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This paper proposes a novel method to characterize unwanted email traffic. Research object is a significant, diverse, and representative set of Internet email traffic, The email session we choose is based on an extended deterministic finite automata (EFSA) model, then choose some parameters to capture email traffic characterization. The method is applied to two different volumes of email traffic data captured respectively at an email gateway of a LAN and a country-edged core router of a large ISP (Internet Service Provider) in China, then we analyze the characteristics and causes of those unwanted traffic. The results show that our method is effective, administrator can use it to design effective rules and strategies to reduce unwanted traffic.