Ho Ho Ho, Viagra: Top Ways Spammers Can Get Your Email Address At Christmas

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how do spammers get your email addressIt’s a time of giving, of goodwill to all men… and a time for money to be spent and made. Christmas comes but once a year, which means that it is an opportune time for any business to make a profit.

The problem is that not all businesses “trading” at Christmas are reputable. While you can trust your shopping center chains and online giants, there are plenty of businesses operating both in plain sight and behind the scenes that are trading not in gifts, but in data – your data.

Specifically, I’m talking about email addresses, and the remarkable number of ways that scammers can farm them over the Christmas period. Online stores, e-cards, Christmassy games and downloads – there are many ways in which you can find your data in the hands of spammers and scammers from a simple act of giving.

Online Stores

Online stores like Amazon are a popular destination for shoppers at Christmas, but you need to make sure that what you’re getting is purely the gift you order and not a load of trouble.

Various things can go wrong if you don’t use a big name online store (and even using Amazon can lead to problems with incorrect items and rip-offs if you choose to purchase from a featured seller) so be aware of this potential Christmas shopping pitfall.

how do spammers get your email address

All that, and we haven’t even got to emails and spam yet!

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Shopping on an online store always requires an email address. As you have probably guessed, this can potentially be farmed and added to a vast database that can be sold or rented to spammers. Companies such as Amazon and eBay won’t spam you without prior permission and always allow you to unsubscribe.

The threat with less reputable companies and fly-by-night spam farmers is obvious (an online store can be setup in minutes), which is why you should stick with recognizable online brands, and make sure you’re typing the URL correctly.

Christmassy Games

When I last worked in a communal office, one of the popular seasonal pastimes was to download and play Christmassy games.

These ranged from flash games featuring Santa, snowmen, and the usual Christmas trappings to clever quizzes based on Excel spreadsheets; lots of fun for us and a bumper payday for spammers.

how spammers get email addresses

Once again, this is a method for spammers to farm your email address. There are countless websites offering Christmas games, and each time you use one you’re asked for your email address. Some sites also offer a sharing/suggest feature too, thereby enabling you to send an email to a friend… who also gets added to the spam list.

Cashback, Coupons, and Price Comparison

You won’t only be exposed to spam from Christmas games and online stores. While you’re busy Christmas shopping, you’ll perhaps spot some interesting offers from price comparison websites, sites offering cashback on expensive goods or coupons that can be either downloaded and printed or entered into online stores as codes.

how spammers get email addresses

These are all prime examples of how you can end up sharing your email address with a third party. Many cashback and coupon sites sell your email details as part of their monetization (along with adverts) in order to be able to offer the deals that they do. Meanwhile price comparison sites are by their very nature middle men, and you really don’t know where your details are going to end up…

Christmas E-Cards

I was first alerted to this when I heard that my Dad had sent some festive e-cards to our relatives oversees. Finding it odd that he hadn’t used a well-known service, I decided to look into the world of e-cards, and found that while there are plenty of trustworthy businesses offering e-cards, selecting the wrong service is a sure-fire way to not only submit your own email address to a spam list, but also those of your recipients.

how do spammers get your email address

Those responsible might consider this a price to pay for having a free email sent, and they might have an argument. The important point is that you should actively and explicitly not agree to “receiving further emails” when sending your e-card, something that the less reputable sites offering this service don’t bother with.

If you have plans to send an e-card this Christmas, please convey your sentiments via a reputable service such as Hallmark (there are others) and ensure you read the small print.

Meanwhile, if you’ve found this article too late, it’s best to be honest – send an email to your recipients and let them know that they might be seeing some spam…

Avoiding Seasonal Spam

It doesn’t have to be a spammy Christmas – you can take steps to avoid having your email inbox flooded in the New Year with information about sales, online casinos, and Viagra.

  • Use a temporary email address when signing up (you can change it later if you’re happy).
  • Don’t submit someone else’s email address with your own.
  • Largely avoid e-card services except the most reputable.
  • Avoid “new” or unrecognised online stores.
  • Give price comparison, voucher and cashback websites a wide berth.

Ultimately, Christmas is a time for giving – but that doesn’t have to include handing your email address over (complete with gift-wrapping) to a website or service (however reputable) that will misuse it.

Image Credit: Computer keyboard with gift key via Shutterstock, Picture of happy woman via Shutterstock, Gift card – red and yellow label via Shutterstock, Phishing fraud via Shutterstock

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5 Comments - Write a Comment

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Douglas Mutay

Thanks for sharing this. Although I am sure that for a lot of our friends and relative has already too late ;-)

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Yeah, this should be posted earlier. A lot of people has finished their purchases, afterall.

Christian Cawley

Arguably as far as Christmas goes, it was perhaps slightly late but the principles remain the same all year round.

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Lisa Santika Onggrid

The exact reason I began to use Mailinator. Seriously, use your throwaway email address to deal with once-in-a-while businesses, especially those related to third praty services.

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Mac Witty

Nice tips to make you behave well. But then friends and family send Christmas card with 40 addresses as cc and I get bananas. Luckily it is just Christmas once a year

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