Avoiding Spam - How Spammers Get Your Email Address

Educating yourself can help reduce the chance that you will become a victim of spam clogging up your mailbox. There are several methods that spammers use to obtain email addresses.


1. Filling Out Forms Obviously, if you provide your email address on a form you are filling out, you're giving that address to somebody that may sell it to another individual or company. Most people provide their email address information for something free in return or a membership to a web site. You will have to read a web sites' privacy policy to see what they are really doing with the addresses they obtain, but sometimes you still can't be sure to trust providing your address. I always suggest having a separate email address just for these types of things. Open up an email address with one of the many free email providers and use that address every time you need to have a valid email address for free offers and site memberships.


2. Having Your Email Address Posted on a Web Site If you post on message boards or even have your email address on your own web site as a way of having people contact you, it can open you up to spam. Spammers have robots that crawl the internet that seek out anything that resembles an email address. If you have a link to your email address posted on any web site, it will most likely be added to a spammers email database at some point. If you post on the internet, try to post where your email address or a link to it isn't displayed. The site may have an option to enable or disable this feature. On your own site, use forms that users can submit that can be forwarded to your email address.


3. Posting on Newsgroups Like message boards and web sites, newsgroups are filled with email addresses for spammers to use. Newsgroups are searched as well. If you post on newsgroups, make sure you use a fake email address for people to reply to or rewrite your email address in your newsgroup software to something similar to your original address. If your email address is username@domain.com then change your newsgroup software to have your replies go to username --at-- domain.com, or another variation of that. You can leave a note at the bottom of your messages to change the --at-- to an @ symbol. This way only a human will be able to see what your email address really is.


4. Simple Email Addresses Instead of searching for valid email addresses, some spammers just broadcast email to combinations of usernames that are common. For example, if a company has an email system that gives its users email addresses with a first initial and last name. John Smith would have an email address of jsmith@company.com. Spammers send email out to common last name using every initial possible. They could send to asmith@company.com, bsmith@company.com, csmith@company.com, and so on. Chances are, the email will find a few unfortunate people with the last name of smith. Spammers do this with every domain they find. Yahoo.com, Hotmail.com, msn.com and so on. Try making your email address a little more complex than first initial and last name, or even first name last initial. Try using your full name, and if you don't mind, even include your middle name.john_smith@company.com and john.m.smith@company.com is a little bit harder for spammers to find than jsmith@company.com.


5. Reading Untrusted Email Some email messages could have code within them that sends a notification that your email address is valid. Therefore, just opening an email message can cause a deluge of more spam to be sent your way. Use your best judgment when opening email. If you don't know where a certain email came from, just delete it.


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