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Scammers and phishers – how they get your email.

Posted in Crime Prevention May 6th, 2008 @ 10:53 am

I’m sure all of you have received emails that our ISPs (Internet Service Providers) mark as “SCAM”. Thanks for the warning but the email wasn’t blocked or deleted before it got to my inbox. Even if you try to find an email address to “unsubscribe” you won’t find one. Believe me, I’ve looked and I’ve tried.

So where do the email scammers get your email address?

Answer: Email marketing companies.

Scammers and phishers go to several email-marketing resources. For example, when you buy something via the Internet, the Internet business has your email address. Many of these businesses make claims that they won’t share your email address or sell it. Many of them lie. Selling email addresses is a big business. These “marketing” companies gather email addresses and then sell the list to anyone. These companies don’t get your permission to sell your email address and don’t check out the buyers to make sure they are emailing legitimate sales pitches.

Some illegitimate marketing companies even pay people to sit and surf the web for email addresses. Easy places to go are Web sites that have a “contact us” button on the site or any Web site that has email addresses. They simply copy the email address, put it into a spreadsheet and sell all of these emails to their customers.

Another method they us is trying different combinations of your email address. I’ve received scam emails to my email address that was very close to my correct email address. For example, if my email address was janedoe@msn.com I would receive emails addressed to jandoe@msn.com or jdoe@msn.com, I think you get the idea. These permutations were sold as “legitimate” email addresses.

Now these scammers or phishers aren’t the brightest bulb in the pack. They aren’t technical people so they count on email marketing companies to sell them “good” emails. By “good” I mean emails that get to you and me and don’t bounce back as undeliverable. Some “good” email marketing lists sell for as little as $10 for 1,000 names or as high as $100 for 1,000,000 names. The return on investment for these scammers is high even if they pay $100. There is a 1% chance that these emails will be responded to and that they have hooked an unsuspecting victim. That’s what phishers do; they phish the Internet to hook a “sucker”.

What can you do about these irritating and annoying emails? If you are receiving these types of emails at your work email address, notify your IT department. If you are receiving these emails at your home email address, mark the message as “SPAM” and delete it. Remember, never, never respond to a scam email. You won’t get rich. You will have your identity stolen and the only one who will be making money is the scammer/phisher.

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