- Hide your email address on social networking sites.
Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal and other reputable sites let you hide your contact information, or only reveal it to your “friends.”
- Remove yourself from web-based directories
There’s been some progress in this area since I first wrote this article a few years back. Several of the people directories are now offering the option of having yourself listed—so old friends and family can find you—but hiding your email address. People can still send messages to you, but unless you choose to reply they will not know your email address. That keeps spammers from scooping the address and adding it to their lists. I understand that BigFoot, Switchboard, and WhoWhere are offering this feature now.
Go to all of the people directories you can find and search to see if your name is in them. If it is, and it isn’t one of the ones that will shield your email address, request that they remove you from their lists. Each directory has directions for doing this somewhere on their site, although some are harder to find than others. They will probably try to dissuade you by pointing out that their terms as posted on their sites prohibit the use of the information in their directories for any unsolicited email, but they have absolutely no way to enforce that and the spammers happily ignore their rules all the time.
- Watch that member directory!
AOL users should definitely go in and delete the member profiles for every one of their screen names, as spammers just love that Member Directory. Someone told me that profiles are automatically created for each screen name now, with your real name, so check even if you didn’t ever create a profile yourself. Other ISPs sometimes have similar directories, so ask yours if that’s the case—and if so, get your email address taken out of it. The same goes for clubs that you join offline. I recently found my email address in the member directory of a knitting guild I joined, published online for the whole world to see.