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Why Do I Get Spam Email?

Is your inbox full of spam? Are you wondering where all those emails are coming from? Tech Talker explains how companies get your email address and why they send so much junk.

By
Eric Escobar,
April 16, 2015
Episode #169

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If you have an email address, you’ve received spam. This is just a fact of life.  Any time you open up your inbox, more than likely some of the messages you receive are going to be junk. The real question is—why is there so much of it? What do the spammers get out of sending all this junk email?

Before we answer that question, let’s talk about how spammers get your email in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy. There are quite a few ways spammers can get their hands on your email address..

How Did They Get My Email?

First, there are large lists of published email addresses that are just floating around the internet. All spammers have to do is download them and start sending.

Odds are, though, your email address will be found by the small programs that crawl websites and forums looking for email addresses. These tiny programs will just search for the pattern of some text, followed by the @ symbol and then a common extension like .com or .net. If the pattern is recognized, the program will record it and move on.

There are other ways for spammers to get your email that may not even require leaving it somewhere on the internet. For example, if you or someone you know gets infected with certain malware, the virus will check the computer for your address book, record it, and then phone home any of that information. This could cause the amount of spam you receive to spike overnight!

This type of leak isn’t confined to just individuals either. Large companies sometimes get hacked and their email lists are then sold on the black market to be used as targets for spam.

See also: Is Spam Illegal?

 

Sadly, any time you give your email address out to any website, person, or company, you’re at risk for having it used for spam. Sometimes, websites and companies will even sell their users’ email addresses directly to spammers, which is the worst!

Once, I was at a conference where in order to enter a drawing, I had to give them a business card. Even though that conference was almost 5 years ago, I still receive tons of junk email from that.

The last way that your email is compromised, comes down to sheer odds. Spammers will often try popular email combinations, using popular names and services, and just see what happens. For example, a spammer might try and send an email out to eric@gmail.com. Odds are, this email is taken, and might still be in use.

So if you have a popular name or an email address that combines your first and last name followed by a well-known email service such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook you may be susceptible to receiving spam.

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