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I have a 12 letter and number email address.

The email address have never been used on the web or have been used to send email to others, yet I get spam on it.

This has happened to me on both Linux and Exchange.

Is it because spammers can connect to my mail server, and get a list of valid email addresses?

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Are the numbers and letters random or dictionary? Poll logs for denied email and see if there's a ton of email being sent to your domain using common addresses, words and numbers. –  Wesley Sep 28 '11 at 2:07
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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's possible, depending on the specifics of your mail server and it's configuration. Directory harvesting comes to mind.

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Ok, so it is not because something is left open, so they can telnet to the smtp server, and just type a command to get a complete valid email list? –  Sandra Sep 28 '11 at 0:57
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Not exactly. A server that is "open" is typically understood to be an open relay... which is a different problem and not really related to you receiving spam. A directory harvest attack (as described at the Wikipedia link) is one way for a spammer to compile a list of valid email addresses at your email server. –  joeqwerty Sep 28 '11 at 1:02
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Why do you have an email address? If you never told anybody the address you are not receiving any mail, right? If you also never used the address as a sender, then you don't need that address either.

But if you ever used it for sending, written on your business card, on hand-outs, on scientific papers, on the subway wall or at any other private/public place then you will get Spam. Why? Because someone took the address and put it in his/her electronic address book. Even if they never used the address for past mailings but to make sure that they could for future mailings it is in their address book. And current - state-of-the-art - viruses/trojans grab these addresses from address books and mails in the sent folder and the inbox folders. Addresses found in these places are more valuable than addresses found on web pages because they are validated. With a very high probability these addresses are valid and reach humans. Who keeps invalid addresses in their address books?

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I use this particular email address to send important files to my self. –  Sandra Oct 3 '11 at 8:48
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