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Email Address Harvesting: How Spammers Reap What You Sow

Is your in-box clogged with junk email messages from people you don't know? Are you overwhelmed by unsolicited email offering products or services you don't want? You want to know how to block spam in Outlook?

It's no wonder. According to research by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and several law enforcement partners, it's harvest time for spammers, but you can protect yourself with a good outlook express spam blocker. But, the consumer protection agency says, the good news for computer users is that they can decrease the amount of spam they get by using a good spam filter to block spam in Outlook, including outlook 2003 spam.

According to the investigators, spammers typically use computer programs that search public areas on the Internet to make, capture, or otherwise "harvest" lists of email addresses from web pages, newsgroups, chat rooms, and other online destinations. These emails end up as spam in outlook express.

To find out which fields spammers think about most fertile for harvesting, investigators "seeded" 175 different places on the Internet with 250 new, undercover email addresses. The places included web pages, newsgroups, chat rooms, message boards, and online directories for web pages, instant message users, domain names, resumes, and dating services. During the six weeks after the postings, the accounts got 3,349 spam emails. Because of this, you want to block spam in Outlook with good outlook express spam filters. The investigators found that:

  • 86 percentage of the addresses posted to web pages got spam. It didn't matter where the addresses were posted on the page: if the address had the "@" sign in it, it drew spam.
  • 86 percentage of the addresses posted to newsgroups got spam.
  • Chat rooms are virtual magnets for harvesting software. One address posted in a chat room got spam nine minutes after it first was used. These messages often end up in your outlook 2000 spam.

Addresses posted in other areas on the Internet got less spam, the investigators found. Half the addresses posted on free personal web page services got spam, as did 27 percentage of addresses posted to message boards and nine percentage of addresses listed in email service directories. Addresses posted in instant message service user profiles, "Whois" domain name registries, online resume services, and online dating services did not get any spam during the six weeks of the investigation.

Nearly always, the investigators found, the spam got was not related to the address used. So, consumers who use email are exposed to different spam - including objectionable messages - no matter the source of the address. Some email addresses posted to children's newsgroups received a large amount of spam promoting adult web sites, pitching work-at-home schemes, and even advertising hallucinogenic drugs. These are all good reasons to block spam in Outlook.

Slowing the Email Harvest

The investigators suggest that email address harvesting usually is automated, because spam can hit the addresses soon after they are used publicly the first time; the spam was not targeted; and some addresses were picked up off web pages even when they weren't visible to the eye. Still, they say, consumers can protect their email addresses from harvesting programs by blocking spam in Outlook and even in macintosh outlook spam. Here's how:

  1. Think about "masking" your email address. Masking involves putting a word or phrase in your email address so that it will trick a harvesting computer program, but not a person. For example, if your email address is "," you could mask it as "" Be aware that some newsgroup services or message boards won't allow you to mask your email address and some harvesting programs may be able to pick out common masks.
  2. Use a separate screen name for chatting. If you use chat rooms, use a screen name that's not associated with your email address. Think about using the screen name only for online chat.
  3. Set up disposable addresses. Decide if you want to use two email addresses - one for personal messages and one for posting in public. Think about using a disposable email address service that creates separate email addresses that forwards to your permanent account. If one of the disposable addresses begins to get spam, you can shut it off without affecting your permanent address.
  4. Use two email accounts. If you work for a business or organization that wants to receive email from the public, think about creating separate accounts or disposable email addresses for that purpose, instead than having an employee's address posted in public.
  5. Use a unique email address, containing both letters and numbers. Your choice of email address may affect the amount of spam you receive because some spammers use "dictionary attacks" to email many possible name combinations at large ISPs or email services, hoping to find a valid address.
  6. Use a good outlook 2002 spam filter for complete outlook spam control.

Meanwhile, what can you do with the spam in your in-box? Report blocked spam in Outlook, making sure that you include the full email header. The information in the header makes it possible to follow up on your complaint. Send your spam to:

  • The Federal Trade Commission, at The FTC uses the emails in this database to pursue law enforcement actions against people who send deceptive spam.
  • Your ISP's abuse desk. Often the email address is or Forwarding your spam to your ISP lets them know about the spam problem on their system and helps them to stop it. Include a copy of the spam, along with the full email header, and at the top of the message, state that you're complaining about being spammed.
  • The sender's ISP. Most ISPs want to cut off spammers who abuse their system. Include a copy of the block spam in Outlook and header information and state that you're complaining about spam. Their are even free spam filter add-ons for outlook express that you can use.

Although we do our best to provide our users with useful and accurate information on our web site, we do not update this information which is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Users must understand that information presented does not serve as an endorsement of any particular company or individual and that this information changes frequently and is subject to differing interpretations. Users are hereby advised that they are responsible for ensuring that the facts and general advice obtained from our site are applicable to their specific situations and should discuss their specific tax, business, financial, and legal matters with pertinent professionals.


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