About a week ago, I started receiving emails from the US Government. A lot of emails. Like 50 per day. I understand that sounds scary - and I guess it sorta is - but you should know I am just receiving subscription emails. From government mailing lists.
Nonetheless, somebody has maliciously signed me up for dozens of government mailing lists. Some aren't even in English. There is definitely some Spanish and Russian mixed in there; I think I may have seen Portuguese too, what does Portuguese look like?
The emails are mostly coming from the Department of State, but I also get emails from the Census Bureau, Citizen and Immigration Services, the CDC, and many other organizations - even the National Portrait Gallery. Coincidentally, I think I might be the only person on the email distribution for the National Portrait Gallery.
What's going on? Am I being hacked? I checked my credit scores, bank accounts, 401k, Amazon account - there's no malicious activity. I checked my Facebook - secretly hoping some evil hacker gained access and posted something on my behalf - but there was nothing.
I thought maybe this is just some sort of glitch. Maybe I signed up for one government subscription service and somehow all the other subscriptions somehow got switched on in their database. But that's unlikely - because I've never signed up for one subscription.
I emailed the Department of State two days after this started asking them to please stop the emails. To take me off their lists. They didn't take me off the list - they haven't even responded. I doubt they will ever respond.
Meanwhile, my inbox is a complete disaster. I usually like to keep it fairly tidy, but now it's just a mess. I've got Portuguese Portrait Gallery emails and all sorts of nonsense in there. I can't live like this. I try to unsubscribe, but it's an uphill battle.
Someone doesn't necessarily need to breach my secure information - or passwords - to sign me up for an email distribution. I did a little investigative work to see what it takes to get onto the Department of State email list. It's really easy. You go to the top of the US State Department's blog website (here) and type an email address into the bar and click "subscribe". The site will ask you to confirm the email address, then you click subscribe again. That's it. No captcha, no verification email to confirm. And here's the worst part - after you subscribe an email address (it can be any email address), they bring you to a giant checklist page where you can select other government-related subscriptions to join. When I say giant - I mean it. It's massive. There are even buttons you can click to expand the checklists even more so you can reveal more subscription options.
A big shout-out and thank-you to the kind soul who subscribed me to all of these government email lists. And another shout-out to whoever designed this subscription system on the gov website.
If I find out a quick way to unsubscribe, I will follow-up here.