Spam Frequently Asked Questions

How do spammers get my email address?

It's very easy to unintentionally reveal your email address. Any time you post your address to a website or forum, it's like advertising your phone number for anyone to start dialling. That's because spammers use programmes that patrol the web in search of addresses. Spam experts advise consumers to conceal their email address just like they would any other piece of personal information or data. If you want to post on forums, add an extra character in your address that is obvious to human readers, but that a computer would miss, such as user(at)something(dot)com. This will help reduce the amount of spam you receive as a result of making your email address public, but unfortunately it is unlikely to stop it entirely. A favourite spammer tactic is the dictionary attack, where a programme sends millions of emails to random addresses, whether they work or not, using combinations of letters and numbers: johnsmith, jonsmith, johnsmythe.

What are Internet Service Providers doing to fight spam?

Spam is a significant issue for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as they have to deploy countless resources and employees to monitor spamming activity in an effort to stop it from ever reaching your inbox. ISPs are aggressive about blocking email messages that come from domains known for sending spam and react swiftly to reports of new spam being sent, sometimes resulting in the disabling of an offender's internet access.

Is some of my spam actually legitimate commercial email that I did opt for somehow?

It could be possible that you signed up to receive information when you registered or ordered something from a particular website. If so, then your address could have legitimately been passed on to a third party. Sometimes the third parties have different policies about who and how they sell their email lists, and an address could be sold to a less-legitimate email marketer. It isn't easy to find out how your email address was passed from list to list, but the best place to start is with the original source. Ask them who their business partners are.

Why doesn't the "unsubscribe" link work?

A study by the Federal Trade Commission in the US found that two-thirds of all "unsubscribe" links fail. Many anti-spam experts warn that replying to a piece of spam asking to be removed from a list could actually invite more unsolicited email as it simply confirms an address to be active.