Someone Is Using My Email Address!

Someone is using my email address and other info to sign me up online for various groups, seminars, etc. Are there laws regarding this? –Jim

While there are various federal and state laws against email “spoofing” and other forms of misleading or deceptive transmissions, the problem is tracking down and prosecuting the perpetrators.

You’re assumption that “someone” is doing it is the first problem. In many cases, automated processes written by those that have less than noble intent are “scraping” your email address from a legitimate source (a Web site, a forum, a blog or one of those infamous emails that someone sends to “everyone they know”) and using it for their malicious purposes.

If you are getting email from sources that seem legitimate that you’ve never signed up for, your assumption that “someone” is signing you up is more likely to be the result of something that you subscribed to that had a side relationship with another group buried deep within the ‘I agree’ page.

As a business owner, I am constantly barraged by marketing firms that claim that they have “clean” email lists that only contain addresses of folks that have “opted-in” to a list saying that they would be OK with being sent “special offers.”

The problem I have with these claims is that I have yet to meet anyone since the inception of the Internet who has ever knowingly said that they have approved some random marketing firm to send them “special offers” whenever they felt motivated to do so.

The most likely causes of what you are describing are from rogue automated systems that have subscribed to a service using your address (in order to gain access to something else they were after) or your own actions of signing up for something and not fully reading the legal psychobabble agreement that you were required to agree to in order to get what you wanted (free download, chance to win, register for, etc.)

This is why we have preached since the beginning of the spam problem that you always have two email addresses: one that you keep private and one that you use for all of the various sites that you make purchases on or register for or when you join a social networking group.

The Internet is infested with sites that have no other motive than to get you to sign up for something that seems legitimate, but in fact is nothing more than a front to mine for email addresses.

Unless you are paying very close attention to everything you ever do on the Internet, it’s nearly impossible to keep your email address from being manipulated by those that can profit from it.

If you don’t have a second email address, sign up for a free account at sites like Gmail.com (Google’s free Web mail service), Yahoo.com, and Hotmail.com (Microsoft’s free Web mail service) and use it for anything that isn’t important from now on.

If you are being sent newsletters or other correspondence from legitimate companies or Web sites that you recognize, you can usually be safe in clicking on the unsubscribe link located at the bottom of the messages. But be very careful not to unsubscribe from messages that are not from familiar companies, because this is often a tactic used by spammers to get you to verify your address so they can sell it to other spammers as a verified address.

Old world ethics like respect and civility don’t exist on most of the Internet and your email address is the currency of the new economy, so guard it as best you can!

Ken Colburn
President of Data Doctors Computer Services, Host of the award-winning Computer Corner radio show, and Author of Computer Q&A in the East Valley Tribune newspapers.

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  • Howard

    Ken’s answer is not helpful for me. In my case, someone is using my email addresses. I work for a non-profit and we have our own website and corresponding email addresses (e.g. johndoe@non-profit).

    I am constanting getting email selling all kinds of stuff from johndoe@non-profit, exec@non-profit, etc. Since I am getting this mail. I assume others are as well.

    I am not sure how these people have managed to hijack my email addresses or what can be done about it…..any help?

  • Email marketing doesn’t work on me

    Just found this post two years later, but had to add that Ken leaves out what happens to a lot of people and is happening to me–your private address is “hijacked” by people who 1. Know you or 2. don’t know how to use email.

    In the first case, my completely private email is ONLY given to my friends (I have business, spam and personal emails I use speperatly…I think most people do) . One of my not-so- clever friends loves to use the “send this item to a friend” link on webpages to show me cute clothes she wants to buy or thinks I would like. Instead of being clever and just copying and pasing the direct link, she has inadvertantly signed me up to become a member of that website’s mailing list by giving them my email address WITHOUT my consent in any way shape or form. They then sell my once cherished private email all over the globe and it’s now spam central.

    In the second case, I have an email address that is very desirable/common (something like soccerfan@…..). Someone has a similar address and obviously makes a lot of typos or doesn’t remember her address, because this person (her name is Christina, fyi) has signed up for literally DOZENS of legitimate mailing lists and accidently put my email address in instead of hers. She also makes comments on webpages and enters MY email as the contact, so I get replies from website owners regarding questions I never asked. Of course I have no way of getting in touch with this Christina person, because I don’t know what her actual email address is, other than it must be just one or two keystrokes off from mine.

    These situations, Mr Ken Colburn, President of Data Doctors Computer Services, are something I’d like you to find a solution for.

  • Selena Faye Robinson

    I am attempting to cancel this email name due to the fact that some guy out there some where has taken my name on doing crazy things. As you can see I am a woman I hardly use the internet that much accept solely on legitimate terms only because I am honest person. The law is nothing to play with. Now you know who I am and someguy out there is using my name and acting very immature with it. this is why I wanted to get this message out and find a way to stop this.

  • Selena Faye Robinson

    I Just posted a comment regarding a mix up in email names. Now again , apparently some guy out there is using my name and doing silly things. i dont know what possesses anybody to be so malicious these days. I am attempting to cancel my email address and creat a new one so that I dont end up being wrongefully targetted in any way what so ever. As for all the coward creeps out there in hiding , they are the ones who ought to be sought after.