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The Computer Corner

spam-email

By Charles Miller

 

Why Aren’t Your E-mails Getting to Their Recipients? Your Address Might Have Been Hacked

 

The fallout continues from the article that appeared here a few weeks ago. This time the story is not about someone who read the earlier column, but someone who might have benefited by saving a lot of time if they had done so. As always, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

It started with a distressed call from Jane Doe whose complaint was that some but not all of her emails were being delivered to their recipients. I began by investigating all the usual suspects. No, there were no spelling errors in the names. No, there was no problem with her internet connection. No, there was no problem in her computer. And yes, she could successfully send emails to some recipients, just not all of them.

In due course my investigation led to the column that appeared here a few weeks ago concerning monitor.firefox.com and haveibeenpwned.com. When I entered the email address jane@mail.com in the first of those web sites I knew I had found the problem. The aforementioned web sites have copies of hundreds of stolen email and password lists, those same lists are used by spammers and other cybercrooks and the web sites will check to see if your email address appears on any of those lists. When I checked I found the address jane@mail.com was included on not just one but a dozen of those lists. Having your name, password, and possibly other data compromised in a data breach one time is bad enough, but 12 times is about as bad as it gets.

Having your email address “pwned” then used by spammers, scammers, and other crooks is a bell that cannot be un-rung. If email is still used as a communications medium fifty years from now then it is likely people will still be receiving spam (allegedly) from jane@mail.com advertising discount Viagra or some other scam. There is simply no way to stop that from happening.

Many email servers around the world use anti-spam software, and now that those systems have jane@mail.com listed as a bad address any email from that address will be rejected even if it is a legitimate mail from the real Jane. That is a permanent condition because once blacklisted there is no way to get off all the many blacklists. The only way forward is for Jane Doe to abandon her email address jane@mail.com and setup a different address to use from now on. I am well aware this is not a popular solution, but it is the only one that works.

Jane Doe first complained that her new address jane_doe_2019_mex@mail.com was too long and hard to remember. Sorry, but the short addresses such as “jane” were all taken years ago. Her next complaint was that it was going to be a lot of trouble to notify everyone of her new address. This one was easily fixed because her blacklisted email address could still receive incoming mail and it could then be forwarded over to her new email address from which to respond.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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