Email harvesting is a scammer’s way of collecting your email addresses. Protecting your email from spam is not always easy. The problem gets compounded when you publish your email addresses on the web.
It is essential to prevent spammers from stealing your email addresses. Arming yourself with knowledge about email harvesting will help protect your email address.
What is Email
Email harvesting is when spammers and email harvesters take advantage of the convenience of the internet to obtain large numbers of email addresses. They do this by scraping the web using email extractors –called a harvest attack. The email addresses used to send out spam or bulk emails that can increase your spam at best and tarnish your business reputation at worst. Both of which are growing menaces.
Most email harvesters use web scraping and email harvesting tools to collect such large numbers of email addresses. These scraping tools scan websites, mainly the same way search engines scan for content, and gathers email addresses from the site. With this automatic process email harvesters compile large databases of email addresses and sell them to spammers and sometimes even to unsuspecting email marketers. Then spam or bulk advertising emails are sent to unsuspecting recipients.
How Email Harvesters
Email harvesters use website scraping tools that are programmed to scan websites such as chat rooms, social networking, forums, and e-commerce websites, looking for email addresses it can “see.” It then begins adding those email addresses to a database.
Spammers find other ways to obtain email addresses also. The following are the most common ways email addresses are collected.
- Spammers sell or trade email addresses.
- Purchase mailing lists.
- Hacking into e-commerce and other websites which collect email addresses.
- Guessing common email addresses by using common names.
- Requests to unsubscribe from spam can be intercepted.
- Offering free products or services often gets people to register with their email address.
How to Prevent Email Harvesting and Spam?
No one likes their inbox filled with spam on a daily basis. Many people who face this problem spend hours unsubscribing from spam emails or opting out of email lists. There are ways you can protect your email addresses from spam:
Address Munging – This is a way of disguising your email address prevents spambots from automatically collecting it.
Use Plain Text – Spambots commonly search for the ‘@’ symbol in links to locate email addresses. By replacing the symbol with the word ‘at’ and not hyperlinking email addresses makes them harder to detect by spammers.
ASCII Character Code – Another way to disguise your email address from spambots, while allowing your customers to see an email by following the email link, is to use the HTML code ‘@’ for the ‘@’ symbol. Most spam bots cannot determine this as an email link. However, spam bots are always updated on what they can read.
Images – Using a graphics program you can use GIF, PNG, and JPEG format to code the email address. However, this is not recommended since visually impaired users may not be able to see your email address and others may not want to retype it.
Protecting your Email Addresses from Spam
Learning how spambots work and keeping up-to-date with new techniques is time consuming and costly to say the least. Flying Cow Design has proven techniques to prevent spammers from invading your websites, harvesting email addresses, selling them or using them negatively.
Call Flying Cow Design today to see how we can help you protect your email address and prevent spammers from getting the upper hand.
CEO, Flying Cow Design
Attended University of Auckland
Lives in San Francisco Bay Area