For spammers, your email address is their asset. They will go all the length to find more email addresses. The number of junk email you receive have a direct relation to how much your email address is exposed.
Here are some places where spammers find your email address:
- Websites - If your email address is listed on any publicly accessible web pages, prepare yourself for a spam storm. Some websites use an online form to collect customers' enquiries or visitors' feedback in order to hide the contact email address. However, spam robots can still spider into the FORM Tag to obtain the submission email address. With BEE (a web platform developed by Accsoft OnMyWeb), you may hide the form submission address completely.
- Yourself - If you reply to spam or trying to follow their so-called unsubscription procedure, you are turning yourself in, as the spammers now know that you are "real", and therefore much more valuable. Signing up with unknown website (e.g. for free stuff) usually requires your email address. If you do want to do so, using a "come-and-go" free email account or an email alias is a good idea.
- Your friends - Not that you can't trust your friends but if one of your friends got his or her computers broken in, your email address (along with all your friends') will be exposed to spammers, or even worse, hackers for their next target.
- Chain email - You may receive an email (possibly from a friend) with some interesting message, ending with a request for you to forward the email to "everybody you know". Such email ends up in thousands (or even millions) of computers, and each copy carries the email addresses of "everybody everybody knows". If one of these people is a spammer, every email address in the chain email will be added to the victim list in no time.
- Discussion forums or chat rooms - These are popular places where spammers scan for email addresses. They write programs to look for anything with an @ symbol in targetted interest forums and harvest millions of email addresses.
- Mailing lists and public directories - You may voluntarily join some mailing lists (e.g. a club or website you're interested in). If such mailing lists are not well protected, spammers can either obtain your email address via the list or simply send junk email to the list without even knowing who's in it.
- Paper forms - When filling in paper forms that ask for your email address, please make sure that it is necessary and safe to do so. For example, if the organisation processing your form did not take proper care, your email address may end up being listed on a mailing list or their website.
- Thin air - If your name is popular and it happens to be your email address as well (e.g. john-smith @ name.com), it will sooner or later be "tried on" by spammers. Many email servers will send a bounce-back message telling the sender that the address is not valid. Then the spammer can take it off. There are only 511,758 possible names which are of four letters or less. Spammers can try them all and eliminate invalid ones based on bounce-back, to "carved" out all short valid addresses on an email server. For your own good, please use email address of 5 letters or more.
There are many other ways that spammers can find you. Using your email address wisely and carefully will somehow reduce your chance of becoming a spam target.
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