What’s worse: Spamming people, or using email lists gained from hacking activities?

Update:The efforts to bring Contractjobs.com to account for their spam have had result;, including Email Blaster UK taking action, and the UK Information Commissioner commencing an investigation. More information on the progress of this is available over here.


Well, you know just how much I detest spam – but tonight I’m a little more incensed.

Cast your minds back – and you’ll no doubt you remember the Playstation Network security breach in early 2011, which saw the personal details of users on that service compromised by hackers and leaked out to the world.

Well my details including my primary email address were in the information leaked. Thankfully I practice a high level of security by never using the same password twice, and not storing credit card information as well as using throw-away credit cards or debit cards to reduce the financial risks.

I have previously looked into using disposable email addresses, but these are too much of a hassle in my view. Further, my hosted email provider does not make available the use of DNS-based block lists (such as Spamcop) for filtering out & blocking inbound email from open proxies and known spam hosts despite asking them to do so.

Anyway, let’s get back to the point.

In short, an email came in at 2209hrs AWST from a Lucy Plumridge, Contract Support Manager (Lucy.plumridge@contractjobs.com, LinkedIn Profile for Lucy Plumridge) of a UK site named contractjobs.com. Here’s the email in question:

Dear redacted,

I’m writing to you on behalf of Contractjobs.com.

We would like to introduce you to Contractjobs.com , the UK’s fastest growing contract specific job site. The contract market has grown 14% year on year and many professionals are now turning to the contractor market in order to take advantage of this trend.

Last year we helped thousands of contractors find their next contract role and are already considered to be the largest contract job board in the UK, with over 12,000 live contracts both with the UK’s leading agencies and direct clients.

Please take a moment to upload your CV and you will be entered into a prize draw to win two tickets to the London 2012 Olympics this summer*.

We look forward to working with you.

Kind regards,

Lucy Plumridge
Contract Support Manager

*The competition draw will be held on Friday 25th May 2012. The winners will be notified by email and details published on the Contractjobs.com website.

Contractjobs.com, Mortimer House, 40 Chatsworth Parade, London, BR51DE, United Kingdom

Our mailing address is:
Mortimer House
40 Chatsworth Parade
Petts Wood
Kent BR5 1DE Communication was sent to you byLucy Plumridge
This system is for permission based email;
report abuse . I do not wish to receive any
further communications.

Now I know I’ve never done business with them, never supplied them with my email address, nor ever given them or a 3rd party they might deal with to contact me. The fact they were a UK operation was more interesting, as I’ve never expressed or sought out employment opportunities in the UK.

So, the only way they could have come into possession of my address is either via a purchased list, and especially one that was compiled from illegally or improperly sourced details.

Analysing the email, they used a eDM (electronic direct mail) house called Email Blaster UK. Now not withstanding the comprehensive regulations and directives on contained within Article 13 of the European Commission Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications – Email Blaster make it expressly clear in their terms of service that;

We do not allow clients to use purchased lists under any circumstances – this applies to both B2B & B2B marketing, email databases must have been generated directly by the client’s website using the recognized Opt-in process.

So, with the EC regulations/directives and the companies stated terms of service – Contractjobs has broken the rules.

Thankfully, the Email Blaster team was hot on the case within 21 minutes of me contacting them. I’d received a response from one of their Account Managers; advising that any references to my email address or domain within the databases they hold for Contractjobs.com have been immediately removed, and that they are immediately opening an investigation into the TOS violation.

And I’d hate to be Contractjobs.com at the moment – because Email Blaster charge clients GBP 150 for each confirmed spam incident. If they have purchased or used a harvested mailing list, they could be in for some serious charges and penalties from their email last night.

Now you might be wondering why I’ve written this post – and I’m happy to tell you. I’m of the view that communication is the best weapon in preventing spam & generating awareness of the problem. And being an SEO Practitioner, I know full well that the way I’ve structured this blog entry will ensure that, in perpetuity, this incident will be permanently tagged and forever appear in the search results for Contractjobs.com. It’ll serve as a clear warning for anyone considering to use their services that they are a confirmed spammer, breached their countries anti-spam rules, and have purchased email lists obtained by illegal means.

And if you don’t think this works, ask Pav Sanka and his company VinSky Consulting International what happened after he sent me LinkedIn spam. It had immediate impacts in search engine results.

