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How To Stop Email Harvesting Robots Or Bots

Updated on June 1, 2012
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Email harvesting robots are software programs that scans websites, forums, newsgroups and other online sources for email addresses. The email addresses will be harvested and would probably form part of a bulk mailing list used by or sold to spammers. If your email address have been harvested in this way, you will probably start getting spammed badly.

This article is about simple techniques that you can use on your website to thwart these troublesome email robots. These techniques will not stop all robots, but should be able to stop a significant percentage from harvesting your email address from your web page.


Address Munging

Normally, some webmasters will have an email address on the contact page. This is an email harvesting robot's dream come true. They are going to have a field day, and then talk to the other robots about how easy you are. You don't want that to happen right?

Well, to make the robots do a little work, and maybe even leave them stumped, you can mask your email address so that it does not look like an email address. The following are some ideas which might work:

  • put a space in your email address so that it reads like: user @ YourDomain.com
  • put a space between every character: u s e r @ Y o u r D o m a i n . c o m
  • remove the @ and the full stop: user at YourDomain dot com
  • use ASCII code to replace the @ symbol: user@YourDomain.com
  • instruct the surfer to remove a word: user@YourDomain.com.REMOVEME
  • replace your email address with an image file
  • make it only human readable: my email address's ID is user and my domain is YourDomain.com


Encrypt Your Email With JavaScript
Sometimes, you do want a clickable "mailto:" link on your website. It is convenient for your user to be able to click on the link and send you email rather than having to manually enter your email address. You can use the following JavaScript program to generate a "mailto:" link with your email address not visible as an email address to the harvester bots.

<script language="JavaScript">
<!-- Begin
id="user";
website="YourDomain.com";

document.write('<a href=\"mailto:' + id + '@' + website + '\">');
document.write(id + '@' + website + '</a>');
// End-->
</script>

Just remember to change "user" on the third line to your email id, and "YourDomain.com" on the fourth line to your domain.


Disposable Email Address
This may be the most effective method to combat spam originating from the email robots. If all the above methods fail, and even if they do succeed, you can always have an email address which you use only for your contact page, or any other page that has your email address. Don't use this address for any other purpose. That way, should spam to the email address become a problem, just change the email address on your web pages, delete the old email address and configure the new email address on the web server.

But do remember that some surfers might still be using the old email address which they got your website, so you might not want to delete the old email right away. Just configure an autoresponder so that anybody who sends email to the old address will get a message directing them to the new address. Don't worry about the bots getting the new email as I don't think bots read their email.


Contact Form
This option is best used when you want to have a disposable address. If you use this option, there is no need to configure an autoresponder, as nobody but the bots will have your email address. Note that for normal versions of the SendMail cgi program, your email address will still need to be included on your website, so using a contact form by itself will not do anything to stop the bots.

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    • wandererh profile image
      Author

      David Lim 5 years ago from Singapore

      JustLookin - It was my pleasure, anything to give those spammers one less email to spam.

    • profile image

      JustLookin 5 years ago

      Hey thanks for the ASCII code so simple, I have spent hours looking for an simple inexpensive fix. This worked overnight!!!!

      Thanks

    • wandererh profile image
      Author

      David Lim 5 years ago from Singapore

      Lalit Kumar - Thanks! :)

    • profile image

      Lalit Kumar 5 years ago

      Thank you very much. It's very simple to use.

    • wandererh profile image
      Author

      David Lim 6 years ago from Singapore

      Andrew0208 - My sentiments exactly. I certainly hope that one day, spam will go the way of small pox, but I don't think that I'd live to see it. :(

    • Andrew0208 profile image

      Andrew0208 6 years ago from Zion

      Thanks for this useful information to stop email spam. Recent spam protection mechanisms have truly done great jobs. Spam stinks!

    • wandererh profile image
      Author

      David Lim 7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi creativeMind, really great that we have solutions like temporary email addresses but sad that we have this problem in the first place. Thanks for the tip. :)

    • wandererh profile image
      Author

      David Lim 7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi nicomp, great suggestion. And with your own domain name, you can assign yourself great email addresses. :)

    • creativeMind profile image

      creativeMind 7 years ago from Cochin

      You can use inbuilt temporary email feature in yahoo mail.

      Yahoo allows you to create temporary email address. The mail send to it comes to your in-box itself.When you feel you can delete the temporary email address.

      or you can use sites like guerillamail which gives temporary email address.

    • creativeMind profile image

      creativeMind 7 years ago from Cochin

      good content well put together.

      you can also display email as an image file.It prevents spam bots from reading your email address.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Great advice. Another possibility is to purchase a domain and create different email addresses for different purposes. If a particular advice ends up on a spam list, it can be filtered out by the email client.

    • wandererh profile image
      Author

      David Lim 7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks simplestuff! :)

    • profile image

      simplestuff 7 years ago

      great blog wandererh :)

    • wandererh profile image
      Author

      David Lim 7 years ago from Singapore

      Oh, there definitely are unsavory characters like email robots out there. And their sole purpose is to take over your inbox. :)

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware

      Amazing there are email robots out there! Thanks for the detailed information and how they can be defeated or at least curtailed.