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I have received an email about a porn site. Will I be blacklisted? Where did they get my address? What should I do? How can I stop them?

Almost everyone receives unsolicited email at some time, just as most people receive letters through the post offering them credit cards, cheap insurance and other unmissable bargains. We recognise that unwanted emails are the responsibility of the sender, not the recipient, and you will not be held responsible for emails that you did not ask to receive. We are also aware that sometimes following a link on a web page will lead you to a site that you would not have chosen to visit; if that happens, just close the page. IT Services can distinguish between occasional accidental access and systematic or regular access to a disreputable website.

The University directory (containing student email addresses) is not accessible to people off campus. The directory containing staff email addresses is accessible; however, the addresses are "encoded" in such a way as to make them unreadable to programs searching for email addresses.

However, if ever you contact anyone off site there is 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 from which it appears to have originated. 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 HELP form at:

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This is question number 939, which appears in the following categories:

Created by David Hitchin on 4 April 2002 and last updated by Richard Byrom-Colburn on 31 October 2016