​​In Australia, spam is defined as 'unsolicited commercial electronic messaging' that offers or advertises the supply of goods or services, land, business or investment opportunities. Spam is a simple and low cost method to reach large numbers of consumers. Spammers often buy mail lists from people who have harvested addresses from web sites or news groups. Spam is also the means for the mass distribution of malicious software (malware) or phishing attacks. (Phishing is a technique used in an attempt to gain personal information for the purpose of identity theft using e-mail messages that appear to come from legitimate businesses or government and official agencies).

Australian legislation relating to spam - the Spam Act 2003 (Spam Act) - came into affect on 11 April 2004. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is responsible for enforcing the Spam Act 2003.

Under the Spam Act it is illegal to send, or cause to be sent, 'unsolicited commercial electronic messages' that have an Australian link. A message has an 'Australian link' if it either originates or was commissioned in Australia, or originates overseas but has been sent to an address accessed in Aust​ralia.

The Spam Act covers electronic messages - emails, mobile phone text messages (SMS), multimedia messaging (MMS) and instant messaging (iM) - of a commercial nature. However, the Act does not cover voice, 'pop-up' windows on the Internet, information posted on Internet pages or electronic messages without any commercial purpose that do not contain links or directions to a website or location having a commercial purpose.

The ACMA's immediate focus is on spam of Australian origin. You can report this spam to the ACMA by visiting the ACMA website. The ACMA's website also provides helpful information in relation to managing and preventing spam.

Further information about spam can be found at www.acma.gov.au/Spam

How to protect yourself online

Information about how to protect yourself from spam and your computing devices from malicious software (malware) can be found at www.staysmartonline.gov.au​