Email spam: how did you get my email address?


We’ve all been in this scenario: you open up your email app or client and there’s a barrage of spam ranging from marketing mailing lists to sex enhancement drugs. But hang on – the email address it’s been sent to isn’t one you have listed on your website – a prime target for spam – it’s your personal email address at your domain that you’ve used when shopping online or similar.

So how did they get this email address? Well, sometimes email addresses are sold on by unscrupulous online traders. It’s unlikely to happen with say, Amazon for example – although that’s not to say they will never experience a data breach. Smaller traders however may sell your email address on. So how do you tell who was responsible?

This tip won’t tell you whether it was deliberate or not but will give you the identity of the offender.

The big email spam identification secret

Quite simply, use a different email address for everything you sign up to. Aaaargh! All those email addresses! How will I keep track of them all?

Well, the beauty of it is that you don’t have to. Set up one email address to be a catchall account – this is an email address that will receive all mail from any email address at your domain that doesn’t exist. Anything before the @ symbol that isn’t already a real email address will be forwarded to the catchall account.

Then when you sign up to or buy from a website, use the name of that site as the first part of the email address you give them.

For example, if I set up [email protected] as my catchall account, then sign up to Amazon, I’d use [email protected] as my registered email address with Amazon but all email will go to [email protected]

[email protected] hasn’t been set up as a real email account so the mail is forwarded to the catchall account – just like [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] None of these email addresses actually exist – but a simple setting on the server means I receive mail that goes to them at my catchall address.

So now, when I get spam emails, I can see which online entity has, at worst, sold my details or, at best, not been careful with them simply by checking the email address the spam was sent to. What you do after you get this information is up to you – but it will certainly point out which online traders are either untrustworthy or careless.

All McGregor Media hosting plans have the ability to have a catchall email account – if you’re already a client that we host, ask us for more details.