I am launching a business directed towards college campuses. I know the email address format of the first college I will be launching at is [email protected] . Basically, I would not have these emails because people signed up to hear from me, I would be taking a list of possible first names and last names and combining them in the email format of [email protected] and sending out an email to all, whichever emails happen to actually exist the message would be delivered to. Is this illegal in anyway? I do not know much about spam or the legality of it so I apologize if this seems like a rookie question.

  • 1
    This is definitely spam, and it is almost definitely against several laws in many places. It's also a major dick move. Please don't try it.
    – user4657
    Sep 11, 2017 at 5:44

1 Answer 1


I assume based on your reference to .edu and your tag that you are interested in United States law. The scheme you describe is illegal under the CAN-SPAM Act.

15 USC 7704 (b) (1) (a) (ii)

(b) Aggravated violations relating to commercial electronic mail

(1) Address harvesting and dictionary attacks

(A) In general

It is unlawful for any person to initiate the transmission, to a protected computer, of a commercial electronic mail message that is unlawful under subsection (a), or to assist in the origination of such message through the provision or selection of addresses to which the message will be transmitted, if such person had actual knowledge, or knowledge fairly implied on the basis of objective circumstances, that—

(i) the electronic mail address of the recipient was obtained using an automated means from an Internet website or proprietary online service operated by another person, and such website or online service included, at the time the address was obtained, a notice stating that the operator of such website or online service will not give, sell, or otherwise transfer addresses maintained by such website or online service to any other party for the purposes of initiating, or enabling others to initiate, electronic mail messages; or

(ii) the electronic mail address of the recipient was obtained using an automated means that generates possible electronic mail addresses by combining names, letters, or numbers into numerous permutations.

The last part (ii) specifically forbids what you propose ("combining names... into various permutations).

Under 15 USC 7706 you may be liable for statutory damages of up to $250 per email.

In addition to being illegal, I suspect your plan will also be ineffective: this sort of spam attack would be really easy for the university to detect and block.

  • that is disappointing news but good to know, thanks! Sep 10, 2017 at 14:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .