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Internet Family Fun

Spam 101

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Internet Family Fun Home > What You Want to Know About... > Spam 101 > How Spammers Operate

How Spammers Operate

How Spammers Get Your Email Address

  • Companies you do business with and their partners.
    Often when you sign up for an online account or just have to enter your email address to get information, you are agreeing to their terms of service which may include agreeing to them sharing your email address with their partners.
  • Harvesting programs that scour Web pages including forums and blogs.
    Spammers have programs that will scour Web pages for email addresses.
  • They buy email lists.
    Lists of valid email addresses are available for sale.
  • Usenet and news groups.
    When you post to usenet and news groups, your email address is also posted which is ripe for harvesting since they know it is a valid email address.
  • Browsers
    Early versions of Netscape and Internet Explorer would send your email address to anonymous FTP servers. Also older browsers would automatically send an email (with your email address) when your mouse ran over a certain part of the page.
  • Chat Rooms and IRC
    Some chat rooms and IRC (Internet Relay Chat) make your email address available for harvesting.
  • Guessing
    They pick an ISP and then send email to guessed names at that ISP. It doesn't take too much time to come up with a list of,, etc, they can send, wait for the bounces to come back and remove those address and end up with a list of addresses that work.
  • Profiles
    If you have an AOL or other profile online, spammers can go through them and collect the email addresses.
  • Hacking
    Spammers have been known to hack into computer networks to access information including email addresses.
  • Viruses
    Some viruses will ultimately allow spammers to use your address book and the addresses included in that.
  • Forwarded Emails
    Have you gotten a forwarded email that shows tons of email addresses that received the email before? Spammers get those too but they copy the addresses and use them.

How They Send Without Getting Caught
Some SMTP servers do not require authentication with user name and password, so they are freely available to use and it is hard to track them down when they hide their IP (Internet Protocol - a unique number assigned to you when you go online).

How They Make Money
Advertisers will pay them to send email or they get a cut of the sales. Spam may also be a plea for money and they directly receive your money because you are so good-hearted or it may be an offer for you to make money if you help them out. A newer method of spammers making money is the phishing technique, where spam is sent to look like legitimate email from companies that you already do business with such as credit card companies and Ebay. These emails ask you to verify your information. The catch is that you are sending your credit card number, bank information, mother's maiden name and pin numbers to the scammers. Once they get the information they can take your identity or drain your bank account. Learn how to detect email scams so you don't get ripped off.

Spam 101
Next - How to Avoid Spam
Page 1 - About Spam
Page 2 - Why Spam is Undesirable
Page 3 - How Spammers Operate
Page 4 - How to Avoid Spam
Page 5 - Sending Email That Won't Be Caught in Filters
Page 6 - Don't Put Up With Spam, Report It
Page 7 - Spam Filters

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