Ask LH: How Can I Find Who Is Signing Me Up For Mailing Lists?

Dear Lifehacker, I keep being signed up to mailing lists for porn and other offensive emails (I suspect it's my partner's ex-wife). I suppose I could have the police investigate but I'm wondering if it's a waste of time if the IP address behind the sign-ups can't be traced. Is it possible for someone to hide an IP address? Is there any way to find out the IP address from when my email was submitted to these websites? Thanks, Email Hassle

Photo by Magnifico (Shutterstock), Robert Adrian Hillman (Shutterstock), sootra (Shutterstock), Zudy and Kysa (Shutterstock) and Cameron Whitman (Shutterstock). Dear EH,

It's feasible to obscure your IP address if someone's determined, although given the scope of the problem I'd strongly suspect that no such obfuscation had taken place. People on a revenge trip aren't always thinking that clearly in the first place.

That being said, I suspect you'd get very short shrift from any adult (or other offensive source) website not located in Australia when it came to requests for IP logs without some very serious court documentation backing up the request. Even there an overseas outfit could quite feasibly ignore it, and that's if they were logging it at all in the first place.

Which doesn't help you much with your particular problem. What you may find is that what you're getting are the confirmation emails from the services you're being signed up to, rather than ongoing emails. That being the case, a junk filter to sort out offensive terms might be your best bet. That way you silently deal with the issue so it's not stressing you, and whoever is signing you up without permission doesn't get any satisfaction from stressing you out.

You can check out our guide to stopping inappropriate emails here.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Follow-up question: Is this illegal? (It bloody well should be.) Has the law not caught up with this new form of harrassment yet? Or is it just simply so impossible to police that they don't want to blow out their unsolved rate by making it something you CAN report? What's the deal?

      (Not a lawyer clarification goes here, take it as read) If it's provable it probably is illegal (either as harassment or I guess false identity -- happy to take clarification from any lawyer-types reading LH) but it's proving it that becomes the hard part; if the party signing you up admits it in some permanent way then it'd be easier, but they'd have to be rather dumb to do that. Then it comes down to finding and accessing logs, as per above, if they exist. Otherwise, the proof just isn't there.

    Here is your main problem:

    Any mailing lists that are going to comply with requests from yourself or law enforcement etc are going to be 'legit' - and any legit list is going to have double opt in standards. Meaning you can't get signed up without confirming your email.

    Now anyone emailing offensive content that doesn't opt in isn't going to cooperate with any requests for information. They're already operating illegally themselves. So all you can do is block them.

    The other obvious but painful option is to change email addresses....

    I had this happen to me and was sent to my government email - so it (mostly) all got blocked. But after a while I did get a please explain asking me why I was signing up to all these offensive websites....

    I agree with the advice re filtering out and auto deleting (or at least putting in your junk email folder) any email which includes various obvious phrases....

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