Email Harvesting and Protecting Yourself from Spam

Email is such an important part of our daily lives We use it for work, play and to run our businesses. Spam messages are annoying and time-wasting.  How do we stop the junk emails that inevitably ends up in our inbox?

What is Spam?

Spam is unsolicited junk email that floods our inboxes. Some of it is advertising, but much of it contain viruses or links designed to steal your personal or business information. Many people are often unaware of how their email became public in the first place. Sometimes people receive emails that look like they’ve come from their own email address.

People often ask “How did they get my email address?” It’s a good question and it starts a conversation on the topic of email harvesting. Email harvesting is the bulk collection of email addresses for sending unsolicited emails in bulk.

Spammers use scripts called ‘spambots’ to scour the web looking for email addresses. Social networks, blog comments and forums are all good sources.

Databases store long lists of email addresses that have been harvesting using website scraping tools.  Spammers buy these lists and you can often see these offered for sale, in some of the spam messages you get.  Once scraped emails are sold to spammers you can guarantee junk mail is on the way. Of course, most harvesting activities are illegal as well as using addresses gathered this way.

How spammers get your email address

Spammers often buy these lists from others, or harvest their own emails using bots. Some spend time attacking websites to harvest the email address listed (which is a good reason to keep your own website secure). Some spammers guess emails, and then send a test to see if you respond.

These might look like an urgent alert from a bank, or a delivery company asking you to click on a link and take an action. However, clicking one of these emails confirms your email address immediately.

It’s nearly impossible to get off a spammers list. Your best defense is staying off the list in the first place.

Protecting your email address from spam

Here are some steps you can take to ensure to protect your email address:

  1. Don’t publish your email address on your website. Instead of publishing your email, install a contact script, which will send you messages from your webpage directly to your email, without exposing your web address.
  2. Consider a commenting email address as part of an email defence strategy. If you comment on blog posts or use social media websites a lot consider a web mail address. You can get these from Google, Hotmail or Yahoo and it will protect your primary email from harvesting.
  3. Implement spam filters and server level monitoring. Asporea offer incoming email filtering as a monthly subscription, for people whose email addresses have been harvested. Email filtering offers peace-of-mind and relief from a never ending barrage of spam, removing it before it reaches your inbox.
  4. Deploy anti-spam plugins to your WordPress site. Plugins like: Email Address Encoder are very useful for converting email address and mailto links into coded entries that cannot be read by spambots.

The best defence against spammers is to not allow your address to be harvested in the first place, but if you’re suffering from spam overload then consider our incoming mail filtering service for USD$2.99/month.

Tell me your experiences with spam in the comments below.

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