Does getting porn spam mean that you’ve been surfing porn sites?

Porn spam doesn't mean anyone did anything illicit. Spam simply is. Lack of spam doesn't imply you've been good, either.

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Why does my sister’s email get hit with xxx rated “chat ads”? mine doesn’t ever…would you have had to visit a site of that type or signed up etc. to be getting those kind of ads?

To the relief of those whose partners have asked (or accused) something along the same lines the answer is an unequivocal no.

Getting porn spam doesn’t mean you’ve been visiting porn.

The reverse is also true: not getting porn spam doesn’t imply you haven’t been out surfing porn either. smile

They’re unrelated, and I’ll explain why. And I’ll also explain how they can be.

When you visit a web site – like Ask Leo! for example – you don’t provide you email address to view what’s on the site. You can view all the pages here and aside from an IP address, which tells me almost nothing, I have no idea who you are. I couldn’t email you if I wanted to.

The same is true for porn, or any other web site for that matter. There’s just no way for them to email you unless you somehow give them your email address.

Most people get spam. Some more than others, but most all do.

Now of course … you might. For example, you might sign up for my newsletter, and I’ll send that to you once a week. I’m sure that the porn industry has similar products – newsletters, subscription sites, discussion forums – all of which might require that you provide an email address. And yes, once you give them your email address, they will probably start sending you email.

In the worst case, they might also give your email address to someone else who’ll start sending you email. (For the record, I do not.) And some or all of that might look like spam, including porn spam.

Porn and other shady industries on the web are also notorious for trying to infect your machine with viruses and malware that in turn could grab your email address from your email program – along with everyone in your contact list. That could land you on spammers lists.

But just surfing web sites – and doing so with appropriate anti-malware precautions and common sense – doesn’t give them that information. If you haven’t provided your information, they have no real way to know how to email you.

So why are you getting porn spam?

The same reason you’re getting any spam: it happens. Most people get spam. Some more than others, but most all do.

At some point your email address made it onto a list of email addresses used by a spammer. That list may have been sold to another spammer, and sold to another, and another and another until your email address might be on several spammers’ lists. Some of those might be drug spammers, some who send phishing attempts, and others who want to help you increase the size of certain body parts.

And, of course, some might be porn spammers.

But that’s all unrelated to where you’ve been. It’s more related to how visible your email address has been, and whether or not you’ve responded to (accidentally or otherwise) spam in the past by clicking on a link or replying. Once spammers realize that an email address is valid and reaches a real person, they prioritize sending spam in your direction.

So, no, if your spouse, child, partner, friend, employee or whomever starts getting porn spam it doesn’t mean they did anything related to it.

It doesn’t mean that they are surfing porn.

Just like the lack of spam doesn’t mean they haven’t been.

There are 27 comments:

  1. Mark Reply

    I’ve found that some email addresses seem to attract more spam than others. I think it’s because of the random email address generators spammers use. It seems yahoo etc get more spam than lesser known providers, and more obscure names get less spam. I do have one question: It seems like gmail gets less spam than anybody. Do they have a pre-filter that doesn’t even let some spam providers get into the spam box? I know hotmail does this, sometimes with disastrous results, often blacklisting entire email providers. (I’m saying this based on personal experience).

    Not that I’m aware of. I know I have a healthy collection of spam in my GMail spam folder Smile. (And yes, Hotmail’s pre-screening often does lead to disasterous results.)

    Leo
    21-Mar-2010

  2. Bob Reply

    Can your e-mail address effect the type of spam you receive, or is this down to whom their e-mail is ‘sold’ to?
    I know of people who get bombarded with certain types of spam – one person gets a lot of “hygene product” spam, while another gets “enhancement” spam, and another “foreign partner” spam.

    I’m sure it does. Male names are likely to get more male-related product pitches, for example. Not exclusively or always, just probably more. Similarly hotmail accounts get a lot more spam than private domain accounts.

    Leo
    23-Mar-2010

  3. D.S. Ullman Reply

    Another source of spam is posting your email on an open forum. I am always baffled by the number of people who state they a problem on a support forum and then request that then answer be emailed to them. It isn’t going to happen but the ‘bots can harvest a known good email address.

    When you posted that comment I’m sure you saw the instructions that appear that say “don’t include email addresses” – and yet every day my assistant goes through and removed email addresses with “[address removed]” from several posts that blindly ignore that.

    Leo
    26-Mar-2010

  4. Wendell Reply

    I am the Automation Coordinator for a public library. We prohibit the viewing of sexually explicit material on our public computers and though we don’t filter, we do monitor computer use when we suspect a patron is viewing this material.

    More to the point of the question, we look for someone who is obviously seeking out porn. If it comes in their email and they immediately delete it, we don’t worry about it; however, if it is obvious that they are clicking on porn links, we will intervene by closing their session and terminating their internet privileges.

  5. Bill Chubb Reply

    I registered my [3-character] domain, and [3-character] e-mail address, in the mid-Nineties when spam was unheard of. Over the years I’ve noticed a steady increase in spam which, despite numerous filters on my server, I put down to more sophisticated random e-mail harvesters/generators which “happen” upon my e-mail address more frequently. In view of this I registered a very long e-mail address a few years ago which attracts much less spam.

    Leo
    I’ve been getting and look forward to your newsletters now for many years. I’m much older but, thanks to you, much wiser!
    Keep up the excellent work!

  6. sirpaul1 Reply

    2 things not mentioned are:

    1) Alpha-mailing. Just take a name. “Joe” for example and add @wherever.com, net, edu, etc. Once you open it, they know it’s a valid address.
    2) Ad-tracking cookies. Go to a few pet sites and if they place an ad-tracking cookie, you’ll start getting ads/links for pet stuff.
    Don’t overlook the ‘Blacklist’ feature of your e-mail provider to limit spam.

  7. Nick Reply

    Yahoo email has a very useful thing called Addressguard which allows you to create disposable email addresses which can be deleted whenever you have finished with them or whenever you start getting spam.

  8. Lee Nelson Guptill Reply

    Great timing! My husband was on websites in Hawaii setting up our vacation, and he was using my e-mail address to confirm business transactions. The next day (literally) I started getting tons of porn spam to my e-mail address. A needless fight ensued. Thx for the clarification.

  9. Bernie O'Connor Reply

    Hi leo! Keep up the good work. In this discussion, let’s not forget about all that freeware that’s out there that lets you target web sites and extract all the emails on them. I don’t really understand how they do that, and I assume it’s pure black hat, but I think we need to be aware of them.

  10. The Programmer Reply

    Beware of “generic” replies to ads posted on sites like CraigsList. Spammer generate “automated replies” to CraigsList ads to work around CraigsList “redirection” machanism. Then when YOU reply, they get your eMail address. (In this respect, systems like Kijiji.Com’s, which have a graphic responders must decode to reply, are MUCH better.) By “generic replies” I mean those that SHOW the responder did not necessarily read your ad, such as those refering to “your item” and questions whose answer is part of the ad, such as “How can I contact you?” And there are plenty of TOTALLY USELESS ones like “Why are you selling so cheap?”, “I want it”, “I’ll take it”, etc.
    You can also help the fight by REPORTING spam. Most major eMail services have addresses to do so, most notably Abuse@Aim.Com, TOSEmail1@AOL.Com, Report_Spam@HotMail.Com, report_spam@msn.com, network-abuse@cc.yahoo-inc.com.
    That will catch lesser offenders, like those who respond to every ad for something with some std reply and their phone and wait for you to call THEM. The worst offenders do not use the above mentioned services and that is where SpamCop.Com kicks in. You paste the spam message WITH FULL HEADERS and SpamCop.Com figures out from where it came and to whom to report it. I know it works because SpamCop.Com shows you the address to where it will send the spam report and I see that the IPS’s being used by specific offenders change over time. This means that the spammers are getting axed and they are moving on to another ISP.

