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SPAM - What is it and why am I getting them?

Spam is electronic junk mail or any unsolicited commercial email. In this article, we will take a look at where spam comes from and why you’re receiving it.

What is spam?

Spam is a form of commercial advertising. It is economically viable because email is a very cost-effective medium for the sender. All it takes is just a fraction of the recipients of a spam message to purchase the advertised product for the spammer to make money.

More than 95% of email messages sent worldwide is believed to be spam.

Why am I getting so much spam?

There are two primary ways spammers choose which emails to send to:

  • Dictionary Harvest Attack – a dictionary harvest is when spammers try to find valid email addresses by randomly sending mail to common mailbox names for a domain, such as info@yourdomain.com or admin@yourdomain.com. The success of these attacks relies on the receiving email server to reject emails sent to invalid recipient – no rejection means the email address is valid.
  • Email Harvesting – email harvesting is the process of obtaining lists of valid email address using various methods and techniques, including from websites, chatrooms, forums, etc. Once an email address has been harvested and identified as valid and responsive, the email address then goes on a spam list. Spam lists may then be traded or sold in bulk.

 

How did spammers get my email address?

There are many ways spammers can harvest your email address and then send spam to you.

  1. If you are not using WHOIS Privacy Protection then spammers can harvest your WHOIS contact information.
  2. Your computer could have a virus or malware on it that is exposing your machine, including email addresses, passwords and other confidential information, to spammers.
  3. Another computer on your network could have a virus or malware that collects email addresses and other information passing through the network.
  4. A script on your website could have a security vulnerability that allows a hacker to access information on your hosting account, including your email address. Make sure you only install credible third-party scripts on your website. 
  5. You have an easy to guess email address. Some spammers simply try to guess valid email addresses by prefixing common names and common addresses to domain names. Spammers have a huge database of prefixes and domain names they will try. 
  6. You provided your email address to a website that has been hacked through a security exploit. 
  7. You signed up for a mailing list and they gave your email address intentionally or unintentionally to spammers.
  8. You sent an email to someone, and they forwarded it to someone else who harvested your email.
  9. Someone sent you an email also addressed to other recipients, and they used TO or CC instead of BCC, making your email address visible to anyone who received the email.
  10. Your email address is on your business card or posted elsewhere people can find, and someone decided to add you to their mailing list without your permission.

How to prevent spam?

Unfortunately, there is no one-click solution to stop spam from piling up in your inbox – it’s a balance between prevention techniques and email filters.

Do’s

  1. Keep your email address private. Only give your email address to people you know and avoid posting it on public websites, chatrooms, forums, etc. 
  2. Use a contact form on your website as a safer alternative to posting your email address. 
  3. Enable domain privacy on all of your domain names so your email address is hidden.
  4. When you send email to a large number of people, put all addresses in the BCC field to hid them from other recipients.
  5. Set up a spam filter. It is best to set up your filter as soon as you create your email account(s). This way, you can start training your filters from the get go.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t click on spam. Spammers keep sending spam because people keep falling for the scams. Don’t be fooled by phrases such as “click here to be removed from this list.” Any response you give them tells the spammer that your email address is valid. Often, this is more valuable to the spammers because they can now sell your email address to other spammer(s) with the assurance that the email address is legitimate.
  2. Don’t use short and very easy usernames and aliases. These are the easiest to harvest and as a result, more spam prone than slightly longer and more unusual ones.
  3. Don’t use real email addresses for signing up for free downloads of any kind online. If the website requires an email address, create one just for it. You can easily create and delete domain email accounts.
  4. Don’t open suspicious-looking email or attachments. It has been known that some spammers hide harmful viruses in the email message or attachment. Many of these viruses can infect your computer and use it to send spam.
  5. Do not make purchases suggested on spam messages you receive. All it takes is just a handful of sales to make it economically worthwhile for the spammers.