In colloquial terms, all unsolicited or unwanted e-mails are referred to as spam. However, only "mass advertising sent by telecommunications" (Art. 3 para. 1 let. o of the Federal Act against Unfair Competition) is covered by specific legal provisions. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to take legal action against senders of advertisement e-mails. See the information of the Federal Office of Communication OFCOM.
If you received an e-mail asking for credentials, credit card numbers or other personal data, this is likely to be a phishing e-mail. Click here to find out how to report phishing to us.
The prosecution of fraudulent activities lies with the cantonal law enforcement units. They have to evaluate in a specific case if the sending of a given e-mail reaches the threshold of a criminal attempt or if it is still to be considered a preparatory act and therefore not punishable. If you have suffered financial loss in relation with fraudulent e-mails, you may press charges with your local police.
Where do criminals get my email address from?
There are several ways in which an e-mail address can get into a database. Spammers do not only search the Internet for valid e-mail addresses that are published on websites, it is also possible that an e-mail account or computer in which an e-mail with your address is stored (sent to you, by you or forwarded by a third party) is hacked or that your e-mail address has become known through a data leak. In the case of e-mail addresses that consist of first names and surnames, it is also possible that the e-mail address was guessed by trying out common first and last names or short strings of characters. Furthermore, there are people in the underground markets of the Internet who specialize in obtaining e-mail addresses and who sell corresponding lists.
- At the technical level, you have the option of filtering your incoming messages in the webmail or e-mail program according to various criteria or marking them as "junk" or "spam" and blocking future transmissions from certain sender addresses, with specific words in the subject line, etc., accordingly. This is particularly useful if the e-mails in question always have a similar pattern.
- Be careful despite technical settings: e-mail filters are getting better and better, but unfortunately they still do not stop all unwanted mail. The senders are also constantly finding new ways to trick these filters.
- Read our rules of conduct regarding e-mail.