By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Check your spam folder, you probably got dozens of unwanted messages just today.

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Across the world, 40 billion spam emails are sent every day.

“I get one every day for sure,” said Jesse Christensen from Brooklyn Park. “It’s irritating. It’s a ton.”

All different kinds of sales pitches, all with fishy looking “unsubscribe” links.

“I don’t click unsubscribe,” Christensen said. “I’ve always been told that’s how they get a hold of your email address and pass it on.”

So does unsubscribe work?

“It’s supposed to be an automated process, supposed to happen very easily, but of course there’s a lot of people who break the rules,” said Mike Rynchek, CEO of SpyderTrap, an online marketing firm in Minneapolis.

They’re also breaking the law.

The 2003 CAN-SPAM Act requires an easy process to unsubscribe. But for consumers, it can be difficult to tell if an “unsubscribe” button is legitimate or part of an effort by spammers to gather information.

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“They’re absolutely cracking down,” Rynchek said. “It’s a really stiff penalty. It could be up to $16,000 (fine) per email.”

It may not feel like it to you, but it seems to be working. The volume of spam email is down 82 percent from 2010 to 2011.

“If you don’t recognize where the email is coming from, don’t click anything,” Ryncheck said. “Don’t open it. If you did open, put it in a spam folder or flag as spam.”

But if it’s a company you do have a relationship with, and you hover your mouse over the unsubscribe link and see a legitimate-looking web address, go ahead and go for it. By law, you should stop getting emails from that company within 30 days.

“Depending on company, or brand, or organization, they may have to physically go in and take you off of that list,” Rynchek said.

Clicking the “spam” button isn’t just for show — email programs like Gmail aggregate that information, and if enough users click spam on a certain sender, that sender gets blacklisted and blocked.

Marketers want people on their list who want to be on their list, Rynchek said.

“Email is a very, very effective tool,” he said. “People specifically opted-in to receive messages from you.”

And the good ones want spammers to stay out of the valuable space in your in-box.

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“Marketing is all about cutting through the clutter,” he said.

Jason DeRusha