How are spammers getting my email if I hardly ever use it? I don’t respond to any offers and I want to know if there is way to stop them!
This question was answered on July 15, 2015. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Junk e-mail continues to grow no matter how carefully you conduct yourself online.
Your e-mail address is the online equivalent of our home address or phone number. Once you give it to anyone, it’s impossible to control what will happen with it.
A common misconception about spam e-mail messages is that we somehow have control over whether we get junk messages or not…but we don’t.
It’s really no different than physical junk mail in your mailbox; despite our best efforts, it still shows up.
There are a number of ways that your e-mail address can fall into the hands of spammers, but here are some common ones:
#1 - Someone you did business with has been breached
As soon as you provide any company with your e-mail address, it will go into some sort of database. Even when the database is meant to be private (not intended for use as a marketing list), if the business becomes the victim of a breach, your information is now in the hands of the underworld.
Once one spammer has the address, it’s just a matter of time before your address propagates to other spammer’s lists.
There are a few websites that can tell you if your address was part of a major breach, such as https://HaveIBeenPwned.com, https://PwnedList.com or https://BreachAlarm.com but smaller breaches won’t appear on any of them.
#2 - You posted something online that included your e-mail address
Spammers use e-mail harvesting bots to scan the Internet looking for valid e-mail addresses.
If your address is posted on any website, whether it’s personal or for the company you work for, it’s in all kinds of spam lists. Any type of online activity (registering a domain, blogs, forums, social networks, etc.) that makes use of your e-mail address could potentially expose it.
#3 – You unsubscribed from a spam message
We’ve all seen the links that claim that if you don’t want to receive any messages in the future, simply click on the unsubscribe button or reply with ‘unsubscribe’ in the Subject line. Often times, the unsubscribe information is accompanied by ‘guaranteed unsubscribe’ or verbiage that claims that they follow US spam regulations.
The problem with unsubscribing from something you never subscribed to in the first place is that you may only be verifying your address to the bad guys. Remember, spammers don’t play by the rules and will do whatever they can to validate your address, which can then be sold to others.
#4 – Your e-mail program loaded an image.
A really clever way spammers verify your address is by including a tracking image, which loads automatically for most users. As soon as your e-mail program loads the image, the spammers are notified by their tracking system and you’re on the list (most e-mail programs have settings to block images until you say to download them).
Spam is a fact of online life, so avoiding what I’ve already outlined along with an e-mail program with solid anti-spam technology (I like Gmail the best) is your best bet.
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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on July 15, 2015