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Email Validation: Unlocking the Mystery

When It Misses the Mark

While many businesses offer email validation services, it’s important to know the strengths and weaknesses associated with them. Email validation has proven its ability to fix typos and verify domain names, resulting in a clean list. However, a verified domain name doesn’t guarantee the address “owner” is the correct person. Here’s how a clean list can miss the mark.

Existence Vs. Permission

Just this past April, the Spamhaus Project revealed their thoughts on email validation services, issuing an enlightening concept–just because it works, doesn’t mean it’s right. They started with the objective of email validation–to determine whether an email address exists, thus avoiding undeliverable messages. Then they looked beyond the surface, finding that just because email validation services can determine whether or not an email address exists, doesn’t mean it’s open for business.


Spamhaus dissected a weakness of email validation in regards to the naming convention, explaining, “It does nothing to verify the permission of the recipient to accept a subscription, which is the most important step in avoiding spam when acquiring addresses for bulk emailing lists, nor does it ensure that the email address owner is the same as the person making the transaction. That means that transactional mail like receipts, tickets or vouchers could be sent to the wrong person, yet the address won’t bounce because it was verified to exist.”

Catch-All Domains:

No Rejection Another way in which email validation can fall short is by casting its net too wide. With catch-all domains, also known as acceptall, no matter what someone enters in front of the @ sign (sales@, info@, or jane@), the message will still be delivered without having to configure your server or do anything special. Catch-all servers are a great way to ensure that no messages are lost, for example, if an employee has left or was let go, they are likely still receiving important messages. Catch-all domains are useful for the recipient, but a pain for the sender since catch-all domains will accept anything and you never know if your message actually was delivered to the intended recipient.


Originally, part of the allure of catch-all domains was that no email domain would be rejected. While useful for those worried about missing important messages due to typos, spammers seized the opportunity. Instead of hunting for user names, spammers could input anything to reach their destination. The result? Catch-all boxes got flooded with spam and weren’t usable.

Protecting Your Account

When using an email validation service, it’s important that it uses the appropriate filters and identifies catch-all domains, informing you of how your content is being handled.


A good email validation process will determine the status of each email address. For example: The mail server for this domain accepts the address, but it also implements a catch-all policy. For this reason, it is not possible to determine if a mail account with this name actually exists, without sending a message and waiting for a reply. When looking for an email validation vendor, it’s important to ensure that they can both validate the naming convention of the email but that they can couple that with a more in-depth process to determine the kind of server the recipient has and what the risk assessment is.