How did Steve Jobs subscribe to my emails?

For a little while last year I kept getting Spamcop reports triggered by emails to steve@apple.com and stevejobs@apple.com.
Of course there is always the chance that Steve Jobs himself had signed up for updates on used cars in Hampshire, however unlikely that is, a few later occurrences were impossible due to being after October 5th 2011.

As I would usually, I spent the time tracing that email address’s route to the list sent; on one occasion, the used car one, everything had been collected by the same form on their own web-site. It appeared that the way the form was structured made it look like people had to enter in an email address in order to get their used car quote, when in fact it was completely optional. So people who wanted their quote would not see any relevance in supplying their email address and due to being forced to enter it, felt they would get on some sort of spam list, subsequently they just made an email address up.

dr-evil-spamThe same thing occurred for a few Airports who have rolled out free WiFi but force you sign-up for emails in order to use it; according to many lists, the late Steve Jobs got around a lot after his untimely death.

My favourite example is Credit sites, where they need to do a credit check on your to approve you for a loan or something. They all ask you for your mobile number and your email address; They don’t need an email address or mobile number to get your credit rating and see if they can approve you, they ask because they want to force you onto their list so that can make loads of cash flogging your contact details, which would then have 3rd party opt-in for ever.

Essentially, not all list building practices that sound like they will build your list may build the list in a good way. Some strategies have people are forced or sneaked on to lists through mandatory email fields without relevance or hidden Ts and Cs on pages giving something for nothing. This would be because some people think that the number of records is more important than the quality and engagement levels of the list.

Not all people are tricked by this and make up email addresses to get to the next page and not be ‘spammed’… if your lists has addresses like:
asdf@yahoo.com, spam@gmail.com, junk@live.com, nothanks@yahoo.com, no@hotmail.com,
me@privacy.net, thefield@home.com, sdfsdf@sdfsdf.com, 123@123.net, qwerty@com.com:
It means someone has made up an address to quickly get what they want without consequence. You might notice a repeat of “sdf” this is because most people are right handed and use their right hand for the mouse, so the left hits the 3 easiest characters which are ‘s’, ‘d’ & ‘f’. There are many more frequently used patterns of address and these are some of the most common.

ISPs and spam protection software companies know this too and many of the common ones are spam traps. They know that these addresses are not owned by people but get hit a lot and why, they then monitor some of them like spam traps so emailing them can either hurt your reputation or just get you blocked.

Some of the common domains used are owned by spam protection software companies to further help them blacklist IP and domains.

So the moral of the story is: consider how people get on your list, consider the relevance of the emails you send them based on how they got on your list. If you have obvious signs of forced sign-ups re-think that sign-up experience. Also have a look at your existing list and consider cleaning off the forced addresses that will have never opened an email from you.