Who’s selling your email address?

Ever wonder which companies that you shop with are selling off your address? 

I used to be very paranoid about giving my email address to companies that I shopped with for fear that they would sell it off and I would start to get a ton of spam.  Like most people, I countered this by doing all of my shopping with a hotmail account.  Now I get tons of spam at home so I'm not quite as paranoid about giving out my address.  Still, I'm curious which companies are selling it off. 

This is a technique I've started to use to attempt to track the selling of my address.  A friend of mine did this in college with good results.  The downside of this technique is that you essentially need to have your own email server. 

Suppose your email address is your name (in my case jared).  Whenever you start shopping with company foo, create an additional email address named jared_foo@yourdomain.com  Only use that addres when shopping with foo.  Then all you need to do is add an Outlook Rule to filter out any messages that start with jared_ to a special folder. 


Comments (9)

  1. David Smith says:

    That’s an absolutely fabulous idea.

    It’d be nice to have a website that documents the selling of email addresses, and the companies that do it and those that don’t do it.

    Maybe this sort of information isn’t very important, as spam has become less of a problem for me. Gmail filters spam out very well, and I don’t get much spam on my @msu.edu address.

  2. damien morton says:

    If you dont have your own domain, but do have an IMAP server, you can also use name+foo@mailserver.com

    The ‘+’ is intended to route emails directly to a folder, but you can also use it to tag the email addreses you give out with information about who you have given it to.

    Ive been using the technique you describe for a couple of years now. The interesting thing is – Ive found that hardly any companies sell my email address. Most of the spam I get is from having my email address harvested off usenet and the archives of mailing lists.

  3. Lars S. Geisler says:

    I have done this for a couple of years now with great results. About a year ago, I realised that 50% of all spam that I received went to rankyou@mydomain, so I went to their website, found their email address and told my webserver to forward all email sent to rankyou@mydomain to them.

  4. Ray Booysen says:

    I do the same thing currently and have already caught one company out. After much arguing with them I got an offical apology and an explanation that an employee sold their email address list to online casinos. Nice!

  5. Hmm, can you sue that guy for damages?

  6. Jason Coyne says:

    Another alternate way to do this is through an email remailer such as sneakemail.com (http://www.sneakemail.com)

    They will give you a new email address for every site you want, and forward the messages to you. They mark each message with some headers so outlook can do auto filtering for folders etc.

    If an address starts getting spam, you can turn it off. You can also do filtering within addresses. For example, if you sign up for service with abc.com, and abc.com starts selling your email, you can choose to allow abc.com to send to the address, but not anyone else.

    I am very promiscuous with email from sneakemail, and I get almost 0 spam, because I turn off the ones that get spammed!

    The service is free, but has some bandwidth restrictions, and you have to go to the website to make a new address. If you pay (something REALLY cheap, like $12/yr or something, I dont remember) you get much higher bandwitdh, and you can make addresses on the fly without going to their site.

  7. Jason says:

    For over 3 years I’ve used http://www.fastem.com for email; they allow you to create custom email addresses. For example:

    my actual email: jason@myemail.com

    my custom email: newegg@jason.myemail.com

    I use a custom email address for every single company I do business with, probably over 500 to date. Interestingly, NOT A SINGLE COMPANY has ever sold my email address. I have never received spam at any one of my custom email addresses.

    100% of the 80+ daily pieces of spam in my inbox are directly to my "vanity" address (firstname@lastname.com) which I never ever ever use for any reason other than for my friends & family.

    My guess is all the spam comes from the tens of http://www.eVite.com invitations I get per year from friends & family. I would assume eVite is able to offer their free service by selling their extensive, up-to-date, known-valid email address lists to the top buyers.

  8. anonymoose says:

    You can buy a domain now from the likes of 123reg.co.uk with catch all email forwarding for about $15 for 2 years.

    Then simply use a different alias for every website.




    Then if you do start to get spam on one you know who it is from, and you can then direct it to /dev/null.

    "The downside of this technique is that you essentially need to have your own email server."

    Not strictly true, basic catch all email forwarding has the same effect

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