1. Avoiding Automated E-Mail Address Harvesting
Avoid the Use of Mailto:
The mailto: link used on a webpage is a convenient way to enable readers of your page to mail you. It, however, also provides spammers with the easiest way to harvest your e-mail address, and should be avoided at all costs (unless you enjoy spam). Just because you cannot see the address from the displayed webpage does not mean that it is concealed in any way.
Fortunately, there are a number of safer alternatives to the mailto: link.
Avoid Any Open References to Your E-mail Address
Even in text, an e-mail address on a webpage is harvestable, since it can be parsed and interpreted as just what it is--an e-mail address.
Using a Graphic of Your E-mail Address
Since a graphic e-mail address cannot be harvested (nor can it even be detected as an e-mail address) by automatic e-mail address harvesting programs, it avoids exposing your e-mail address. You can see what this looks like in my CV, in which the two e-mail addresses listed are both graphics, which have been made links that lead to form mail. If you don't use form mail with this device, the user will need to explicitly enter (or record somewhere) the entire e-mail address.
Using Web-Based Freemail
One device used by people to avoid giving out their "real" e-mail address is that of setting up a freemail account.
Being Web-based, however, freemail such as that offered by Hotmail is extremely clunky. In addition, serious professional translators should consider the sleazy anonymity that comes with or is assumed to come with such addresses by potential clients.
For the translator/interpreter with a website, this is the most elegant solution. It lets a potential contact send you e-mail via a form you set up on your website, thereby avoiding direct exposure to your e-mail address, which remains unknown to the sender unless and until you decide to reveal it. Readers have surely encountered such forms everywhere on the Internet.
2. Volunteering Information to Spammers
Forms Asking for Your Address
When requesting services, purchasing products and services, and at lots of other golden moments on the Web, we are often asked for our e-mail addresses. Many of the companies doing the asking claim not to misuse your address. Rather than trust them, I use the device of providing them with either a unique address that links any subsequent spam to them or a general address that I use for such requests. In order to do this effectively, you probably must own a domain or at least have the ability to use multiple addresses. After you have done this, you can use e-mail filtering to sort the spam into the appropriate places.
Verifying Your E-Mail Address for Spam Use
Many spammers use the "click here to take yourself off our list" device. A good number of these links merely verify for the spammer that the e-mail address they used is alive.
Clicking on Links in Spam E-Mail Can Be Harmful
It might appear that merely clicking on a link to a webpage could not do any harm. This is far from the truth. Here is an example. I recently received a piece of spam with a link to the URL shown here.
Note the oc=2390 in the link. This surely links my access to that page with me, since each note can be customized with such numbers for each spam recipient. The results of clicking on the link are two-fold.
Verification of my address as being valid (as noted above) and (more importantly)
Identification of me as a person who clicks on links purporting to lead to mail-order Russian brides.
3. The Advantages of Owning a Domain
While owning a domain costs money, it usually provides the advantage of being able to use any arbitrary e-mail address or addresses, and to receive by default all mail addresses to XXXXX@mydomain.com, for example. My particular hosting service enables me to set up 100 different addresses, but as long as this default routing is in place, even that is not necessary, because anything address to firstname.lastname@example.org will come to me at my default routing address. This comes in very handy in distinguishing spam from real mail.
For instance, when I am asked for my e-mail address to sign up for some service, I give one of my normal e-mail addresses with the character string "trash" added in somewhere before the @ character, and then use e-mail filtering to route that mail into special folders. For example, if one of my mail addresses were to be email@example.com, I would use the address firstname.lastname@example.org, with the assurance that spam to me at that address would be received, and would be filtered into the proper place. Similarly, if I were purchasing some product from an outfit called Chutzpah World, I might enter my e-mail address as email@example.com, since the "chutzpah" part is enough to identify any extraneous mail as coming from the Chutzpah people.
4. The Need for Continued Vigilance
Criminals at constantly at work refining their trade. This means that people wishing to avoiding falling victim need to continue to work at it. Who knows what spammers will devise next. The tips provided here, however, should at least give you a good head start in the race to keep your time and disk space away from the spammer out their.