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Denise Keller

Opt-In List Management: Shielding Yourself from Email Harvesters

Jun 02 2011, 07:15 PM by

Email addresses are quite valuable these days. In fact, they are so valued that spammers go out of their way to steal them in order to add them to their random lists. Although you want people to be able to contact you to inquire about your products or services, it is important to know that publishing your email address anywhere on the web makes it vulnerable to these unscrupulous thieves. Fortunately, there are a number of actions you can take to protect yourself from email harvesters, including the following:
Alter Your Address
The easiest way to shield your precious email address from harvesting is to alter it when placing it on your website, blog or wherever you decide to publish it. For example, instead of typing it as myaddress@mydomain.com, you could reformat it to read something like “my address at my domain dot com”. The downside to this method is that it essentially renders your email address unclickable and could be confusing to some visitors. This is a common practice, but if you are worried about potentially losing business, it may be a good idea to explain why you are doing this and give your visitors some clues on how they can unravel the mystery.
Embed Your Address in an Image
Another way to ward off email harvesters is to embed your address into an image. This is an ideal alternative to the first method because it allows you to retain clickability by linking to a web form. It is also a sound method for the simple fact that it works. Most email harvesting is done via software programs. These programs are similar to the spiders deployed by Google and other search engines in how they are only to process text and cannot read graphics. So even with the most effective tools, the average harvester will not be able to steal your email address when using this technique without manually typing it into their database, which is something most are not willing to do.
Connect It to a Web Form
Web forms have several beneficial uses. Among them are collecting information from visitors, building a list of contacts and qualifying leads. We only briefly touched on this above but they can also be used to safeguard your email address from harvesting. Instead of leaving your address out in the open for a spammer to nab, this method calls for you to hide it entirely. There are numerous scripts in CGI, JavaScript and PHP that make it easy for visitors to enter a message, click a button and contact you through a web form. If your website sees a lot of traffic, this method may be more convenient for both parties.

Email harvesters are on the prowl, constantly roaming the web in search of addresses to add to their lists. Once victimized, you are not only susceptible to annoying spam but also malicious phishing scams that pose a threat to your identity. Needless to say, protecting your email address from these potential dangers should be high on the list of priorities.

Posted in Tips & Resources, Lists & Signup Forms

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