Having dead email addresses on a mailing list is a nuisance to everyone involved. It wastes resources and gives a false picture of the list’s reach. If your business has too many of them, it can get blacklisted on suspicion of spamming.

Running the addresses through a validator helps to keep the problem down. There are several ways to do this, but some of them have problems. It’s important to stick with reputable software and services. Mistakes could compromise customer privacy and even cause legal problems.

The simplest validator checks the syntax of addresses. It’s the minimum that any mailing list needs to do. One step up is to check that every address contains a real domain. This will filter out most of the fake addresses from people who really don’t want mail.

Better still is a service that checks if an address really exists. There’s no way to do this with 100% accuracy; some seemingly real addresses are black holes, and some are carefully kept secrets. Services can check against a database of known addresses, which can give confidence that an address is real.

Using an untrustworthy service can be dangerous. While allegedly checking your addresses, it may actually be saving them for its own purposes. To customers, this will look as if you sold their addresses to a spammer. Some people use a unique address for each list their own, so they can tell exactly who has leaked their address,

Acquiring a list of addresses, even if it’s just for validation purposes, might put you on shaky legal ground. Under US law, you aren’t supposed to send unsolicited commercial email to people you’ve never done business with. European privacy law is even stricter. Trusting a purchased list from a shady source to validate your mail might not look good if you face a legal challenge.

Validating your mailing lists is an excellent idea, but stick with software and services that you can trust. That way you’ll have a clean list, fewer spam complaints, and better data on the people you’re reaching.

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