Spam - How Do They Find You?

Spam - How Do They Find You?
”Ladies, Want to Look 20 Years Younger?”
“See Photos of 50Plus Singles Near You!
“Manage Your Diabetes”
“Get A LCD HDTV for Under $20”
“Hi Rayna Superb Discounts artist”
“You In Vegas Now”
“Re: Your $1K Walmart Gift card”
“Mystery Shoppers 60 Needed”
“Male Enhancement Pills Now”
“Nursing Degrees”

These are actual subjects of emails that I received this week. I only chose ten rather than subject you to the dozens that I actually received. I am not over fifty, I am not diabetic, and I am not male. I am also not interested in becoming a nurse, going to Vegas, or looking 20 years younger (yet). So why did I get these emails? None of these topics were part of my recent online searches, nor were they the subjects of websites I visited. None of that matters when it comes to spam, though. So the question remains:
How do spammers get our email address and worse, our names?

To answer that question, let's take a look at the most common ways spammers get your info:

Guessing games. You "guessed" it, sometimes spammers literally guess email addresses. There are high tech ways of playing the guessing game when it comes to email though. An automated program will combine thousands of first names, last names, and initials to come up with viable email addresses. Programs like these usually work by alphabetical order.
Here's an example:
First name: Alice
Last name: Appleby, Burns, Crenshaw
Send mail to:, ...

See the pattern? So if your email address is an obvious combination of names - - You're probably going to get spam at some point. The same type of program works using initials and numbers. So using or is also a combination that's pretty easy to guess. This doesn't mean that you need to change your email address, just be prepared to receive spam every now and then.

Finder’s Keepers... Have you ever heard the warning not to post your email address anywhere online? That warning is there for a reason. Putting your email address out there for the world to see is just asking for it. Messages boards or forums, websites, contest entries... no matter the reason behind it, if you choose to put your email address on display, it’s an open invitation for spam.

Other likely methods include: purchasing lists of email addresses from various companies, trolling for them in chat rooms, and harvesting them from user profiles on social networks.

We’ve established that somehow, someday, you’re going to receive spam. While you may not be able to control that, you can control just how much spam you receive by following a few simple rules:

How to Avoid Spam Overload
  • Use more than one email address – When you do want to post an email address in a public place, use a different one. Create an email address that you don’t mind getting spammed, and have an email address that you keep for personal or business use.
  • Don’t EVER post your email address online – remember, keep it protected!
  • Don’t use your email address randomly – Always keep track of where you enter your email address. Don’t sign up for every random offer, newsletter, or membership unless you’re using a secondary email address.
  • Remember, you can say no – if someone asks for your email address, you can decline to give it to them. Merchants like to request it in order to send you coupons, but be selective. Not everyone who asks for your email address should have it.
Although spam is certainly a pain in our emails, it can be controlled. Someday, maybe it will even be eradicated. To help lessen the onslaught, when you are spammed, be proactive. You can forward the spam email to the Federal Trade Commission, where they will examine it, make a record of it, and use it to track new spamming trends. This keeps us Internet users informed of what to watch for. If we all work together we can keep spam where it belongs – in a can.

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