Blind E-mails Are Your Friend

I didn’t count on the spam.

I’ve presented during at least one regional academic conference a year for the last several years now. The topics have ranged a great deal. I’ve talked about the economic costs of rebuilding Iraq and using co-ops to revitalize inner cities. Last year I spoke about the difficulties adult students have with the college class schedule; I’m presenting some more research on that topic later this year. That wasn’t the problem.

What I didn’t expect was getting mass e-mails.

Not about the things I wrote about; instead, it has been from conference organizers, asking if I’ll be on this panel or that, wondering if I have research that will fill out their topics. Again, not a problem.

The problem was that the senders – actual humans, apparently – sent them to every person who had presented at that conference in the last two years. And each and every one of our e-mail addresses was in the to: line.

I will send messages to groups of five or six people like this. Family, circles of friends or co-workers. People who I know have gotten e-mail from each other. When I send the (rare) Big Announcement to most of my address book, their addresses are in the blind carbon copy field.


Two days after I got the large mass e-mail, I received a message from a deposed Nigerian prince. I wasn’t the only one – there were hundreds of recipients on that To: line. And nearly every person on it was from an .edu account.

Many e-mail programs will automatically add recipients to your address book. This isn’t a problem until you run into a virus or trojan that captures all the addresses there, and sends them to spammers.

So now, because one or two people couldn’t figure out how to use BCC, everyone on that list is getting Nigerian scam spam.

Please, for the love of your keyboard, please practice safe e-mailing.

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