Are Spammers on Your Mailing List Costing You Money?

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Aweber charged me a little more than usual. It had been awhile since I had worked on my mailing list, and I pleasantly thought that I had a growth in subscribers.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

When I logged in to Aweber to start a mailing list for my new freelance blogging site, I was surprised to see this.


Over half of my list was unsubscribed!

If I had just recently sent an offensive email to my list, I would have understood. But I at the time of this discovery, I hadn’t used it in months. Sad, I know, but that’s not the point of this post.

So I used the Search Subscribers features to see just those who unsubscribed.


And I found this…


Normally, I wouldn’t share my subscribers’ email addresses, but in this case I don’t feel too bad because this group is all spammers. Along with pretty much all of the 1,300+ unsubscribes on my list. A number that jumped my Aweber account into the next level from $29 to $49 per month!

How do I know they are spammers? Of course, this is only an assumption, but we’re talking a huge number of people who “signed up” using the opt-in form in my sidebar and were automatically unsubscribed because their email addresses didn’t work.

The fact that half of their names included Pharm was also a tip off. That and most of their email addresses were from AOL, Yahoo, GMX, and other free services.

And finally, the majority of them are trying to go to a login.php which doesn’t exist and directs the spammers to my 404 page.


Since I can’t figure out how to get the mailing list sign up off of my 404 page, and don’t necessarily want to, I just redirected the the non-existant login page to Google for lack of better options.

So after purging my mailing list (100 unsubscribes at a time), I went back to creating the new one like planned. But now I know to check my mailing list subscribers more often (or at least before billing time) to prevent this from happening again. And you should too!

Ps. Please note that this isn’t a fault of Aweber (affiliate link) and I still love them. They remove subscribers that never confirm after thirty days, but mine hit the site all around the time of billing. Since redirecting the bad links the spammers were signing up on, the spam subscribers have decreased dramatically.

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  1. says

    Kristi – did you check into your open rates in general? Before and after your changes? Usually I will delete a section first, then measure, then delete again. I do the same with IP blocking (shutting out bots) If your open rates stay the same, and some of those subscribers are opening, you might be better off keeping them in. Another way to look at this is you could delete your oldest subscribers that haven’t opened in a while, would take as much work but would still give the same results, less monthly email cost.

    • says

      These subscriptions were not deliverable from the beginning because they were fake email addresses. I’m also terrible about not using the Aweber click tracking links, so I don’t get open rate information. :(

  2. says

    I has just started using aweber on one of my niche sites and I am also facing this issue. These spammers, using spambots, keep filling the subscription form. I don’t want to use any captcha or anything because that will make my ‘fancy’ subscription a bit ugly. I do check my mailing list regularly btw.

    • says

      I feel the same way about the captcha… I’d rather check my subscribers list before getting billed than make it difficult for people to subscribe.

  3. says

    Hi Kristi,

    Sorry to hear about all of this. It can really amaze us when we have so many people unsubscribe to our mailing list all of a sudden. Speaking of which, I need to check out mine too, though I do check it out often – but I haven’t really gone into the details of whether they were spammers at all just as you mentioned. Need to check that out.

    Thanks for sharing this with us and alerting us about it too. Have a nice week ahead :)
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  4. says

    Wow, thanks for sharing your story Kristi.

    That can be very devastating but at the same time a relief that you eliminated worthless emails.

    There are spammers all over the blogging industry unfortunately!
    Samuel just posted Blog Traffic Tips for 2013!

    • says

      It probably would Leo. Redirecting those weird pages off my site seemed to have stopped 90% of it. Mostly I’m afraid of putting a captcha on the opt-in because 1) no one does it and 2) it could lead to less sign ups.

    • says

      I’m guessing it’s some kind of automated program that is just fishing for any fields on a site they can spam. I get a lot of it through my contact form too – automated spam gibberish.

  5. says

    Well that is a bummer who wants to pay more as a result of spammers, not me. Some of the subscribers in the screenshot seem like they unsubscribed a few minutes after they signed up. It don’t make much sense to me why someone would do that unless it’s some kind of automated thing, but I still don’t know why they would. I get so tired of spammers creating more work all the time.
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  6. says

    Hi Kristi,

    I’m sorry to hear about your additional payment in Aweber just because of these silly spammers. For me, it’s just unfair on your part because you were the one who was charged because of other people’s fault. Anyway, its my first time hearing about Aweber and the screenshots you just showed made me think of using it. Thanks for sharing this Kristi. I really hope these spammers will stop disturbing you.
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  7. says

    I am little bit confused & have some questions-
    1. Did these subscribers activate the confirmation link & become confirmed subscribers as Aweber does not charge if someone does not confirm.
    2. If they are confirmed subscribers, how can they automatically unsubscribed even if they don’t open any of your email.
    3. Why someone will send the thousands of fake subscribers to someone’s email list.
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  8. says

    Hi Kristi,
    Just stumbled upon this post while searching for something else but I’ve been suspecting something similar happen on one of my lists for weeks now. My subscribers usually average about 10 per week, but suddenly I was getting past 40 per day. Not sure exactly how this benefits spammers, but certainly hurts my pocket as it did yours. Will need to be more vigilant about activity on my list going forward and note any unusual trends.
    Kind regards,
    Dee just posted WordPress Website Design and Hosting UK

  9. Rean John Uehara says

    Hi Kristi,

    We have the same problem at 1stwebdesigner, in fact we were contacted by Aweber support team regarding this. Over the span of seven days we have had around 7,000 spam subscribers (unverified, of course). And it’s true, this is a spam and we’re still looking for efficient ways to combat this.

    The good thing is, they’ll stay unverified. The bad thing is we’ll have to remove them manually to avoid monthly fee from rising due to these spambots.

    If you happen to have thousands of these, you can contact support and have them remove these unsubscribed-spam-whatever.

  10. says

    Oh, wow, that’s nearly half of your list. I was not aware that spammers are that rampant in email lists, I don’t even know why they would want to do that. Passive spammers? Did they intend to hack your site through this login page?

    Anyway, this gives me an idea: Would it make sense to take the email someone enters into the subscribe box and put it through some checks first before submitting it to Aweber? This would save you some real money…
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  11. says

    Hey Kristi,
    You share very good mailing experience with us same thing is happening with me now I’ll try your tips by which conversion ratio increase.
    Thanks for sharing..

  12. says

    Sorry to hear about your ordeal Kristi. A lot of people may not know this, but you get charged by the total number of subscribers (regardless of whether or not they are active or have unsubscribed). So, it is a good idea to check your Aweber account once in a while and delete those who have unsubscribed.

    I also delete inactive folks. But with that you have to be kind of careful. You dont want to lose any buyers because they didn’t open your last few emails.
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  13. says

    That is quite scary, from a developer point of view (I’m often developing my own sign up forms without any kinds of captcha) it reminds me that I must spend time to protect my sidebar forms. Im not using any email confirmations either, so that means all spam sign-ups are being emailed by our software.

    How woudl you say Aweber compares to Mailchimp regarding handling bad recipients? Thanks for a thought provoking post
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  14. says

    Spammers always make me anger on my subscriber list, and therefore most of the time I avoid sending emails to my subscribers because I feel somehow they maybe flagging myself as another spammer.

    While sending out the emails, I always think twice and thrice before approaching the audience. Because many people don’t like random stuff in their email boxes.
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    • says

      Very true Hamza. You can’t be scared of your list though. The more subscribers you have, the more likely you’re going to irritate at least one of them per emailing. Remember that for every person that doesn’t like your email, there are probably dozens that do. :)

  15. says

    Everyone gets some spammers, we see them all the time as undeliverable, but not to the extent that you saw them. I guess the take away here is to make sure the undelierables are purged from the list so as not to count toward your billing list size.

    Thank you!
    Stephen Malan just posted Submission Works — Does it Work?

    • says

      I don’t mind a few extra here and there. The redirects really made the difference – now I’m down to only maybe 10 spam submissions a week. :)