Are unsubscribe links that require you to type in your email address a scam?
I feel much more comfortable when they collect your address and it’s already
filled in unsubscribe link but when there’s hardly anything on the screen
except a place to type your email address, it makes me wonder. As soon as, I
filled one in and clicked on unsubscribed, I received another similar email
representing a different product.
In this excerpt from
Answercast #81, I look at the problem of unsubscribe links that don’t
unsubscribe the user immediately.
Retyping an email to unsubscribe
Boy, you hit one of my pet peeves. There is no reason that an unsubscribe link should require you to type in your email address.
There’s a semi-valid reason (or at least intent) for why they do this. They’re trying to confirm that the person doing the unsubscribe is in fact the person that they sent the email to. In other words, it’s not somebody else trying to unsubscribe them.
Unfortunately, it’s a false sense of security. I mean, if they’ve got the unsubscribe link, they’ve probably got the email. At the top of that email is the “To” address that the email was sent to – and that’s probably the email that they would have to retype quickly into the unsubscribe page.
It just doesn’t seem like a hotbed of malicious activity either. People running around maliciously unsubscribing people from newsletter lists. It does bug me just like it bugs you.
Barrier to unsubscribing
There are, I believe, two less than honorable reasons that this might be in place.
One is it’s a barrier to unsubscribing. I mean, ultimately, newsletter lists want subscribers. They want you to stay subscribed for whatever reason.
Maybe they want their subscriber count to be high. They may want to be able to sell you stuff. They may want to be able to contact you directly – whatever their reason. And this little bump in the road as you unsubscribe actually causes some people not to… they’ll actually not complete the unsubscribe action.
That’s wrong. If somebody wants to unsubscribe, they should be unsubscribed immediately and I’ll get to the immediately part in a minute too.
That’s what I believe is by far the most common reason for this and I know of no way around it. I really don’t. The only thing to do is to follow through with your unsubscribe action and then, if you continue to get email from the same people, mark that as spam.
Probably not malicious
Now, as for your concern that it is somehow malicious, I’ve never seen that. In fact, I’ve never even actually heard of this. If you’re clicking on an email that you did subscribe to and it’s an unsubscribe link in that email that you did subscribe to, then it’s highly unlikely that there’s anything malicious in terms of spam-generating at the back-end.
Typing in your email address is just what they require for whatever the reasons – and I do it.
I mean, when I’m faced with this, I actually grumble but I do it – and I get unsubscribed.
Now, I also mentioned “immediately.” This is my other pet peeve.
It has nothing to do with your question, but I’m on a roll! When you unsubscribe, there is no technical reason that it should be anything other than instantaneous. So when I get a message that says, “Oh, thanks for unsubscribing, sorry to see you go – and by the way this might take five, 10, or 15 days to take effect,” that’s just wrong.
There is no reason for that. With today’s technologies and today’s connectivity, there is no reason that an unsubscribe shouldn’t be instantaneous.
In fact, depending on how I’m feeling about that particular company, if I unsubscribe and I continue to get emails for those five, 10 or 15 days… you know what I’m doing? I’m marking them as spam. I’ve said, “I don’t want this;” anything that comes in contradiction to that – is spam, almost by definition.
So, I don’t know that anybody who really has impact in this scenario is listening to this… but if you’ve got an unsubscribe link to a newsletter, or to something you’re providing, do it instantaneously, or switch to a provider that will do it instantaneously.
When you unsubscribe from my Ask Leo! newsletter, guess what? It’s immediate! And there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be.
(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)