Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spot the Spammer

Lately, my email has been flooded with spam. It is mighty irritating, to say the least. 
To top it off, I almost became a victim of phishing.
There was this one email purporting to be from PayPal. It said that I purchased something via my PayPal account. I'm pretty sure that I haven't bought anything through PayPal for the last 6 months, so I was about to go to the PayPal website (rule of thumb: I never click on any link in any email, except if the email comes from very close friends or if it's an activation code) to check it out. Then I suddenly realized that I wasn't using that particular email for my PayPal account. 
So how do we avoid spam mails? If Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail can't solve the spam problem, we sure as hell can't.
But we can settle for the next best thing. mikealao has a great tip for Gmail users: 
It is absolutely impossible for us to find out who sold our email address to those spammers who choke our inbox with unwanted emails. But now there is a solution to find out people who sell our confidential information to others. Gmail provides a not so explicit feature which you can use to find out which website is giving out your email address to spammers. This will not work for the previous websites where you have already registered but you can use it for future registrations.
 Here is how to use it:
1. While signing up for any new website enter your Gmail address as your_user_name+website_name@gmail.com.
 2. Don’t worry, you will receive the mails as usual because Gmail doesn’t recognize any combination of words or numbers after the “+” sign.
 3. Whenever you get any spam message just click on the “Show Details” link to expand the email header and find out the email address to which it was sent. The images below show a test which I did with a “+” sign on my email address.
 4. If you had signed up according to the step number 1, you will be able to find out who gave your email address to the spammer.
Use this to find out which websites are selling your email addresses, check out their privacy policy and sue them if they lied. If you found this useful, don’t forget to share it with others.
I don't know if there is a similar code for other email providers, though.


Photo: Michal Zacharzewski, SXC

1 comment:

Luis said...

Creating a disposable e-mail for online subscriptions and signups will also help. Yahoo mail allows you to make disposable e-mail addresses. :-)