I recently received an automatic reply to an email indicating that the recipient was on holiday and giving his cellphone/mobile number so that he could be contacted while away. The email was from a home computer, which could perhaps be deduced from the lack of an associated job description.

The person would seem to be confirming to spammers that they've hit a working email address. But my main concern was that he may be risking burglary. However, I do not understand enough to know how this might realistically happen or gauge the risk involved.

People do reveal their addresses in social media and there are online directories where this information can be found. Also data breaches may lead to addresses and associated emails being placed on the dark web.

So does such information offer ways in which a returned spam message could be linked up to someone's home address? I appreciate that someone could be targeted by an individual but is there also a risk that criminals could harvest these associations automatically?

I appreciate that a similar question has already been asked, but the question about how one's home address could be determined was not answered.


Question changed from “How dangerous are automatic-reply emails which indicate that you are on holiday?” as this was judged to be asking for opinions rather than knowledge-based answers.

That such emails could be used to rob you is claimed in this article from Lifewire, though there would appear to be no explanation of how your home address could be determined.

My concern is that a program which interrogated the returns from spam (along with email / home address associations) could then produce lists of potentially vacant homes. Such information might then be sold to potential burglars. Is such a scenario possible?

  • Most likely their address would be disclosed if someone accepted a friend request from the person trying to find the information or has poor privacy settings. Also, geotags/checkin-ins and pictures that friends have posted can be a giveaway. This is easier with villages and towns, more difficult in the city (unless there is a clear landmark). Also, check out the electoral register, you can find addresses on there I believe.
    – Arlix
    Apr 28 '17 at 11:26
  • Since this question is being nominated for closing by people who believe it is too broad, perhaps you might want to ask your real question directly: "How can a bad guy can determine my home address from my email address?" Apr 28 '17 at 14:18
  • Yes you could if the target is not careful you can just use an app to lookup the cellphone number hopefully finding a social media page. Depending if this person is active on it or not you could make a guess about their country or even city. Then you Cross-Check with the phone registry from that person's country with close location from where you find your target lives. Yes you can protect yourself against all of this but isn't better to give no info at all? Apr 28 '17 at 14:38
  • Also if they also provide their phone number (landline) this could be even easier... Apr 28 '17 at 14:40
  • Have changed question to something not very different to : "How can a bad guy can determine my home address from my email address?" so puzzled as to why it has been closed. May 3 '17 at 20:39

For this to be a risk there has to be an appreciable likelihood that someone receiving an out of office e-mail from the user has the motivation and skills to want to rob their house.

Also it discounts the possibilty that someone else (e.g. a pet sitter) might be present in the house whilst the owner is away (i.e. the out of office alone doesn't provide certainty that the property will be vacant).

If we have a targeted attacker who wanted to burgle this specific target, they would likely need to take further steps to establish whether the poperty was vacant, in which case the out of office isn't that relevant.

If we have an attacker who just wants to burgle any person and isn't too bothered who, then they're unlikely to go around sending mails, looking for out of office messages and then work out where they live.

  • I never state that I am out for any particular reason. I will only state that I am out of the office with limited access to email. That could be a single day, a conference, training, or holiday. Actually, I just state that "I will have limited access to email until _____." and leave it at that.
    – MikeP
    Apr 28 '17 at 23:06

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