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I have recently started getting the occasional spam mail after not having this problem for several years. As far as I know spammers typically obtain mail addresses via data breaches or by crawling the web for mail addresses carelessly made public via forum posts etc. I don't think the former applies to me so I was wondering how to "reproduce" the latter, i.e. what methods, tools etc. I could use to find my mail address on the web beyond simply using a search engine such as Google.

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    Valid mail addresses are much easier bought than scraped from the web. Think about it: How often do you publicly post your e-Mail address? Not that often. Instead, spammers just buy and sell them. And e-Mail addresses that are confirmed to both exist and be looked at are the most valuable, which is why opening an e-Mail with a tracking pixel or even clicking "Unsubscribe" is not a good idea.
    – MechMK1
    Oct 2 '20 at 9:23
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    All it takes for your email address to be added to spammers' lists, is that one of your contacts, anyone, receives emails on an infected machine. "Data breaches" don't necessarily involve your accounts, but might involve other people that for some reason have your email address (like your contacts, or even anyone you've ever sent an email to)
    – reed
    Oct 2 '20 at 10:03
  • @reed Interesting, I hadn't though about that. That does indeed sound likely.
    – Peter
    Oct 2 '20 at 11:05
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There can be multiple sources:

  • big random e-mail databases generally available on black market
  • specific e-mail databases leaked/stolen from specific sites; those are also sold on the market
  • automated tools that phish addresses from web-sites; many site still have addresses in plain text which is a bad practice since it's a trivial matter to extract them
  • addresses shared between large companies for (theoretically) marketing or other similar purposes; that's why GDPR appeared

The last one in the list usually guarantees that you end up as spam target. It is sufficient to register on a few big shopping sites with low security and that's it; you'll start getting spam.

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