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How to block calendar spam

 

If you work online, or at any kind company that could be considered knowledge work, you’re already extremely familiar with Google Calendar and the countless options like it. This is especially true if you work remotely; oftentimes it might feel like your whole week lives on your Google Calendar. And as useful and time-saving as a great calendar can be, there are also a number of problems that come with it. Today, we’ll tackle the biggest one: calendar spam. This article will run through a few examples and types of calendar spam, and then give you some strategies that will help you figure out how to stop it and reclaim your calendar.

What is calendar spamming?

But before we get ahead of ourselves, first things first: what exactly is calendar spam? To put it simply, calendar spam is a new mutation of an age-old problem – that is, email spam. They both work in basically the same way. Spammers use shady links to add your email address to a calendar invite list. Once they do that, they can add any number of events to your calendar without your permission.

 

If it sounds like this would be extremely easy to avoid, think again. These scammers often embed malicious software within seemingly legitimate calendar invites, so it can be difficult to spot if you aren’t looking for it.

 

However the spammers get access to your email address, once they have it, your calendar will be in total disarray. Not only is this irritating, it can also interfere with your work. Picture this:  your calendar has become so inundated with meaningless spam events that you start to ignore these notifications, and the notification for an important meeting slips by you. Now what was once mildly irritating spam has ticked off your coworkers and potentially affected your standing at your job. It’s easy to let a couple of weird invites slip, but they could be a warning that a much larger problem is on its way. Let’s look at some ways that can help you prevent headaches like this.

 

Pre-emptive strategies

Of course, the best way to avoid a problem is to go straight to the source of the issue. While there are a number of ways to combat calendar spam after it happens, that’s just a band aid. In situations like this, it’s best to be proactive and try to avoid the problem before it even begins. In this case, that takes us back to the links that spammers use to get access to your email address and personal information. A lot of this may feel like basic internet street smarts, but it’s still important to address.

 

Obviously, we have to be careful about the kinds of links we click. We’ve all clicked mindlessly on something suspicious when we’re distracted or in a hurry recklessly when I’m in a hurry. If a link looks legit, it’s so easy to just click it and see where it goes. Unsurprisingly, this will often get you signed up to more than a few unwanted email newsletters, and you’re the more people have access to your email address, the more opportunities there are for it to fall into the wrong hands. The unfortunate reality of the modern web is that you should really be double checking links and the site it’s hosted on unless you’re sure they come from a trusted source, especially if it’s an event invite.

 

Make sure that the event link you’re clicking on is actually for the event it claims to be – that is, make sure it’s created by the people or company hosting the meeting, and not someone masquerading as that company. Keep an eye out for “typos” or misspellings. Sometimes just a letter or number will be off, if it’s directly from a spammer, but an innocent mistake is enough to kick you to an entirely different, spam ridden site or link as well. Make sure to be careful as well if you’re redirected to another site from the one you initially clicked on. Sometimes that’s done for legitimate reasons, like a new website, but it’s often the first warning sign that something suspicious is going on.

 

All these strategies may sound like internet security 101, but spammers get more sophisticated every year, and feeling like you know all the warning signs of spam links can make me all the more susceptible to some of the sneaky tactics. As basic some of this might sound, it’s still important to revisit and be vigilant. After all, when you work remotely or in a workspace that uses a lot of electronic communication, it’s easy to become complacent or get overwhelmed. If you carefully double check all the calendar links you click on, though, you’ll save yourself from a lot of potential calendar spam right from the jump.

 

After the fact

Ok, it’s already happened: against your better judgment – and the great advice in this post – you clicked on a couple of links you shouldn’t have, and now your Google Calendar and email inbox are being inundated with seemingly endless meeting requests. Don’t worry, all is not lost. As much of a headache as this situation is, it isn’t the end of the world. Most calendar apps offer ways to limit the number of events that are added to your calendar (we’ll go over the steps for a couple of different common calendar programs) which should help cut down on the calendar spam you receive.

 

Google Calendar Spam

Gcal is ubiquitous, which makes it an obvious target for spammers, and unfortunately, since many Woven users sync their Google accounts with our app, this one’s personal. Fortunately, the process for dealing with calendar spam in GCal is fairly straightforward. The thing we need to control here is who is given permission to add you to an event. To fix this, go to your settings screen and select “Event settings.”

 

Find the setting that says “Automatically add invitations” and change this to only allow Google Calendar to add you to events that you have confirmed in your email. This way, spammers won’t be able to add just any old event to your calendar.

 

Apple Calendar

Many workplaces run off of Apple/Mac systems, and if that’s the case with your job, you most likely use Apple Calendar. For this application, getting rid of calendar spam is even easier than Google Calendar. All you need to do is report the meeting or event as junk and it will automatically be removed from every computer or phone that is running off your iCloud account.

