How DO Spammers Get Your Email Address?
As much as I try to stem the seemingly endless flow of spam, the
crap just keeps arriving my Inbox.
For example, this week I received “New affiliate programs from
2004-02-10 to 2004-02-14 :: Subscription from
I’d never heard of WeAreBlahBlahBlah.net, let alone subscribed
to the newsletter. But the address used explained exactly how
the spammer reached me.
I’ve set up numerous ‘special’ addresses for customers,
affiliates, subscribers, merchant partners and others.
For example, if I join XYZ’s affiliate program, I might set up
[email protected] and give that address to them to contact me. If
I suddenly start to receive spam at that address, then I know
EXACTLY who the ‘leaky’ culprit is.
Here are other ways spammers get your address.
Spammers use scavenger bots, programs that ‘harvest’ email
addresses contained in “mailto:” HTML tags. Those are clickable
email links that open your email program with the address
already placed in the “To” field.
Some sites request various details via forms, e.g. guest books &
registration forms. Spammers get email addresses from these
because the form is publicly available on the web, or because
the webmaster sells the list.
Paper (Offline) Forms
Some companies sell lists of addresses obtained from convention
participants or contest entrants.
Unless the domain registrant has paid an additional fee to make
their registration private, a simple Whois lookup reveals the
Although most registrars have enhanced the security of their
WHOIS databases, by requiring a special code be entered before
information is displayed, many spammers take the time and
trouble to grab addresses this way.
>From Web Browsers
Some sites use various tricks to extract a surfer’s email
address from the web browser, sometimes without the surfer
This is another major source of email addresses for spammers,
especially as this is one of the first public activities newbies
join, making it easy for spammers to harvest ‘fresh’ addresses.
Sending Test Messages
Have you ever sent a message to an invalid address? You get an
‘undeliverable’ or ‘failure’ notice back.
Some spammers use this to guess email addresses by sending test
messages to a list of made-up or guessed addresses. They know
they’ve got good addresses for those that did not result in
Online Yellow Pages
What could be more alluring to a spammer than a directory of
names and email addresses filed by category?
These are ingenious. I tell five friends, and my friends each
tell five of their friends, and so on and so forth. The email
addresses all build up in the cc field and are a spammers
Spammers buy lists of email addresses usually passed off as
those belonging to people who opted-in to to obtain information
in a specific category.
Let’s put spammers out of business.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Use
‘throw-away’ addresses whenever you’re not sure of the source,
and don’t sign up unless there are clear ‘Privacy’ statements on
If worse comes to worse, and you’re fighting your way through a
mountain of spam, install anti-spam software on your computer.
© Copyright Rosalind Gardner, All Rights Reserved.
Article by Rosalind Gardner, author of the best-selling “Super
Affiliate Handbook: How I Made $436,797 in One Year Selling
Other People’s Stuff Online”. To learn how you too can suceed in
Internet and affiliate marketing, go to: