Who Are Email Spammers?
In 2004, the Registry Of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO) database revealed that only 200 spammers were responsible for 90 percent of spam messages. Who are these people and what are their motives?
In most cases, email spammers wouldn’t describe themselves as criminals even though what they’re doing is clearly a criminal activity. Instead, they often see themselves as unorthodox marketers who take advantage of the opportunities presented by the internet to make money.
How do spammers make money? By sending countless spam messages with links to adult sites, products designed to increase or enhance sexual potency, and so on. Of course, they don’t expect most people to fall for such ads. Spammers understand that they are playing a numbers game, and the numbers really do add up.
It costs just $500 to launch a massive email spam campaign consisting of as much as 50 million emails, which means that the cost of a single spam message is negligible. And with a success rate of just 0.1 percent, we’re talking about 50,000 potential victims. No wonder then that most email spammers start with less than $1,500 and manage to earn it back after just a couple of days.
Not All Spam Emails Come from Organized Spammers
Even though a relatively small number of highly organized spammers are responsible for most spam emails, there are many spammers who are anything but organized, and they sometimes don’t even know that they’re sending spam messages in the first place.
That’s because the term spam actually refers to all kinds of unsolicited messages sent in bulk—not just those distributed with malicious intent. This means that, for example, any freelance web developer who sends the same offer to multiple local businesses at once is technically distributing spam, which is an illegal activity in many jurisdictions.
It’s also possible for someone to be sending spam emails without even knowing about it because there are strains of malware whose sole purpose is to hijack a mail client and use it to distribute spam. That’s one reason why it’s so important to use a reliable antivirus and avoid risky online activity.
How Do Spammers Get Your Email Address
Now that you know the meaning of spammers and understand what motivates their actions, it’s time to take a closer look at how spammers obtain email addresses.
- Email harvesters: Just like search engines, email spammers use sophisticated bots that systematically browse the web. The only difference is that the bots used by spammers, called email harvesters, are looking for email addresses and not websites to index. The presence of the @ sign is a clear giveaway of a mail account, but modern harvesters are able to recognize even obfuscated addresses, making it very difficult to stop spammers from getting your email.
- Random generation: Like passwords, addresses can be randomly generated, and that’s exactly how spammers sometimes obtain long lists of emails. Typically, a spammer uses a purpose-built software tool that can receive a massive list of words and output valid email addresses. This approach is much more efficient than true random generation of emails, which inevitably produces many accounts that look something like this: firstname.lastname@example.org. In most cases, such addresses are not valid.
- Darknet markets: Darknet is a term that’s used to refer to the portions of the internet purposefully not open to public view. Websites that operate via Tor or I2P are part of the darknet, and many such websites are basically large online stores for spammers and hackers in general. There, spammers can instantly purchase mailing lists and spamming tools, which allows them to get started in no time.
- Malicious newsletters and subscriptions: The chances are that you’ve signed up for at least a couple of newsletters or subscriptions in your life. Newsletters and email subscriptions are popular, and many people like to receive them on a regular basis. Email spammers know this, which is why they like to create fake newsletters and subscriptions just to collect mail addresses (learn more about how to create a disposable email address).
How to Stop Spammers and How Clean Email Can Help
Stopping spammers is unfortunately much harder than ending up on some list of email addresses sold to spammers, but there’s a lot you can do to significantly decrease the amount of spam you receive.
For starters, you can block all senders of spam messages and use email filters to prevent suspicious emails from reaching your inbox. In Gmail, for example, all you have to do to train spammers is click the Spam button every time you encounter a spam message (learn more about an email spam checker).
If you can, don’t publish your address anywhere online and ask your friends and colleagues to keep it private. There are articles online describing how to spam spammers and arguing that sending spam messages to spammers is a great way how to fight back. The truth is that you should never ever respond to spam messages because that’s how spammers mark you as a priority target and focus their effort on you. What’s more, sending spam messages to anyone—including spammers—is illegal and could get you in serious trouble.
There’s a very fine line between spam messages and harmless email clutter, which is why it’s always a good idea to unsubscribe from as many newsletters and commercial email subscriptions as possible. If you feel that unsubscribing from newsletters and commercial subscriptions is too much work to do manually, we have good news for you: Clean Email can make sure that newsletters and unwanted subscriptions will not show up in your mailbox with just a couple of clicks.
In addition to unsubscribing from mass mailings, the app can also block senders that match your criteria and instantly remove entire groups of emails, helping you keep your inbox clean and neatly organized. Getting started with Clean Email is very easy, and all popular free and paid email services are supported.
Not all spammers are just advertisers. Some spammers are malicious email phishers or hackers who are trying to get personal information that they can use to steal your identity. If you take the right precautions and use the right tools, you can ensure that your identity remains protected and that you won’t be a victim of theft. Clean Email’s Privacy Guard is designed specifically for this purpose.
Privacy Guard will check if your mail account was compromised in any known data breaches and security incidents and inform you if there are any threats. If your email credentials were compromised, you will be advised to change your password, use a password manager, enable multi-factor authentication, or take any other security actions (check out our guide on the email security best practices). With Clean Email, you can perform your everyday tasks without ever thinking about hackers, because Privacy Guard has you covered the entire way.
Wondering to know more email management tips and tricks? Follow our guides on how to send an anonymous email, how to back up emails, or how to whitelist an email address.
Email spammers are unfortunately not going away anytime soon because there’s still a lot of money to be made by bombarding email users with spam messages. With this in mind, it should be your top priority to learn how to fight back and stop spammers from making your inbox unusable. Clean Email is a bulk email organizer with a lot of features that can help you keep malicious emails away from your inbox, and we highly recommend you use it in addition to other tips mentioned in this article.
How Email Spammer Can Get Your Email - FAQs
1. Who are email spammers?
In most cases, spammers are marketers who either don’t understand or don’t care that sending unsolicited messages is considered to be a criminal activity. Besides them, there are also professional cybercriminals who use mail to distribute malware or launch phishing attacks.
2. How do spam emails work?
Spam emails are unsolicited messages sent, typically in bulk, by mail. Such messages are typically distributed by spammers who know exactly what they’re doing and are willing to go to great lengths to circumvent spam filters. They either scrape mail addresses directly from the web or obtain them from the darknet.
3. How to get your email address off spam lists?
If your address has ended up on a mailing list belonging to a legitimate company, you should be able to simply click the unsubscribe link included in each message sent by the company. But if spammers have gotten hold of your mail address and added it to their spam list, your best bet is to mark all emails sent by them as spam since asking them politely to stop sending you emails could have the opposite effect.
4. What to do if your email is sending spam?
If your account is sending spam, then you either have malware on your computer or someone is spoofing the address, possibly because they want to trick a person you know into disclosing some sensitive information they wouldn’t share with a stranger. To solve this problem, scan your computer for malware, change your account password, and alert your service provider or administrator about the situation.
5. How to protect your email from spam using Clean Email?
Clean Email is a bulk inbox organizer capable of automatically blocking emails that match your selection, ensuring they will never reach your inbox. You can also use the app to quickly and easily unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters thanks to the Unsubscriber feature.