New Spam Technique Used to Hide ID Theft

First the good news about spam: most EarthLink Internet access subscribers feel that the problem of spam is generally under control. Not that they don’t get any (unfortunately). But it’s typically a very small amount that doesn’t detract much from their overall email experience.

And that’s impressive considering that 86.7% of all email sent is spam, according to Network Solutions. In May, spam accounted for 165.6 billion (yes, billion with a b) messages.

How do we go from 86.7% spam to the very small percentage our members experience? Our EarthLink spamBlocker tool, on its default Known spam Blocking setting, automatically filters most of the spam out, so our subscribers never have to deal with it.

We also offer a higher level of spamBlocker protection, called Suspect Email Blocking, which blocks all messages from senders who aren’t in your Address Book. This is a very effective way of ridding your Inbox of virtually all spam, but you do need to actively manage it so that you don’t end up missing email you do want because you forgot to put someone in your Address Book.

Distributed Spam Distraction or Spam Blizzard

Unfortunately there’s some bad recent news to report about spam: It’s a new spam technique called Distributed Spam Distraction or, in more colorful terms, a spam blizzard.

Both names give you a clue to what this type of spam is all about: distraction and cover-up. Like a blizzard of snow that causes a “whiteout” in which you can’t see anything, a spam blizzard prevents you from seeing.

What the blizzard of spam prevents you from seeing is evidence of ID theft and fraudulent transactions: specifically, the automatic email alerts and confirmations that are normally sent out to confirm bank transfers, online purchases, and other financial transactions.

It works like this:

  • The bad guys somehow get access to your sensitive personal account information (bank accounts, credit card numbers, passwords, etc.) as well as your email address.
  • Just before they start to use your information to make illegal bank transfers and fraudulent purchases, they start targeting your email address with a blizzard of spam.
  • A spam blizzard can last from several hours to more than 24 hours and may send more than 50,000 messages to your email account.
  • The bad guys then use your account information to steal from you. When they do, the automatic email confirmations that would normally alert you to the fact that someone transferred money from your bank account or used your credit card to make multiple purchases get lost in the blizzard of spam you’ve been receiving.
  • With the blizzard of spam overwhelming your email account, the bad guys have more time to take advantage of your stolen personal information without you seeing the evidence and putting a stop to it.

Because this Distributed Spam Distraction technique is targeted at the one individual whose personal information has been stolen – the opposite of most spam, which works by hitting as many people as possible – it’s harder to block with standard spam blocking filters. These spam blizzard emails also don’t contain links to malicious content, viruses or other malware that can trigger filters. And they typically avoid content filters by keeping messages very brief and based on random text rather than the sales pitches or other spam promotions that can trigger content filters.

What You Can Do Before ID Theft Happens to You

As with many health and security issues, prevention is the best cure. If you prevent ID theft in the first place, there’s not going to be any spam blizzard directed at you to cover it up. So make sure your personal information is kept as secure as possible.

  • Don’t email sensitive information like credit card numbers, bank account numbers, PIN numbers, and passwords. Email is not secure. EarthLink will never ask customers for their passwords over email.
  • Don’t click on links in emails asking you for account information. They are often “phisher” emails sent by criminals. If you need to go to your bank or Internet provider to check your account or make a change, type the URL directly into your browser. Learn more about phisher email and ID theft here. 
  • Create long, strong, unique passwords to log into your accounts. Don’t use simple, easy-to-guess passwords – and don’t reuse passwords. Here are three simple tips to help you create safer passwords.
  • Change your passwords frequently. You can change your EarthLink password here.
  • Make your PINs random. PIN numbers are typically 4-digit numbers, so you can’t make them stronger with length or other techniques. But make sure the numbers are random and not associated with you in any way, such as your birthday, year of birth, address, etc.
  • Be careful giving out account information over the phone, unless you initiated the call. Just like phisher emails, sometimes ID thieves will call people claiming to be from their bank or a government agency.
  • Make sure Known spam Blocking is turned on for your EarthLink account. It should be on by default, but if you’re not sure, here’s how to check and activate it. This spam filtering may not work depending on the exact spam blizzard techniques used, but it could be helpful. (The stronger Suspect Email Blocking setting would prevent you from getting the blizzard of spam, but it would likely also filter out the email alerts the bad guys don’t want you to see.)
  • Install and use security software on your computer. EarthLink provides our Protection Control Center all-in-one security suite free of charge to all Internet access members and offers discounts on Norton security products, such as Norton 360 Online and Norton Internet Security for Mac. Security software can prevent spyware and other malware from accessing your computer and stealing your sensitive personal information that is then used in fraudulent transactions.
  • Set up text alerts for as many important accounts as you can. Banks often let you add your mobile phone number to your customer contact preferences, so you can get account alerts sent as texts to your phone in addition to email alerts. This way, if your email account gets hit with a spam blizzard, you should still be aware of the problem via text. See what alert options are available for your credit cards as well.
  • Maintain good records of all your account numbers, account history, phone numbers and other account information. You may need to quickly inquire about your accounts and you may need these records to verify account information.

