How did they get my e-mail address????

Spammers have lots of ways of getting e-mail addresses. A few are:

  • Usenet groups: If you've ever posted a message to a public bulletin board or newsgroup, your address is out on the internet and easily accessed by spammers. NOTE: Using Boreal's mailing lists, such as news and for-sale, will NOT result in your email address being made accessible to spammers. Boreal's lists are private mail lists, not publicly accessible Usenet groups or bulletin boards.

  • Bots: Spammers use programs called "bots" to search through the internet and "harvest" e-mail addresses from web pages. If your e-mail address is published on your web page, a bot can pick it up as it's compiling a list of addresses for spammers. This is especially true if your page is listed in a search engine. Some ways to make it harder for bots are:
    • If you've published your email address on your web page, don't publish it in a "mailto" link - ie. the person looking at the page just clicks on your address to send an email. The "mailto" addresses are easiest for bots to harvest.
    • Some people disguise their email address so bots won't get the right address, but people will. For example, if your address is jsmith@boreal.org, publish it as jsmithDELETETHIS@boreal.org.
  • Opt-Out lists: Some places will tell you to send them your email address and they'll take you off spammers' lists. Use these with caution - unfortunately some of them actually turn around and sell your email address to spammers.
  • Web page: If you visit a spammer's web page, he/she may use hidden code on that page to get your email address.
  • Viruses: There are many viruses which allow hackers access to your computer if your computer has the virus. Some spammers take advantage of these viruses to access personal computers and harvest the email addresses in people's address books.
  • Online forms: Before you give your email address to a company via an online form, make sure that the company has a policy not to sell your email address. Look for a box on the form that asks if it's ok to send related offers or information to you - make sure it isn't checked.
  • Dictionary attacks: It doesn't cost the spammer anything to send mail to an invalid address, so many spammers "guess" at email addresses by using common names and domains and going through the alphabet. For example, they'll send messages to johna@boreal.org, johnb@boreal.org, johnc@boreal.org, johnd@boreal.org, etc., hoping that a few of those messages hit a valid address.
  • Responding to spam: If you respond to a spam message or click on a link in a spam message, even to tell the spammer to remove you from their list, you've just alerted the spammer that you have a live email address that someone is reading.  This makes your address valuable and the spammer will a) keep it on his list and b) sell it to other spammers.