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Email addresses are generally not a gateway to much more than public information, but still use caution when sharing it with someone who you don't trust.

I was on a dating site & I received a message from a lady & she gave me her email address so we could talk privately in which I emailed her back. Now that she knows my email address, can anything bad or dangerous happen? Like a virus or having my account cleaned out? My email is with Google.

Ultimately, it really depends on your own level of security savvy, as well as how you've used that email address in the past.

For example, you could just have given your email address to a spammer.

Unfortunately, that's not the worst that could happen.

Protect yourself next time

This is a situation that calls for a "throw away" email address.

Before sharing an email address, go create a new one at one of the free email services like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, or others, and give that email address to the person that you're contacting but don't quite trust.

“... if your new found contact emailed you an attachment, would you open it?”

That way, you can give them your "real" email address once they gain your trust, and if they violate your trust, you can simply discard it.

All the while protecting yourself.

Protecting yourself from what?

Spam

As I mentioned above, spam is the most obvious result. It's quite possible, perhaps even likely, that you'll end up getting more spam as a result of sharing your email address with someone who you're not quite sure of.

The interesting thing about using this as a way to harvest email addresses for spamming is that while it seems very labor intensive, the spammer also has a much more targeted idea of what you're interested in, making your email address that much more valuable to them.

Privacy violations

This is a little harder to qualify, because what I'm about to talk about is public information, but do this:

Enter your email address into a search engine or two.

If information about you shows up in the results, then anyone with your email address can perform the same search and get the same information.

This isn't the search engine's fault - they're simply indexing public information on millions of websites and your email address happens to be on some.

If a lot of information about you is public and you've just given your email address to a stalker - well, "privacy violation" doesn't seem like a strong enough statement.

Malware

You asked about malware and data loss. Fortunately, the news here is fairly good in that you are ultimately in control. The bad news is that it doesn't matter what email address that you use.

Let me ask you this: if your new found contact emailed you an attachment, would you open it?

If you answered "yes", then you could have just accepted and installed malware on your machine that could wipe it out, steal your account password(s), or who knows what else.

In other words, you are definitely at risk if you aren't paying attention.

I'd also be extremely wary of even visiting websites that you don't recognize that are suggested by this person for exactly the same reasons.

Politely decline 'em all. If the person is legitimate, they'll understand. If they insist, get angry, or threaten to leave, then that's a sign that perhaps all isn't what it seems (or that they need to read this article).

Making contact over the internet

The advice here really applies to more than just dating sites.

Any contact that you make that is initially and only over the internet entails a certain amount of risk. The person may not be who they say they are. They may have malicious intentions. Until you can build a sufficient level of objective trust, it's best to avoid sharing your "real" email address and view everything with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Article C4944 - October 2, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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6 Comments
Firehorse
October 4, 2011 10:05 AM

Why at the bottom of the e-mail section has a block list. Does it really work I konw I try iy a few times and did with some sites but, not all it seems some just appears whether I like it or not. The other question I wanted really needing too know is it ever possible for someone to actually enter your e-mail address and each time you do something with e-mail like send a message can this be viewed. And if so is there a way to block them out?. I would if you can reply this question specifically for me ASAP. Thanks I greatly appreciated if you can do so.

Reid
October 4, 2011 11:38 AM

@Firehorse: You would be best served posting your questions to a forum. Try the "Social Media" forum here: http://windowssecrets.com/forums/

Michael
October 4, 2011 12:41 PM

Why go to a dating site and then be afraid to share one's email address ?
After all it is only a gmail account not Fort Knox.

pirate-com
October 4, 2011 2:58 PM

when one googles ones email handle.if you do not like what one sees,how does one eradicate the information?

Short version: you don't. Longer version: you contact the websites on which your information is appearing and hope that they will honor your request to remove it. Most do not, hence the short version. More here: How do I remove myself from the search engines?.
Leo
04-Oct-2011

Connie
October 4, 2011 4:19 PM

@pirate-com
It's near to impossible to remove google results as what you are seeing are posts in various websites that google has indexed. The only possibility is to contact each website, one by one, and ask that they remove the offending entries.

Glenn P.
October 8, 2011 9:23 AM

Leo wrote:

"Any contact that you make that is initially and only over the Internet entails a certain amount of risk. The person may not be who they say they are. They may have malicious intentions."
The absolute and ultimate in this sort of riskiness, that you can actually witness, involves children, and can be viewed weekly on MSNBC's infamous Dateline series, "To Catch A Predator"   starring Chris Hansen.

It should be pretty obvious that the Perverted Justice  decoys who play the part of the young teenagers must actually do and say things that real  kids are known for actually doing and saying online, because otherwise the online predators would "catch on" to them pretty quickly. What this means, in turn, is that many of the chatlogs available on the Perverted Justice  website can make for very  unnerving reading. Do you  know the sorts of things that some  kids have been willing to discuss online? With complete strangers? You might be surprised (to say the very least)!

And, could your  own kids be among the "naughty" ones? (That's a question that only you  can answer!)

I don't want to get too  far off-topic here, nor rant too long, so let's just end this posting this way: an E-Mail address may be your least  concern regarding the divulgement of information. Especially if you're a kid.

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