What You Can Do If a Spam Blizzard Ever Happens to You

First, don’t over-react to spam. If tomorrow or next week you get twice as much spam as usual, you don’t have to worry that this is an attack. The amount of “regular” spam that gets by our network filters and makes it to your inbox will always vary. Remember, for the spam blizzard technique to work and bury your legitimate messages, it requires a huge, blinding volume of spam, not just an annoying amount of spam.

Also, keep in mind Distributed Spam Distraction is a very new spam technique and it is still extremely rare. We are not blogging about it because it is likely to happen to you, but rather because if it ever does we want you to be aware that it can indicate ID theft that you should deal with quickly.

  • Act fast. If you do get a sudden blizzard of spam, be safe and assume it is being sent to cover up fraudulent account transactions.
  • Check your most important accounts first (either online or by phone). These are likely to be your bank, investment accounts, credit cards, and any other financial accounts you have.
  • Notify the fraud departments at your bank and other financial institutions that you may be victim of ID theft.
  • See if the accounts can be temporarily frozen or put on alert for suspicious activity.
  • Change your account passwords if you can, starting with the most sensitive accounts.
  • Notify the fraud department at one of the three credit reporting companies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Once you notify one that you are at risk of identity theft, they report to the other companies for you.
  • Fill out an ID Theft Affidavit (download a PDF here) that can help you report the ID theft to multiple institutions and also file a police report (once you are sure you were a victim).
  • Monitor your credit reports closely or “freeze” your credit reports so credit issuers can’t access your credit files (to issue new credit, for example) without your permission.

For a comprehensive list of ID theft recommendations, links to valuable resources, and contact information to help you deal with ID theft, visit Identify Theft: What to Do If It Happens to You from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

If you need further assistance with your spamBlocker settings or have questions about how to protect yourself from spam, call EarthLink Customer Support at 1-888-EARTHLINK (888-327-8454).

Email Troubleshooting with the EarthLink Email Answer Wizard

All EarthLink Internet access customers (cable, DSL, Freestanding DSL, Satellite, and dial-up) get up to 8 email addresses, with Web Mail access and built-in spam and virus blocking.

So email is likely to be very important to you.

That’s why we want to make sure you are aware of the Email Answer Wizard, located in the EarthLink Support Center. It’s a quick and easy way to troubleshoot any problems that come up with your email.

The Answer Wizard is currently on the Support homepage: the fourth bullet under New Articles heading. You can also get to it from the Email menu at the top of the page (it’s third in that list).

To get started with Email Answer Wizard, click the link to indicate what kind of email help you want: either for EarthLink Web Mail or an Email Program.

Web Mail

If you choose Web Mail, you’ll be asked if you want help with Receiving Email, Spam and spamBlocker or Signing In.

If you click Receiving Email, you’ll learn what do do if your mailbox is full or if spamBlocker is blocking valid email messages.

If you click Spam and spamBlocker, you’ll learn how to restore email that went to the wrong spam filter folder, how to change your spamBlocker settings, how to report spam or phisher emails, and how to block an email address or email domain from sending you email.

If you click Signing In, you’ll get our top four tips and tools to help you resolve sign-in problems for Web Mail.

Email Programs

If you’ve chosen to get help with an email program and not Web Mail, the categories of help you can get are: Setting Up My Email Program, Sending and Receiving Email, and Reducing Spam.