  11. wgutu Reply

    This article is incorrect or outdated as until I delete a number of temp folder’s files (after porn surfing), then delete browsing history and also perform a disc clean, I will assurededly get porn spam because those sites have means to get email addresses (and do so w-o permission).

    For the record, I disagree.

    Leo
    05-Jun-2010

  12. Sally Reply

    Okay, but what if I find an email sent to my husband from a peticular porn site that says he’s been on the site and that it looks like he is interested in becoming a member. They even had his first and last names and offered him a monthly subscription. Does this mean he’s been surfing porn? Or could it be that he’s visited a site, given his name and email address, and they got ahold of it?

    It could also be completely random, it could be a spammer that got his name and email by harvesting public information … heck it could be drinking buddies playing a trick on him. No way to know.

    Leo
    22-Jul-2010

  13. Jenny Reply

    My boyfriend use to watch porn, we have had several discussions on how I dont care for it, he agreed that he would not do that any more, that was over a year ago, but it still gets sent to his email. Is there a way we can stop it? Or try?

    Receiving porn in email usually has nothing to do with having watched porn in the past. Porn spam is everywhere. Treat it like any other form of spam.

    Leo
    04-Oct-2011

  14. help Reply

    I have responded to Craigslist personals a few years ago, but will receive random responses from time to time. How can I get this to stop, I can’t find any help on CL site itself.

  15. Kendra Reply

    I saw the history on my boyfriends computer and it was to a porn sight. There was a created user name and password he was not a paying member and when clicking apon the link of “emails” that looked like they were sent to him nothing came up He’s trying to say the sight generated this by itself.. Lie, I assume?

  16. Its_Gross Reply

    No. Ever since I got an email address (20 years ago) I have always got disgusting emails about penis enlargement, Viagra, 1 dollar hoes and I’m a woman! I have always blocked every e mail, my junk box is always full of them. Irritating but ignorable. It doesn’t mean the person is addicted to porn.

  17. does getting porn spam mean that you've been surfing porn sites? Reply

    My husband got a text message from flirt.com and he claims he doesn’t know anything about it. He is usually on the net when everyone is asleep! Claims it’s all innocent.

  18. Mark J Reply

    @does getting…
    That could very easily be an unsolicited spam message.

  19. Dan Reply

    Thank you for this article! My girlfriend thought I was looking at porn sites because all of a sudden I started receiving a tonne of penis enlargement spam. I also get even more for medications of Rolex watches and I’m sure as heck not surfing for that stuff either. My e-mail address was relatively spam-free until a couple of months ago. Now I am getting junk every day and I have no idea why.

  20. Nicholle Reply

    My partner received an email with a link to a porn hook up site. The email was sent to and from the same email address? Is this possible it’s a scam or would it be possible he has made up a fake email address?

  21. Lani Ellison Reply

    Spam using my Partner’s email address in sort of gay things. Every time he says his name to people, they have this insulting smile with their faces. We would like to know why people were so angry with him every time they received the email that comes from him. Although he did not sent any of those emails. We ‘d like to know what is in the email. Can you help us please. My partner name is Rudolf Blaha and he was so devastated with those spam emails. Spams ruined his name and his reputation. Every country he visited they already knows him and the spams. I have no idea how it so fast reached to other countries. We really want to know. Can you help us? Thank you.

  22. renee Reply

    Hi my partner gets alot of spam thats cool, but i have been reading emails he has been getting saying thanks for the reply,when i look at the email there is an original message under the email that says it was sent from my partner then it shows what was said is this spam or him actually replying ..confused

  23. ..... Reply

    My partner gets emails … Ex: stacked blonde unlocked her profile for you to have full access to ? And it’s a hook up site . Is this spam does this mean he is on local hook up sites ?

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