And if you know me personally, ask me about StarTrack Express and what happened to them in January 2005 after their played depot soccer with a package being delivered to me. A former blog I used to ran documented the whole incident, to the point where three negative and fully documented blog entries appeared about their own site in search results for their company name. It was even to the point where their own IT people attempted to take down my blog (a bad move, as I posted the entire log file and details of what they attempted online, creating another SEO entry outranking their own site – ouch).

So yes, nice move Contractjobs.com. Your stupidity by buying email lists obtained from hacking activities has just landed you in a nice little SEO hole. I’ll sleep easy tonight knowing that your reputation will be permanently tarnished because of your own stupidity and non-existent business ethics.

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19 thoughts on “What’s worse: Spamming people, or using email lists gained from hacking activities?

  1. I’m glad you did this. I’ve had two emails from them in the last couple of weeks, both unsolicited, clearly spam – and found this article when I was googling to see if it had been dealt with by the internet yet. Sounds like it has! 🙂

    • Doesn’t surprise me one bit that using spam seems to be this companies modus operandi for marketing.

      Take my lead – find out who they used to send the messages, and if it was through an email distribution company like Email Blaster – get in touch with them & report the spam. The more people who inform & report spam, the better off things will become.

      As a side point, my default method of reporting and analysing spam is Spamcop (http://www.spamcop.net/anonsignup.shtml). This will redact your personal information, analyse the message, and find out exactly which service providers were involved in the dispatch and transmission of the message. It will then send them this report, which is usually quite good to highlight flaws in their system so they can prevent it happening again.

      Also, look for email account providers who provide DNS-based blocklist services to help keep spam out of your account.

  2. Same here, spam and cause, since my email address was totally unknown of spammers until the PSN incident…
    You’re doing really good referencing this incident, since my strategy now when I doubt of an email is to check on the internet for such references 😛

    The thing is I believed the ‘Lucy Plumridge’ identity was simply stolen by spammers (I previously received an email about a paypal account I don’t have so…), but from the things you point out it must be a spam from the real ‘contractjobs.com’.

  3. Just received (30/01/12 04:20AM) an email from Lucy Plumridge, still delivered using email blaster.
    So it seems that the TOS is printed on toilet paper.

    Cheers

    • Robert: No good at all. Would have preferred to contact you privately to pass on some contact details for the company in question, but your real email address wasn’t included with the post.

      I’ll be contacting the company in question today and alert them this spam from contractjobs.com is still ongoing and that they need to get their house in order.

      Also, just by blogging about this spam there has been a significant increase in traffic to this article – all from people searching online for information about this company and their spam activities. So we’re not the only ones getting it, and it’s just a shame more people aren’t complaining and going through best channels to put and end to this.

      • Sorry Michael, I do not leave my address on wordpress powered blogs. 🙂

        Anyway you cannot put an end to Spam, it doesn’t matter if it is about viagra or about legit services, trust me. I wrote a pretty tick dissertation on the subject while I was in college.

        The marketing company (email blaster) will not want to lose a client, as it is the case here, while the client can keep spamming happily by simply switching email provider if the old one cut them loose.

        In the end you will be wasting time trying to stop them. If you have time and energy to spare, it would make more sense the sue them and ask for damages eventually bringing the case in UK, where the data protection act should cover the case when you ask to be canceled and you still receive unsolicited messages from the same company after a while.

        Hope it makes sense.

  4. Now that I take another look on your email posted in this article, I see that I received a slightly different version:

    “Hi ,

    It’s Lucy Plumridge here from contractjobs.com; the only job board dedicated to contractors across all industry sectors.

    We advertise more than 12,000 live contract jobs worldwide on behalf of over 1500 organisations.

    Each month we have over 200,000 unique contractor visitors, 50,000 contract job applications and 10,000 contractor CV uploads.

    Our recruiter clients are constantly searching our database to fulfill their latest contract jobs and they are continuously seeking more contractors.

    We are currently growing the world’s largest database of contractors; we aim to reach 100,000 contractors before March 2012.

    Contractjobs.com is dedicated to you, the contractor.

    Please upload your CV and be part of our journey.

    Alternatively browse 12,000 contract jobs now to find your next contract job.

