Posting your email address on the Internet is a necessary evil from time to time. Perhaps your begging for a Google Voice invite or a Google Wave Invite?? Or maybe you’re trying to sell something on your Website and need to publish a contact address?
No matter what the reason, the problem with posting your address on the net is that there are thousands of people slimeballs out there who are actively harvesting email addresses for their own spammy gain. So in this article, I’m going to talk about how you can prevent your email address from falling into these peoples’ hands or at least TRY to make it more difficult for them.
What’s up with Spammers anyway?
The standard email harvester (thief) wants your email address for one or more of the following reasons.
- To Spam you with junk emails packed with advertisements and affiliate links for their monetary gain.
- To sell your email address to spammers (see above.)
- To send you malicious Phishing emails in an attempt to steal valuable personal or financial information from you.
- To send you a disguised trojan, virus, or spyware file attachment that will try to steal your list of email contacts and other valuable information, possibly even take over your system (again, see #3.)
Nowadays, 99% of email thievery is done using automated programs, or software robots which crawl the Internet looking for email addresses they can stick in their database. Granted, companies like GMAIL, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or any other free email provider can also harvest email addresses but, that’s another article for a later time.
The remaining 1% is done manually by hiring low wage employees throughout the world to search the net manually looking for email addresses. Considering that the majority of the problem is automated, let’s fight the automatons using some free services.
What’s the solution?
1. A quick trick to beating automated email thieves is to just remove any text version of your email address from the Internet by posting it as an image that only a human could read. This advice also includes avoiding posting your email address as part of the filename (also avoid using it HTML “ALT” tag if you are posting it on your site.)
Here’s an example below using a service like Nexodyne.
The only problem with using an image is that some email harvest bots are capable of reading text, even if stored in an image. Another downside to this method is it’s not always practical to post an image of your email address when you’re posting a comment on a blog or forum.
2. The next option to protecting your email address is using an Online Captcha service. Typically this will allow you to hide your email address behind a link that makes someone solve a puzzle before being able to see it. With re-captcha or scr.im a user must first solve a captcha, which is essentially the same thing as reading an image. The nice thing about using these online services is that the puzzle image techniques are regularly updated and usually ahead of the image reading bots (for now.)
For both #1 and #2, I linked to several of these sites. However here’s a simple breakdown which I’d recommended for hiding your email address:
3. Another less common way to protect your email address is by recording it as an audio file. While using this method nearly guarantees a harvester won’t steal your email address, it has it’s own drawbacks as well. A user must have audio enabled and must listen to the sound file to obtain the email address.
Is My Email Address Safe?
Even if you’ve taken all of the security precautions in the world, it’s still possible that someone else posted your email address in public view somewhere on the net. A quick way to find this out is to do an Internet search on Bing or Google for your email address.
Depending on what you find there’s not a lot you can do about it other than getting a great SPAM filter on your email address or ask the website owner to take it off the site.
Would love to hear a few comments on how you hide your email address when posting it to public sites. Did I miss your favorite service for doing something? Drop a note in the comments and join the discussion.