 

Simply login to Apple Calendar app on your computer, iPhone, on iCloud.com. Then you’ll want to click on the unwelcome invitation and click the link that says Report Junk. That will remove the event from all your devices and keep that address from sending you invites again.

 

It’s pretty similar to the way we get rid of spam email, just on a different platform!

 

Windows Calendar

Unfortunately, Microsoft Calendar doesn’t really offer a great option for “to report spam (which is kind of shocking, considering how much of the world operates off of Windows.) Instead, they offer an account-wide setting that will disallow all automatic meeting requests. While this is kind of the nuclear option, and you’ll lose your ability to automatically book meeting requests with your colleagues, if spammers have gotten ahold of your email address, it might be your best option. You can also delete the whole series of calendar invites, but many people believe that just helps the spammers validate that your address is a real one.

 

If you decide you want to block all automatic meeting requests, you’ll need to open up Outlook. Under the File menu, choose Options and then Mail to get to your mail settings. Under the Tracking options, you’ll see you have the option to “Automatically process meeting requests and responses to meeting requests and polls.” Toggle that option on, and depending on your version of Outlook, save your settings.

 

Personally, we’d recommend switching to Woven or even a Google Calendar so you have control over who can send you meeting requests.

 

Consider other options

One of the biggest issues with Google and Apple’s calendar programs is their interconnectivity. As convenient as it may be to be able to access your calendar from many devices, it also gives spammers an access to a lot of your personal information. It can also make calendar spam that much more of a pain to deal with, since you then have to sift through countless junk meetings across multiple devices. Also, perhaps more importantly, since they are both so common, it makes it much easier for spammers to create fraudulent links. It might not be a bad idea for your team, especially if you several or even all of you are working remotely, to consider switching to a different calendar application that isn’t quite as accessible as Google or Apple Calendar.

 

Woven is a great option for a team that is mostly or entirely working remotely and ready to break away from the major email services. While other scheduling apps are extensions of existing ecosystems that can be converted to a team based setting, Woven is built from the ground up for team and group work. It offers a number of features that make it really easy to schedule group meetings; you can host polls to determine the best meeting times, the ability to share your availability, and meeting links that you can access through the app. That way, you don’t have to worry about any malicious links. To add to your piece of mind, you can join Zoom meetings or Google Hangouts right from the Woven app as well. This makes for a much more secure scheduling process. Generally, the less time you spend outside the app, the more secure your links will be and the less calendar spam you will end up with.

 

Of course, Woven is far from your only option when it comes to team based calendar programs (just the best!). As with every other productivity or team building app, there are countless options available to you for a number of different operating systems and devices. These apps will come with a variety of different features, but there are a few things you should look out for. Try to find an option that allows you to schedule meetings within the app, without going to separate email addresses. This will do a lot to filter out fraudulent links and calendar spam. As always, think about your team’s specific situation and pick the best option based on your own needs and desires.

 

Why this matters

This is something that I touched on already, but it deserves a section of its own, especially in the context of a mostly or entirely remote work year. The main issue is obviously that calendar spam clogs up your feed and makes it hard to keep up with the work that you actually need to do. When you have a million spam email invites clogging up your calendar, how are you supposed to keep track of the meetings that matter for the week?

 

This is especially challenging when you and your team are working remotely, since close communication is more important than ever when you’re not working in the same place anymore. If you want to be an effective team despite the distance between you, it’s critical that every member of your team is on the same page. When you work remotely, these virtual meetings are very important when it comes to creating some semblance of team spirit. If you aren’t at the meetings because of a clogged calendar, your coworkers won’t feel like a team and the work you all do will suffer.

 

One of the other main ways that calendar spam can hurt your work is much more personal to you. It might not be true for everybody, but for many of us, the more cluttered our inboxes and calendars are, the harder it is to focus on what I really need to get done. Clearing out spam is the definition of work that’s urgent, but not important. That said, when you’re flooded with spam, it can feel like you don’t even know where to start. While some of this clutter is inevitable, take proactive steps to mitigate it before it happens so you can focus on the work that really matters.

 

Wrapping up

Calendar spam is a pesky but serious issue that can have a lot of negative effects on your productivity. Not only can it result in a pretty serious compromise of your personal information – a or your company’s – but it can also have a big impact on your communication with clients, customers, and your team. But there are a number of ways to combat it.

 

First, be very careful when clicking links to add events to your calendar, since spammers often sneak malicious links in under the guise of legitimate ones. Make sure the link you’re clicking is from the people hosting the meeting. Adjust the settings in your calendar app to make sure that people can’t simply add events to your calendar without your consent.

 

This kind of spam is a persistent problem in a world of faster internet, built on 0s and 1s, but even though it can be a headache, it’s manageable. Hopefully this article gave you a starting point for dealing with calendar spam and we can all get back to work.

 

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Photos by by NanSan1 on Apple.com and MacStories

 

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