    Best wishes,

    Lucy Plumridge

    Contract Support Manager

    [picture automatically blocked by my email]

    *The competition draw will be held on Friday 25th May 2012. The winners will be notified by email and details published on the Contractjobs.com website.

    Contractjobs.com, Mortimer House, 40 Chatsworth Parade, London, BR51DE, United Kingdom

    Which is retarded since there is no more reference to this competition, but they left the * note at the bottom xD

    I forgot to say that I received an email from Lucy plumridge 3 times, first time 1 or 2 weeks ago (maybe was your version) but deleted so can’t say more, and then twice this version yesterday at 1:11 AM CET and at 2:40 AM CET.

  5. You lot really do have a lot of time on your hands. I got the same email last week, signed-up to the site and have already found a contract. Spam or not the site is really good and I will be recommending them. Also I did enquire directly as to how they got my details and they explained via free profiles on the web. I presume things like LinkedIn and Xing. Has anyone else on this site actually tried using the service before trying to tarnish their repetition?

    • Mike: that may be the line the spun you, but I keep an extremely tight reign on my email address and know full well there’s no way they legally acquired my address.

      Further, Email Blaster UK have concluded their investigation and upheld that Contractjobs.com breached the EBUK TOS, and they took action accordingly. I’ll be expanding on this accordingly in a further post.

  6. Thanks for writing this, it came up in the first page of the “contractjobs.com spam” Google search. Finding employment is difficult enough at the moment without companies such as this sending out spam; I don’t want to deal with a company sending out unsolicited emails, it makes me think that they are untrustworthy or part of some sort of scam.

  7. I received an email from contractjobs a month ago. Saw it just now because it went straight to the spam folder. But the email weren’t sent over Email Blaster UK. This time they used streamsend.com
    Wrote them an e-mail, lets see how they react…

  8. i actually just got an email from them…reported as spam

    subject: Approve your contractjobs.com profile

    Dear Tzamtzi,

    We have recently purchased a CV data management company which holds an online profile for you.

    You can use this profile to apply for any of our 10,000+ live contracts with the UK’s leading agencies and direct employers.

    We invite you to take a moment to register with contractjobs.com and update your profile.

    In the last year we have helped thousands of contractors and freelance professionals find their next contract role.

    Thank you for your time.

    Kind regards,

    The contractjobs.com team

    Click here to unsubscribe and we will remove your profile.

    contactus@contractjobs.com

    IPS Global Network Ltd T/A contractjobs.com is a company registered in England & Wales
    Head Office: Mortimer House, 40 Chatsworth Parade, Petts Wood, Kent, BR5 1DE
    Company no: 07346284 VAT Number: 109 184420

  9. I have found Contractjobs very useful for finding my vacancies regardless if i get a few unwanted emails. Give them a try before you have a go at them.

    Editor’s note: The issue isn’t how useful they may or may not be; but how a company can use unethical marketing practices by purchasing lists of email addresses, obtained by illegal means such as hacking, screen scraping or other inappropriate methods.

    Further, the company did this in direct violation of the anti-spam and personal information laws they are subject to within the United Kingdom.

    How can anyone have respect for, let alone in good conscience use the services of a company which displays such complete disregard for the law, customers, and the data of individuals. In short, I can’t.

    No matter how useful they might be, I for one will not avail myself of their services due to the complete lack of business ethics and morals that they have displayed. They simply don’t deserve my business, or that of others with a good conscience or decent moral compass.

  10. ContractJobs.com appears to use the services of MadgeX, a job board email distribution business based in Brighton see http://www.madgex.com/our-clients/
    MadgeX seems to be the company to have secured our CVs and then sends out targeted emails for paying customers – ContractJobs in this case.
    Question is how does MadgeX get our details and how can they be stopped
    Is there a Brighton / agency connection?

    I’m getting more and more of their crap every day now.
    My inbox is groaning

    • If they’re a UK company, I would in the first instance try contacting them. If you have no lucking finding out how they got your details or they refuse to remove them; then contact the Information Commissioners Office at your earliest convenience and file a data protection complaint and make them go after the company.

  11. and what do you propose in case I’m french? random example of course :3

    more seriously, seeing the many different forms of spams I receive, I can almost count how many times the psn email list has been sold. Including to people in africa…

    Interestingly I’m not receiving the spam which is the subject of this article anymore ^^

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