- Internet & the Web
Internet Spam: Are You Getting Emails to Sign Up for a Random Website?
Spam is a major problem in email communication on the internet. Recent statistics show that the far majority of all emails sent around the world is spam. Smart computer guys started to develop spam filters to throw away those emails that are probably not spam. They are working pretty well now. Sometimes spam is easy to detect: weird links, broken English or advertising for various "enhancements".
In the last few months I have noticed a different type of spam that seems harder to combat: you simply get an email to signup for a random website that you've never heard of. These are those emails that require you to confirm your registration. There can be several reasons for this: someone made a typing error when entering their email address (I once got an email with a flight ticket from Peru due to that...) or it's just a spam tactic!
When you think of it, that's actually pretty smart because these type of emails are less likely to be stopped by spam filters.
How this type of email spam works
As a website, you simply harvest or buy many known email addresses and you simply sign them all up for your website. People get an email in which they have to confirm their member registration.
Although many will dismiss it as spam (I hope), a small percentage might be curious and they'll check out your website. Even if only 5% of all people that you have signed up respond then you still have more members signed up and possibly interested in your website. The people that don't respond can simply be removed after a month of inactivity to keep your website administration clean and tidy.
This is exactly the same as how normal spam works: you send millions of emails and although only a handful respond, it's still worthwhile because some people even purchase products as a result of spam. If they didn't then spammers would stop doing it, right?
In a way it's a smart tactic but also very annoying. Your spam filter does not know whether you have genuinely signed up for that website so it cannot filter these emails. Rest assured that I will not sign up for your website if you try this on me. If you are an ethical website owner then you should not employ this tactic, for obvious reasons.
How to detect this type of email spam
Never respond to emails that you don't trust and don't click on links in those emails.
Even emails that look personally addressed are usually not written for you. For example, if your email address is JohnJohnson@example.com and the email starts with "Dear JohnJohnson," then alarm bells should sound. This is a sign that the sender knows nothing more about you than just your email address and they just use the first part of it. If your email address does not contain your name but a nickname (possibly including numbers) then this is more obvious.
Take care and only sign up for a website that you have chosen yourself. Don't participate in websites that are a bit shady but "hey, they have given me an account anyway". Check whether you can trust a website. The fact that they may be employing these kind of spam tactics is not a good sign.