Louisville Courier-Journal: Hiring an Email Appender? :(

Sometime towards the beginning of summer 2012 the Louisville Courier-Journal, a newspaper serving north-central Kentucky and southern Indiana, began sending email updates to an email address at a domain that was closed over seven years ago. The Courier-Journal’s parent company is U.S. media conglomerate Gannett. Their ESP is ExactTarget.

This email address receives a great deal of spam for a highly characteristic geographic area and certain product types or subjects. A search of major white pages turned up a name and general information about an individual who was the owner of this email address in the late 1990s and early 2000’s. The individual in question may be a current subscriber to the Courier-Journal.

However, that individual no longer owns, controls, or receives email sent to his old email address. I do. And when an email address that used to belong to somebody a decade ago suddenly (years after it was closed) starts to receive email from a company in that individual’s geographic area, the company that is sending that email probably hired an email append company to match their list with email addresses scraped from web sites, found on lists for sale, or otherwise obtained without the permission of the owners of those email addresses. This email address is not the sort that results from a typo, and a reactivated fallow list would (paradoxically) probably have hit more spamtraps that originally belonged to users from this area.

It might sound counterintuitive, and counterproductive, to spam your own customers, but many companies do. The Courier-Journal needs to investigate and find out who added email addresses to their list in late May/early June. If (as I suspect) an email append operation was involved, they need to retire the appended list and apologize for its failure to respect permission and opt-in. 🙁

Sending IP:

Spam Sample:

Actual Headers:

Received: from xtinmta04-13.exacttarget.com (xtinmta04-13.exacttarget.com [])
        by <xxx> (Postfix) with ESMTP id <xxx>
        for <xxx>; Tue, 25 Sep 2012 04:xx:xx -0000 (UT)
Received: by xtinmta04-13.exacttarget.com (PowerMTA(TM) v3.5r16) id <xxx> 
        for <xxx>; Tue, 25 Sep 2012 03:xx:xx -0600 
        (envelope-from <bounce-<xxx>@bounce.exacttarget.com>)
From: "The Courier-Journal" <newsletters@e.courier-journal.com>
To: <xxx>
Subject: Top 5 stories from Courier-Journal.com
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2012 03:xx:xx -0600
List-Unsubscribe: <mailto:leave-<xxx>@leave.exacttarget.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Reply-To: "courier-journal.com" <reply-<xxx>@e.courier-journal.com>
x-job: <xxx>
Message-ID: <xxx>
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;

Readable Email:

From: The Courier-Journal <newsletters@e.courier-journal.com>
To: <spamtrap>
Subject: Top 5 stories from Courier-Journal.com
Reply-To: courier-journal.com <reply-<xxx>@e.courier-journal.com>

Sep. 25, 2012 <xxx> am

Today’s e-Newspaper

This is exclusive to those who have activated their digital access.

Still need to set up your access?


Exclusive selections for our subscribers for September 25, 2012


Tim Sullivan | U of L weighs NBA chatter


Columnist Tim Sullivan gets reaction from University of Louisville Vice President for Athletics Tim Jurich on Mayor Greg Fischer&#’;s Sept. 14 meeting with local NBA enthusiasts in hopes of bringing an NBA team to the city. Jurich called it “the ultimate bait-and-switch.”


Tune in Tuesday


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