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I keep receiving unsolicited email. From where did they get my address? What can I do to stop them?

Almost everyone receives unsolicited email at some time, just as many people receive unwanted letters through the post offering them credit cards, cheap insurance and other unmissable bargains.

However, if ever you contact anyone outside the University there is always a possibility that they will pass your email address on. Companies are much more likely to do this than individuals. Chat sites may also make your email address visible. We have had complaints from people who thought that their privacy had been invaded, and who forgot that they had published their email addresses in journals and on websites advertising conferences.

If you receive any unwanted email, the best approach in almost every case is to delete it immediately. It is usually clear from the Subject line that a message is junk, so you don't even need to open the message to read it. Some such messages invite you to reply if you want to be removed from their list. IGNORE these! If you reply you are confirming that your address is valid and that you are reading email, and your reply may attract more unwanted messages. The basic rule of thumb is Ignore, Delete and Forget such email.

There are no simple ways of stopping such emails. Most people who send them keep changing their email addresses, and it is impossible for the university email system to filter these messages. It is also quite common for such emails to be sent from forged addresses -  the message may not have been anywhere near the site that it appears to have originated from. This can be embarrassing, for example, when a porn site in the USA puts "" on its emails; many UK university names have been abused in this way.

If you need further advice, please contact IT Services using the form

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This is question number 1137, which appears in the following categories:

Created by Chris Limb on 8 December 2004 and last updated by Richard Byrom-Colburn on 31 October 2016