Someone is using my e-mail address and other info to sign me up online for various groups, seminars, etc. Are there laws regarding this?
This question was answered on April 11, 2008. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
While there are various federal and state laws against e-mail “spoofing” and other forms of misleading or deceptive transmissions, the problem is tracking down and prosecuting the perpetrators
You’re assumption that “someone” is doing it is the first problem In many cases, automated processes written by those that have less than noble intent are “scraping” your e-mail address from a legitimate source (a website, a forum, a blog or one of those infamous e-mails that someone sends to “everyone they know”) and using it for their malicious purposes
If you are getting e-mail from sources that seem legitimate that you’ve never signed up for, your assumption that “someone” is signing you up is more likely to be the result of something that you subscribed to that had a side relationship with another group buried deep within the ‘I agree’ page.
As a business owner, I am constantly barraged by marketing firms that claim that they have “clean” e-mail lists that only contain addresses of folks that have “opted-in” to a list saying that they would be OK with being sent “special offers”.
The problem I have with these claims is that I have yet to meet anyone since the inception of the Internet that has ever knowingly said that they have approved some random marketing firm to send them “special offers” whenever they felt motivated to do so
The most likely causes of what you are describing are from rogue automated systems that have subscribed to a service using your address (in order to gain access to something else they were after) or your own actions of signing up for something and not fully reading the legal psychobabble agreement that you were required to agree to in order to get what you wanted (free download, chance to win, register for, etc.)
This is why we have preached since the beginning of the spam problem that you always have two e-mail addresses: one that you keep private and one that you use for all of the various sites that you make purchases on or register for or when you join a social networking group.
The Internet is infested with sites that have no other motive than to get you to sign up for something that seems legitimate, but in fact is nothing more than a front to mine for e-mail addresses.
Unless you are paying very close attention to everything you ever do on the Internet, it’s nearly impossible to keep your e-mail address from being manipulated by those that can profit from it
If you don’t have a second e-mail address, sign up for a free account at sites like Gmail.com (Google’s free webmail service), Yahoo.com and Hotmail.com (Microsoft’s free webmail service) and use it for anything that isn’t important from now on
If you are being sent newsletters or other correspondence from legitimate companies or websites that you recognize, you can usually be safe in clicking on the unsubscribe link located at the bottom of the messages BUT, be very careful not to unsubscribe from messages that are not from familiar companies, because this is often a tactic used by spammers to get you to verify your address so they can sell it to other spammers as a verified address.
Old world ethics like respect and civility don’t exist on most of the Internet and your e-mail address is the currency of the new economy, so guard it as best you can!
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on April 11, 2008