A reader wonders if there’s a way to block overseas email.

“Is there any way to block emails coming from other countries outside of the U.S.? I can tell by the received message that the spelling, way of writing and asking for the recipient to send them the information/money/etc they require. Their messages are so blatant and obviously not from America. Of course, I never, ever, respond nor click on their links but I have noticed that a number of emails originate from Hong Kong, and Africa, just by the way they communicate their requests. If you can think of some way to block these efforts I would appreciate it. I also know that so many users names have been hacked from companies and sold overseas and that is why we are inundated with spam.”

That’s a tricky one and there’s no way to be absolutely certain. U.S. companies might send from a foreign server and foreign scammers could route their spam through a U.S.-based server.  But Outlook does offer a feature to help block these types of messages. This applies only to the Outlook email client that you install on your PC or Mac as part of Microsoft Office, not using Outlook.com with a browser.  However, you can use this filter with any email service coming into your inbox like Gmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo, AOL, etc. The foreign spam may still turn up in your inbox for these services online, but they won’t make it into your inbox on your PC. Keep in mind, that you might get something you want to see filtered out if it’s coming from any of the domains you block.

First, open Outlook. Click the Home tab and select Junk.

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Then select Junk E-mail Options from the drop-down menu.

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When the Junk Mail Options menu opens, select the International tab. You’ll be able to choose between blocking domain codes like .ca or .mx or certain characters associated with other languages.

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Click on Blocked Top-Level Domain List and you can scroll down and choose to block domains associated with other countries. That’s by no means a guarantee that scammers can’t send from another domain. But it could help. Just be careful not block any domains you get legit email from. Don’t be tempted to select them all. The US is on there. Then click OK. 

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Click on Block Encodings List and you can block messages that use certain characters associated with other languages. Just tick a box and hit OK.

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This isn’t going to help if the scammers send through a U.S. domain in English characters, but it can reduce some of your spam. Your best bet is to always mark such emails as spam. It helps teach your spam filter what to look out for.