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Who is Selling Your E-mail Address?

By: Shawn and Annette Hall
Posted: May 8, 2006

If you have a computer and you surf the net, you have spam. The problem has escalated out of control in recent years. Most people have turned to spam filters that are less than perfect but better than nothing.

If you own your own domain name, you may not be able to stop the flow of spam but you can at least get an idea of how information travels at the speed of light.

Most of us have at one time or another signed up for online services, whether it's an E-newsletter or to purchase items from an online source. We've discovered that not all privacy statements are legit, in fact some unscrupulous companies are actually selling mailing lists of their subscribers.

I guess if you can't make enough money selling your product online, selling E-mail addresses becomes a lucrative prospect. At any rate, while you might not be able to stop the flow of spam to your E-mail inbox, you can at least know for certain where it came from, provided you own your own domain.

We've never had a problem with Amazon but because they are so well known I'll use them for our example. Say you want to sign up for an Amazon account so that you can purchase items from them. Make certain you have a catch-all account set up for your E-mail. Basically this means that you receive any E-mail sent to your domain, regardless of who it's addressed to.

Once you have a catch-all address, you can sign up for Amazon using Amazon.com@Example.com as the e-mail address. (Substitute "Example.com" for your actual domain name.) Then if Amazon sells your e-mail address, you will know as soon as they begin using that E-mail address and the best part is that you will know exactly where it came from.

This won't prevent the ensuing barrage of e-mail but you can then confront the company that sold your E-mail address, especially if doing so is against their privacy policy. It could even be used as evidence in a trial, should you decide to take legal action, which is happening more and more these days.

Once you've created your catch-all address and are using it to receive E-mail in this fashion, you can control the flow of mail to your inbox based on the senders. Say you start receiving a bunch of spam from the address you used to sign up for Google services (unlikely, but within the realm of reason) and you want to completely block that mail from coming in the future. Add a second E-mail account to your E-mail server settings (not on your computer!) and add aliases for each 'scum' source address. In the case of Google you'd use "google.com@example.com" as the alias address. Within your E-mail management interface setup this secondary account to automatically purge messages after a certain period. Depending on the amount of spam this new address is collecting you might want that to be a couple times a month or even every day.

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