Fighting Spam Sign Ups: 5 Tactics to Prevent Them
Cyber Risks & Threats | September 13, 2023
Spam sign ups are the number one enemy of any sign-up form online. Fake information can easily flood these forms, resulting in lists filled with irrelevant leads or users.
Imagine a scenario where your online sign up forms receive fake sign ups. Once in, this data will get into your pipelines and analytics. As a result, your analytics will send false information to your smart campaigns, leading to bad optimization, or your sales team may spend time preparing for a meeting with fake leads.
Quite often, spam sign ups are also the main reason why some email marketing campaigns fail to deliver the expected results. And it’s to be expected, as you’ll be sending emails to non-existing or spammy entities that won’t even open your email.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss what spam sign-ups are, how they can hurt your marketing efforts, and strategies to prevent them from getting into your contact lists in the first place.
What Are Spam Sign Ups?
Spam sign-ups are fake or unauthorized registrations on websites, apps, or platforms. This happens when someone fills out online forms with fake information just to get access to something they don’t have a real interest in.
For example, a spammer can create a fake account on your website or app just to engage in fraudulent activities. This can range from posting fake reviews and ratings, spreading malware, or collecting real users’s email addresses.
Whatever the reason is, these spam registrations can have adverse effects on your business. They will leave you with polluted email lists, and inaccurate metrics of your user base, which can also significantly impact your your paid campaigns.
What’s more, they pose a potential source of various fraudulent attacks, which can lead to even more serious consequences for your business as a whole.
Who Submits Fake Sign Ups?
Fake sign-ups are usually submitted by spambots or individuals with malicious intent.
Spambots are computer programs designed to identify and complete online forms automatically. When they come across a sign-up form, they populate it with fictitious or irrelevant details.
These details usually include fake email addresses, but if your sign-up form includes other fields like name, company name, or username, some spambots are capable of fabricating information for those fields as well.
On the human front, some individuals engage in these activities for personal gain, such as acquiring freebies or gathering details about your products or promotional strategies, which they may later use to gain a competitive advantage.
The Motives Behind Fake Registrations
The goal behind fake leads, form-fills, and signups can vary. Often, it includes damaging your marketing campaign, hurting your business reputation, or stealing information for personal gain.
Here are some common reasons why spam sign-ups occur:
- Fake reviews and ratings. On review websites and e-commerce platforms, spam sign-ups can be used to post fake reviews and ratings for products or services. This can mislead consumers and harm the reputation of businesses.
- Email harvesting. Spammers may create accounts to collect valid email addresses for future spam email campaigns. These addresses can be sold to other spammers or used to send phishing emails directly.
It’s worth noting that nearly 49% of all emails circulating online in 2022, as reported by Eftsure, fell into this spam category. This fact highlights how email harvesting contributes to the widespread problem of unsolicited and harmful emails.
- To collect personal information from other users. Fake accounts can be used to trick people into revealing personal information, such as their passwords, credit card numbers, or home addresses. This information can then be used for identity theft or other malicious purposes.
- Account takeovers. Some spam sign-ups aim to take over existing user accounts by using stolen credentials or password-guessing techniques. Once access is gained, the attacker may engage in fraudulent or illegal activities, such as making unauthorized purchases, committing data or identity theft, etc.
- Lead fraud. Also known as lead generation fraud, it happens when scammers, either manually or through bots, generate a large number of fake leads in lead generation forms. As a result, these leads make their way to your pipelines and pollute your email lists.
- Monetization. Spammers may sign up for accounts on platforms that offer financial incentives. Benefits, such as referral bonuses or rewards for completing tasks, are attractive ways for some people to earn money or accumulate rewards.
Importance of Preventing Spam Sign Ups
In the modern digital arena, where bots contribute to nearly half of online traffic, it’s not a surprise how your sign-up forms can quickly become polluted with fake accounts. And the consequences of this can be devastating.
Imagine a scenario where fake or spammy registrations flood your database unchecked. Not only does this impact your email marketing efforts, but it also extends through your sales funnels, CRM contacts, and, ultimately, your brand’s reputation.
These are some reasons why you should stay vigilant against spam sign-ups and lead fraud:
- List quality: If your list is filled with spammy or fake email addresses, it can result in your emails being flagged as spam or even getting your account suspended.
- Sender reputation: When you consistently send emails to invalid addresses, it can damage your sender’s reputation. A poor reputation means your emails are more likely to end up in the recipients’ spam folders or not get delivered at all.
- Cost efficiency: Maintaining a large email list can increase your costs, especially if you’re paying per email or for an email marketing service provider based on the number of subscribers.
- Brand trust: If your real subscribers receive unwanted or irrelevant emails due to spam sign-ups, it can damage your brand’s image and lead to more unsubscribes or even complaints.
- Engagement metrics: Preventing spambots from accessing your forms will help you concentrate on engaging with genuine subscribers. This will lead to improved email engagement metrics like open rates and click-through rates.
- Legal compliance: Spam sign-ups can violate email marketing regulations like the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR, which might lead to legal issues and fines.
