How To Avoid Spam Email From Direct Marketing

One annoying aspect of online purchasing or simply registering for information is that you may be bombarded with emails offering services and products you simply don’t want.

Yes, you ticked the box that said you didn’t want any further communication. However, the new emails pile in from other websites and companies. Can you avoid this?

Read on for our best tips.

Tip #1: Choose Anonymity Whenever You Can

When you are purchasing online, the seller wants as much information about you as you’re willing to provide.

But even when you provide the bare minimum, they are delighted when they have your email. Which they get when you use PayPal for transactions.

Is there a way that you can avoid providing your email? Yes, if you can use a cash-based payment method.

By the way, a PayPal cash card is not an anonymous payment. This is still linked to your PayPal account.

Anonymous gift cards

Instead, you can purchase an anonymous gift card in retail stores.

You can also get them on online marketplaces. eBay is a popular choice (be careful it’s not a scam).

But there are other online websites that sell cash cards. Again, be careful that it’s not a reputable website.

Provide minimum information

You may have noticed when you’re registering online to get free downloads that most of these free forms only ask for your email. Sometimes they are bold enough to ask for a first name.

This isn’t because these companies value your privacy. They have realized that lengthy sign-up forms get fewer sign-ups.

In contrast, payment forms still ask for unrelated details (unrelated to this transaction). They may want your address, your birthday, your likes and dislikes.

Any online purchase that doesn’t require delivery should flag up a warning in your head if they’re looking for your address. (I’m not referring to credit card payment forms here).

Tip #2: Use Your Own Seed Names Against Them

Wondering what a seed name is?

What is a seed name?

The term dates back to magazine mailing lists. Yes, back to the olden days when companies would send bulky magazines through the postal service to your grandma’s address.

These companies would rent lists of names and addresses from commercial providers. They were only supposed to use a name and address once with their purchase of the list.

So, the providers would introduce a seed name into their lists. This would be something like “Alicia Wetherspoon” at a specific address of a specific phone number owned by the providers.

This lets them know that their contract had been violated if Alicia Wetherspoon (the service owner) received a pile of marketing mail or phone calls.

Early use of seed names for mail

Back in the day, clever people who liked to subscribe to magazines devised their own systems of seed names.

Take the example of Richard Wetherspoon. Richard would subscribe to three different magazines as either Richard, Dick, or Dickie.

If our hero received ten spam letters addressed to Dickie, he now knew which magazine had violated his privacy by selling on his details.

Using seed names for online transactions

The online equivalent means you have to go to a little extra effort – but not much.

The general system involves using free email provides to create separate email addresses for your online purchases.

For example, let’s say you like using Gmail as your provider. Richard Wetherspoon should be able to grab these emails:


Some people use a spreadsheet to track which email signs up to which service.

Personally, I simply set all my new emails to forward to my usual address so I don’t have to log into multiple accounts.

I then keep an eye on my junk folder. If I start seeing a pile of emails come in from one of these emails, then I simply disable that email address.

I don’t go much further than that. However, if you really want to fight spam marketing, there are more steps you can take. Read on.

Tip #3: Report Spam To The Appropriate Authorities

Are you receiving unwanted phone calls from spam marketers?

In many western countries, there are regulators that specifically deal with this as a criminal or civil offense. You may have easy access to a free phone line to make your report.

Spam email marketing is less straightforward in that there isn’t a single state authority that regulates this. (There may be in your country).

Complain to the company “sending” the emails

Some companies outsource email marketing to services that use shady tactics. The company that you transacted with may be very unhappy to learn that their customers are being mistreated.

You can try an email to the support department of the original company you dealt with.

Complain to the email provider

Take a look at the bottom of the unwanted emails. Is the company a well-known mass email service like MailChimp?

These companies have strong policies against spam.

The first thing to do is hit the unsubscribe link or any link that suggests that you won’t get sent further emails.

If you get another email, then raise a complaint to the legitimate email service. They will clamp down on this.

Complain to the domain hosting provider

This tip will be more useful to people who are tech-savvy.

The spam emails are coming from a specific domain that is associated with a hosting provider. You can try to track the hosting provider by looking up their registration using a tool like the icann lookup.

If you can identify a hosting provider (e.g. GoDaddy), you can send a complaint. This probably won’t make much impact if the errant spammer is only sending a few spam emails.

But if the hosting provider’s attention is drawn to a mass amount of emails going out, you may find that they take action.

Unfortunately, some spammers will use ways to hide their domains. Check out our article on how to spot email spoofing.

Tip #4: Name And Shame The Transgressors

Suppose you’ve taken the steps in tip #2 and have received an avalanche of unsavory emails to one of these email addresses.

First, be sure that you only used that address to sign up or make payments to a single service or company. Don’t make a mistake here!

The next step is to publicize the transgression.

When you do so, be careful not to lay yourself open to counter charges. Simply state the facts. You signed up to the service with a new unique email, and you then received a hundred spam emails.

Where do you publicize this? One effective scenario is if you purchased a niche product or service for a hobby and were immediately spammed.

If you’re into the hobby, you probably already know the online places where people hang out.

If it’s a Facebook group or a forum with a moderator, I suggest you send a private message to the mods before making a public post about the situation.

Explain that you want to alert other members about this problem.

You may find that they have received several such messages. Yours may be the tipping point that means that they make a big deal of the situation.