Help Me Bust Spammers!

I’m building a list of businesses to investigate that might be selling email addresses to spammers. Here’s how you can help.

Despite my best efforts, my email inbox has become a magnet for spam. And while junk mail filtering does a pretty good job of sorting those messages into a spam folder, I can’t help but wonder how spammers got my address in the first place.

I never signed up for an “I’ll transfer money to your foreign bank account” list or inquired about purchasing Viagra, Cialis, high-quality replica watches, or testosterone booster. So where did these “businesses” get my email address?

One way spammers get hold of your email address is by purchasing it from a more legitimate company. You may have enrolled in a loyalty/rewards program at a local business and given them your email address. Or you may have signed up for updates of daily deals in your city, which are only delivered by email.

Buried in the fine print was something only a lawyer could understand that gave them permission to sell your email address (and other information about you) to outside companies, earning them a tidy profit and you a full spam folder.

Since these companies are not going to fully disclose these shadier business practices, the only way to find out who’s selling information and who’s not is to sign up for each one of these loyalty/rewards programs or websites with a different email address, then check back in a few months to see which addresses get the most junk.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

The plan

In a few days, I’m going to sign up for the loyalty/rewards programs or websites posted below, giving each one a unique email address. The address will not be used for any other purpose, and will not be given out to anyone or posted online anywhere. (I’m not even going to tell Stacy what they are.)

But I need your help to build the list. These are only the companies and websites I think would be good to investigate. Who would you like to see added? Post your suggestions in the comments below the story.


  • Rite Aid
  • CVS

Office supply

  • Staples
  • Office Depot


  • Kroger
  • Safeway


  • Delta
  • American Airlines
  • Southwest
  • US Airways


  • Marriott
  • Hilton
  • Holiday Inn


  • Best Buy


  • Groupon
  • Living Social
  • Yipit
  • Gilt
  • Woot
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+

From Your Suggestions

  • Craig’s List
  • Walmart
  • Walgreens
  • United Air
  • Kmart (and Sears, Land’s End, Craftsman, etc.)
  • LinkedIn

Watch this space and see which of these companies, if any, use my email address (and maybe yours) to fatten their bottom lines while they fatten our inboxes!

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • I’m sick of getting all of the spam notices acting like official businesses.  How did they get my info?  These are the questions I find myself asking when I see my spam folder with more e-mails than my inbox.  I decided not to peruse the spam folder and just empty it so as to not be fooled by their name or subject. Well thanks Money Talks, the bs is about to walk!  I’m in!  I recently signed up for a card at CVS, Rite-Aid, Kroger’s and Sears, so I’ll put on my lawyer brain when I sign up for anything else from stores.  I guess if I don’t provide my info then they don’t have anything to sell or share.

  • Anonymous

    Great idea and I certainly applaud your efforts.  My concern is, when I read the so-called “privacy policies” they say something along the lines of, We will only share your information with our affiliates who’s products and services we believe would be of interest to you blah, blah, blah.  The problem is, who EXACTLY are these affiliates?  Once these affilliates have the info, they in turn share it with their affilliates under the same stupid policy!  May as well just post it on a billboard for the whole world to see.  Also, what makes these people think they know what products and services we are interested in?  They use this as a type of shield for selling us out,  We are capable of selecting our own products and services thank-you.  I am not aware of anyone that has needed something but sat idly by waiting until their bank, airline or office supply store figured it out for them.  It is absurd we are held hostage by these policies and can’t opt out completely.  I hope your efforts pay off.  I will be watching and cheering you on.  Your list doesn’t include any financial institutions.  Wells Fargo and Ally Bank are my suggestions.  Although, you might have to have an account there in order to add them to the list. 

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant idea!  Perhaps you should add Amazon, LL Bean, and Lands End to your list.

  • Hi Dan – Can’t think of any additions but I know I have received continuous email from Who’s Who & James Parker & no sooner do I delete this stuff out of my Spam box & bam numerous emails from these 2 senders reappear.

  • Right after I created an account with Barnes and Noble for my Android Nook app I began to receive all kinds of spam. I hope they aren’t at fault and it was just a coincidence, but would you check it anyway? Thanks! Can’t wait to see the results!

  • Matthew Miller

    The spam you receive as a result of giving your email address to a legitimate business typically is legitimate-looking advertisements from companies you know and trust. While I agree I don’t want their sales pitches, they’re not as bad as the spam you mentioned wanting to fight.

    The most common source these spammers get your email address is from receiving the chain emails and joke emails your friends and family send to you and dozens of other people by putting all the email addresses in the To: or CC: box. You know the ones. They’re jokes, cute emails, patriotic emails, would you believe it emails, look at these beautiful pictures emails etc. If even one of these people forwards the email on to others, your email address goes along with it. Guess what? I know it doesn’t seem like it but spammers are people too and they get these forwarded emails just as much as you do, if not more. The difference is that they take the email addresses they see at the top of these emails (count them on one forwarded email you receive – you’ll be surprised) and add them to their spam lists.

    The solution is to ask your friends and family to not send you these emails. Just deleting them without opening won’t help. As stated before the way your email address gets spread is just being sent the email at the same time as others who end up forwarding them. You need to not get them at all. If you still want to read them, maybe set up a separate email address just for these jokes and cute forwards.

    • I hate it when people do that. I don’t know why people are so stupid like that. My whole family, including all my relatives sends me lists of stupid jokes which must have 100 email addresses. Once your email is on it, there’s nothing you can do to protect it from spammers

      I used different email addresses for different purposes, that seems to work the best.

  • THAAAANK YOU!   This has been bugging me for some time!  Can’t wait to see the follow-up results.  I would actually be interested in knowing if any of Verizon Wireless’ “Partners” end up spamming me.  You can’t opt out of all their data sharing, only some.  I emailed them complaining that some partner of theirs with access to my cell phone number had to have passed my number on to scammers, as I NEVER give out my cell number to business, and only rarely to less than a dozen family and close friends.  To receive a call from “the credit card company with whom you do business” is obviously a scam, especially when they offered me a 6.9% interest rate!  Verizon of course denies responsibility, but my info on file with them is the only weak link.  There were other scam callers, too, all in the same time frame last month.  Even if Verizon’s database was hacked, they need to come clean.  It is for this reason I suspect they are also responsible for much of my spam email.  The fact that Verizon Wireless can be so flip with my report of a security breach makes me less trusting of every aspect of their business!  Please add Verizon Wireless to your list, although it may take longer to discern their spam partners.

  • jerrymandel  Tom Thumb (grocery chain)  Radio Shack   Fry’s Electronics
    Bank Of America

  • Nea

    Sprint, lucky, food maxx, walmart, Kmart & Sears. I would love to know how this companies do !! How about coupon places?? like coupon mom, et. thank you!

  • Guy

    Walgreens, Office Max, Albertsons, United Air, Super 8, Motel 6, La Quinta

  • Anonymous

    Walmart!!! Also, Land’s End, Chadwick’s

  • Craigs list

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