How Spammers Harvest Their Victim‘s Email Addresses and How to Respond?

Spammers use various methods to gather valid email addresses. Some methods by which spammers harvest email addresses are listed below. We provide some tips that can be helpful in dramatically decreasing the number of unwanted emails received as well.

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  1. 1. Extracting email addresses from mailing lists and directories

    The easiest method of obtaining valid email addresses in bulk is through the mailing lists and directories (white pages or yellow pages) available online. The spammers buy mailing lists or they hack into websites hosting such lists. The mailing lists of huge corporations are an easy target. Computer “robots” allow spammers to gather email from online directories. Membership into groups and discussion forums also provides access to the spammers to acquire valid email addresses in a large number.

    Recommendations

    • Even if sites promise to protect your email address, assume it can be obtained anyway. When possible, don‘t post your email address in any directory. If you must provide an email address, use a disposable email address when registering with a site or buying a product.

    • In the case of reputable companies, alter your personal preference options to specify that your contact information should not be shared with others.

  2. 2. Harvesting email addresses listed on web pages

    The spammers also employ programs which weave through web pages in search of valid email addresses. They collect valid email addresses and transmit them back to the spammer.

    Recommendations

    • Use an Internet search tool like Google.com to find all occurrences of your email address on Internet. Then go to each of those sites and request that the Webmaster remove your email address from that web page, specify the URL.

    • Protect email addresses when you place them on a webpage. They can be made human interpretable. For example, if your email address is Iamme@gmail.com write, “Iamme at gmail dot com”

  3. 3. Forms filled out on paper and on the web

    Some companies get hold of the addresses of all the users who fill out forms on paper on the web for them. These addresses are sometimes sold to spammers.

    Recommendations

    • When filling out web surveys and registration forms do not give out your email addresses. Look for a check box that asks you if it is okay to send similar offers or information to you. Be alert for options that highlight themselves automatically to include your email addresses for further communication from partner and related sites.

    • Do not give out friends‘ email addresses to any service. There are services that say “refer a friend” for bonus. These may be simply email address harvesting services that get two mail addresses at one shot. For example, there are several free greeting card sites that ask for a friend‘s email address to gain a bonus, but they turned out to be making money out of the email addresses they gathered.

    • Use multiple email addresses for different purposes. You can also use “disposable email addresses”, which are used to consolidate various addresses but allow you to shut off any address, which is attracting spam. Many sites provide free email address and one-time email addresses.

  4. 4. By guessing and cleaning

    The spammers sometimes send messages by guessing a particular address from a user‘s first name and last name and wait for a confirmation or an error message to return from that address.

    Recommendations

    • Make email addresses long but not incomprehensible. Shorter email addresses are easy to guess by brute force attacks and dictionary attacks

    • Do not reply to any junk email directly, even to tell instruct them to remove your address from their email address. This action will confirm the existence of a valid email address to the spammer. Even if the spammer may not use your email address to send spam directly, he may sell your address to other spammers

    • Set your email Inbox to operate with the option of the preview pane closed to avoid confirming to the spammers that you have opened and viewed their mail

    • Set your email client to “never” confirm receipt of email.

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