin. Many spam messages are sent from a handful of countries or IP address, so having a program that tracks where emails are sent from is a good deterrent.

What other ways can I protect myself from spam?

No filter can stop every spam message. Many spam senders try to gather your personal information, and Stephens has some suggestions on how to be extra vigilant to avoid falling prey to phishing schemes.

His first suggestion: “Don’t open emails from unknown sources.” And if you do open an email that looks legitimate, double check any links before clicking on them to ensure they are trustworthy.

Often, there are red flags that identify email scams. For example, check the sender’s email address for funky symbols and look at the company logo to see if it’s clear, spelled correctly and grammatically correct. If the message asks for personal information, look up the company’s website and reach out to them using the customer service numbers listed there, rather than those listed in the email. Most companies don’t ask for personal information through emails, and government agencies, such as the IRS, only send notices through regular mail.

Stephens also recommends changing your passwords often and making them difficult to figure out by making them long with “at least eight characters, upper case and lowercase [letters], numbers and special characters.”

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