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Journal shimmin's Journal: AOL harvesting email addresses from users' correspondence? 1

So a couple days ago, a friend of mine started getting spam from on what had previously been a pristine email account. Then, a few minutes later, they got some of the same spam on what they thought was an even more pristine account. Which brought up the question of who might have put their address into the system, or more pertinently, who might have put BOTH addresses into the system. (The appearance of both is important here.)

So she got to thinking, what had she done with the account lately. Well, with the super-pristine one, the answer was absolutely nothing, because it's just an alias she uses for forwarding email to a real account whose identity might change with the shifting winds of employment, etc. Which confuses the matter more. But, she did remember sending an email to an AOL user from the real account that contained a line along the lines of "You can send me email at [alias address]."

So, the question is, did AOL harvest both addresses from the header and body of this email, repsectively, and sell them as spam fodder?

What I'm going to do is set up a few pristine email accounts and sent some email from them to AOL, hotmail, yahoo, and a few others, and see if any of them start getting spammed as a result. Anyone wanting to do the same and share their results here is welcome. This could be educational.

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AOL harvesting email addresses from users' correspondence?

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  • Well, no luck so far (this is probably a good thing, I guess.)

    I set up four new Yahoo accounts, used one as a control, and sent email from the other three to addresses within Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL. So far, none of the four accounts have received spam. So unless Yahoo performs spam filtering at the server level (and so catches the spam the accounts would have gotten), it appears none of these three providers peforms address harvesting in the manner I suspected, or at least none of them are particularly speedy about it.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain