Today I received an email addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Clearly this address was algorithmically generated—or guessed—since I haven't been a Klopfenstein since 1997 and cshaffstall.com has only been in existence since 2009. This address is telling: First in that it is clearly spam—I did not sign up for this list—but now that I've seen it used once, I am closely monitoring its use by other organizations in order to track how this list is being distributed or shared.
I will contact this original sender and ask to be removed immediately and request [demand] the source of the purchased or rented the list. I am very firm in this request. Since I am not a subscriber, a discussion about escalating my complaint to their ESP or ISP is usually sufficient motivation for the disclosure of the list source, but I'm often met with more than a little resistance.
Why is this important? Well, if I'm renting or purchasing lists (which we often do on behalf of our clients), it's critical I know how these various vendors are compiling their lists. Algorithmically generated lists are typically low quality and will unceremoniously drop you into the spam folder of many recipients' inboxes. Honeypot or spamtrap email addresses are not published, but with email addresses algorithmically created, generating them inadvertently becomes a distinct possibility. When you hit a honeypot or spamtrap, you're no longer just a casual spammer, you'll be upgraded to a full-fledged, get-your-email-blocked-everywhere spammer.
These inbound seed names also help in email management when you use rules that relegate the incoming email to labeled folders. With this, keeping an eye on the email can be a once-a-month process rather than adding to your daily influx of correspondence.
Astonishingly, I have tracked down the source of many algorithmically generated (or guessed) emails to two well-established list companies. After identifying the sources, I visited their websites and carefully read their privacy policies and terms and conditions. It was enlightening to find they not only outlined their processes for data collection, they were completely unapologetic about it. Needless to say, we have removed them from our approved vendor list.
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Cyndie Shaffstall, founder, Spider Trainers, is a successful entrepreneur and prolific author, with many books, dozens of eBooks, and hundreds of articles to her credit. She is the former founder of ThePowerXChange, editor and publisher of X-Ray Magazine, and the current founder and managing member of Spider Trainers, a managed automated email services provider for companies around the world. Connect with Cyndie on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, or join her LinkedIn Group, the Marketing Resource Library for daily links to marketing-critical resources.