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Would / does the following work to hamper email harvesting by spammers ?

Since spammers - among other things - do automated email harvesting by looking for email addresses in web pages, it follows that placing a sufficiently big amount of well-formed but nonexistent email addresses all over the internet for the spammers to grab would significantly reduce their ratio of good hits. Even better if those dummy addresses actually do exist - so they don't respond with errors when emails are sent to them - but were created with the sole purpose of having spammers grab them.

So I'm wondering if that would help fighting spammers, or at least place a noticeable burden on their operations. If yes, I guess it is already being done, so does anyone know who is doing it and how could people contribute to that in an organized way, f.ex. by creating dummy pages on different domains containing the same dummy addresses to make them look more real, or something like that ?

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  • You might consider that this strategy could confuse legitimate robots, such as Google, that you want to have find legitimate contact information. Apr 10, 2016 at 14:50
  • I believe that the best spam blocking is done by mail servers. The mail servers simply filter out emails from known spam addresses or emails that appear to have spam contents. Apr 10, 2016 at 14:51

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I don't think that your idea is effective to pollute the spammers lists with so much fake entries that the costs of sending spam increases noticeable. But as far as I know such fake accounts are still used to fight spam, although in different ways:

  • Since spammer don't handcraft a new spam mail for each recipient but base mails on templates such dummy accounts are actually used to get early access to new spam templates. This knowledge can be used to increase the precision of existing spam filters and thus better protect legitimate addresses.
  • Similar thus "honey accounts" are used to rapidly get new sources of spam and quickly update IP blacklists. Again this is used to protect legitimate accounts.
  • And since such addresses are not only used for spam but also for malware delivery these honey accounts help here too to detect new malware campaigns and to protect legitimate accounts.
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  • Just to be precise, I was not thinking of increasing the cost of sending spam but of decreasing the return of that. Just a detail though, as it sounds like it wouldn't significantly do that either. Apr 11, 2016 at 9:35
  • @SantiBailors: I think we both mean the same: if the success ratio decreases because the mail gets filtered or because the recipient does not really exist then the cost of sending spam effectively increases compared to the gain. I.e. more investment is needed to get the same return. Apr 11, 2016 at 10:01
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I don't see the point of doing that. It's like a drop in the ocean, and even this wouldn't help against getting spam to the real addresses. If having to put your email address online, the best you can do is to simply substitute @ and . with something else. Another character, image, or something you can't match a regex on. It really helps.These crawlers don't bother on pixel recognition and such.

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  • Another thing you can do is to just leave out the mailto. Apr 10, 2016 at 14:49
  • Understood about the drop in the ocean and thus doing that "polluting" wouldn't work, which is the answer to my question. For the record, if it did work, the way it would have helped against getting spam to the real addresses is that the more difficult it is to obtain good results as a spammer, the fewer spammers there would be. Also, my concern was not how to protect my address from harvesting but how to make spammers' life less easy. Apr 11, 2016 at 8:45

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