- Resource saving: Dealing with spam sign-ups can be time-consuming. You might have to manually review and remove fake or suspicious subscribers, which takes time away from more productive marketing tasks. Preventing spam sign-ups in the first place can save you valuable resources.
5 Ways to Prevent Spambots From Signing Up
Essentially, there are some tactics that can help you protect your online forms and maintain the integrity of your email lists.
Let’s explore some best practices to keep spambots and users with fraudulent intentions away from your business.
1. Use a Real-Time Bot Detection Solution
Using cybersecurity tools is by far the most effective way to combat these digital pests.
These advanced solutions employ sophisticated online assessments to identify and stop digital threats that have the potential to infiltrate your systems.
For a comprehensive solution to block such actors from your website, ads, and pipeline, you can consider CHEQ Essentials.
CHEQ Essentials is an AI-driven solution that provides multi-layer protection against online fraud. It includes website bot mitigation and paid traffic protection. This eliminates bad actors across your business, including spam sign-ups, and ensures full protection of your entire marketing efforts.
2. Enable Double Opt-In
It’s true that double opt-in is just one more “unnecessary” and annoying step that real users need to complete before submitting their registration. That’s why many businesses often avoid it.
But when it comes to your business and your users’ security, you better consider it as an essential necessity.
It involves an additional layer of confirmation beyond the initial registration, typically through email. This will limit spambots or non-existing email addresses from getting into your lists.
3. Include Honeypot
Honeypots are mechanisms or tools used to place hidden traps in your website or platform. They create fields or entire forms that only bots can see and fill out.
Some advanced forms of honeypots can block the registration right after the bot falls for the trap. If this’s not the case and spambots still complete the form, you can easily distinguish them from legitimate users since they will obviously come from the honeypot field.
This method is highly effective because legitimate users won’t see or interact with the trap, so their registrations will run smoothly.
4. Rate Limiting
Rate limiting is another effective way to prevent spam sign-ups. It’s a technique that limits the number of registration attempts from a single IP address or device within a specific time frame.
This will prevent spambots or scammers from overloading systems with fraudulent registrations and attempts.
5. Require Additional Information
You can expand your registration form and include additional fields, like a profile picture or brief bio. It’s a known fact that bots have a hard time with pictures that look like real faces and writing coherent bios.
By asking for these, you’re taking an extra step to make sure to verify the authenticity of your users. And that’s a big deal because it can prevent automated bots from making their way into your platform.
Knowing that almost half the traffic online originates from bots, as highlighted in the University of Baltimore and CHEQ report, it’s not a surprise that fraudulent activities can affect businesses online in many ways.
Online sign up forms are also not immune to this threat. Spambots and scammers can easily inject fake information into your website forms, lead generation campaigns, or app registrations, compromising the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and the overall integrity of your online presence.
Implementing good cybersecurity practices in your sign up forms, like double opt-in, can certainly lower your exposure to this risk. However, for comprehensive protection, you should consider investing in an automated bot protection solution. This is the only way you can be sure that fraudulent actors will be automatically blocked, without the risk of losing any genuine users.
So, if you want to protect your online forms from spam bots, check out CHEQ Essentials’ bot mitigation tool.
Why do Spammers Sign Up for Newsletters?
Spammers sign up for newsletters for various reasons, often aiming to exploit email systems. They may use automated tools, like spambots, to collect email addresses from sign-ups, building lists for unsolicited and potentially harmful emails.
By joining newsletters, spammers can verify active email addresses for future spam campaigns. Some may use this tactic for phishing, sending deceptive messages under the guise of legitimate newsletters.
They also aim to infiltrate your email users’ lists with invalid and fake information, which will further disrupt your email campaigns.
How do I Remove Spam Email Sign Ups?
If your system is already being affected by fake registrations, you can check and verify the authenticity of the email addresses.
An email validation service can help you to identify and remove fake email addresses from your list. These services use a variety of methods to verify email addresses, such as checking for typos and invalid domains.
Alternatively, if your list is small, you may be able to manually remove spam email addresses. If you come across any email addresses that appear to be spammy or raise suspicion, take the time to investigate and potentially remove them.
How to Identify Spam Sign-Ups?
You can recognize fake sign-ups if you check for red flags like outdated or incorrect information, multiple registrations from one IP address, or the use of proxy servers. These signs suggest potential fraudulent activity in your signup forms.
Additionally, be cautious of registrations using uncommon payment methods like gift cards or cash, as legitimate users typically use standard options.
Another sign to look for is unusual or random email addresses. Scammers often use email addresses that are randomly generated or use unusual combinations of characters and numbers, or suspicious keywords. For example, an email address like “email@example.com” is more likely to be spam than an email address like “firstname.lastname@example.org”
Do Fake Sign-Ups Affect My Deliverability?
Yes, fake sign-ups can have a negative impact on email deliverability. Fake sign-ups can cause your emails to go to spam and increase bounce rates, which usually happens when many emails are sent to non-existent or invalid email addresses.
This can signal to email service providers (ESPs) that your sender reputation is poor, leading to your genuine users receiving your emails in their spam folders as well.