How are spammers getting my email address?

By Posted in - Web Design Tips on June 8th, 2009 0 Comments

If I were to list one of my top five pet peeves in this universe, spammers would be close to the top of the list.  Not only are they aggressive, dishonest, and annoying, but they stay in business because enough people are dumb enough to click on one of their viagra ads.   One of the questions I get asked often is:  How are spammers getting my email address?  Obviously, if you are signing up for various newsletters, subscriptions, discussion groups and bulletin boards, more than likely, your email address will eventually end up on someone’s spam list.  But there are other ways spammers are easily getting that email that you may not be aware of.

WHOIS INFORMATION:  Have you ever done a whois search on your domain name?  Go to www.whois.net and type in your domain name and then click on  ”View Whois.”  You will see all the information you used to sign up that domain name, including your email address. This information is harvested by spammers to send spam. So what to do?  Use private registration when you register a domain name.  Every domain registar offers it and although this service will cost you about $8-$10 per year, believe me, its worth every penny.

EMAIL ADDRESSES ON WEBSITE:  Spammers often use robots to collect email addresses from websites.  They scan your pages for mailto: links and — ta-da– easily grab your contact information and enter you into spammer hell.  One way to combat this is to have your web designer/developer use an email anti-spam encoder.  The one I like can be found at:  http://willmaster.com/possibilities/demo/aelgwase.html This nifty online tool “is an encoding scheme designed to cloak email addresses from spammer’s email harvesting robots, yet be visible and readable for your site visitors.”  I love this website tool and have started using it with all my clients’ websites.  Its an effective method of making it difficult for those spamming robots.

As stated earlier, if you are posting your email on any bulletin board, usenet group, or even signing up for trip contests and the like, a spammer is going to get that email address.  If you feel the need to do any of the aforementioned, don’t use your personal email address-set up disposable email addresses.  Yahoo Mail has this added feature for an additional cost as well as other email services.  Use your personal email address just for friends and family and then use those disposable email addresses for all the other fun junk.  As soon as you get spam through a disposable address, you disable it, and all spam sent to the disposable address bounce back to the sender.  (isn’t “disposable” great?)  You can set up as many of these as you like and then your really important mail won’t be hard to find amongst the plethora of get rich schemes and porn advertisements.

Let’s face it:  spam is here to stay.  You may not be able to stop it, but by using some of these tips, you at least won’t be giving the spammer a free ride.

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