Email Setup help is organized by operating system (Windows or Mac) and then by email program (Outlook 2010, Windows Live Mail 2011, etc.). If you are using Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, you are advised to try the EarthLink Setup Tool first (you can download the free Setup Tool here).

If you click on Sending and Receiving Email, you’ll first be asked to specify if the issue is sending, receiving, or both.

Troubleshooting tips in the Sending and Both Sending and Receiving categories are organized by operating system (Windows or Mac) and then by email program.

Tips in the Receiving section are for these common problems: I have stopped receiving new emails, I can’t get a certain email or I get several copies, and I get a username or password error or other problems.

If you choose the Reducing Spam category, you’ll have access to our top five anti-spam tips: How to stop an email message from going to the Suspect folder, how to stop an email message from going to the Known spam folder, how to change spamBlocker settings, how to report spam or phisher email, and how to block an email address or domain so you don’t receive any more email from them.

Here’s to trouble-free EarthLink email. And easy troubleshooting if you ever need it.

How to Get EarthLink Email on Your Android Smartphone

How to add EarthLink email to Android phone.If you have EarthLink high-speed or dial-up Internet access, you also get EarthLink email (up to 8 addresses with automatic spam and virus protection and other features).

Today we’ll show you how simple it is to use your EarthLink email on your Android phone.

At home, you may log on to Web Mail to get your email. On the go with an Android smartphone, you could also access the mobile version of Web Mail by going to with your phone’s web browser.

But it’s also easy to set up your Android’s built-in email app to use your EarthLink email.

Here’s a walk-through using the Samsung Galaxy S3 as an example (other Android phones will have similar steps and setting information but some details will be different). See our previous posts if you want to add EarthLink email to your iPhone or iPad.

  1. Locate the Email app on your Home screen (you may need to scroll if you don’t see it right away).
  2. Tap on the Email icon to open the email app.
  3. Press the options menu to the left of the Home button.
  4. Select Settings from the list that pops up.
  5. At the top of the Settings page, click the plus sign +.
  6. Under Choose an account to set up, tap Others.
  7. Enter your EarthLink email address and password (tap the Show password checkbox if you want to make sure you entered your password correctly.
  8. Tap the box next to Send email from this account by default if EarthLink will be your primary email account on the phone.
  9. Tap the Next button to have your phone attempt to add email server settings automatically (if that doesn’t work you may need to go back to this step and choose Manual setup).
  10. Confirm or change the default settings for how often you want to check for email, if you want to be notified, etc. Tap Next when you’re done.
  11. You should get a confirmation that your account is set up. You can now choose to give the account a name (otherwise it will just be listed as your email address) and choose how your name will be displayed on outgoing messages (if you don’t change it, your username will be displayed by default). Tap Next when you’re done.
  12. Tap Done with accounts at the bottom of the screen.

 Entering Email Settings Manually

  1. If step 9 above does not work to set up your phone automatically, you should choose Manual setup and then continue following these steps.
  2. Tap on POP3 account.
  3. Enter your full EarthLink email address as your User name and enter your email password.
  4. Enter in the POP3 server field.
  5. In the Port field, enter 110.
  6. Tap on the Delete email from server field and choose When I delete from Inbox.
  7. Click Next to confirm your incoming server settings.
  8. Under SMTP server, enter
  9. In the Port field, enter 587.
  10. Tab the Require sign-in box.
  11. Confirm your User name (should be your full email address) and password.
  12. Tap the Next button.
  13. Confirm or change the default settings for how often you want to check for email, if you want to be notified, etc. Tap Next when you’re done.
  14. You should get a confirmation that your account is set up. You can now choose to give the account a name (otherwise it will just be listed as your email address) and choose how your name will be displayed on outgoing messages (if you don’t change it, your username will be displayed by default). Tap Next when you’re done.
  15. Tap Done with accounts at the bottom of the screen.

EarthLink Web Hosting Tool “Announcer Pro” Lets you Control your Email Marketing

Businesses can often become so busy with day-to-day activities that it becomes harder and harder to set aside time for promotion.  Marketing takes time (and is incredibly necessary), but the business of, well, being in business often leaves too little time (a sadly counter-intuitive situation).  This is why many companies hire advertising services or agencies to handle everything from print work to the ever-important email marketing.  Sometimes this can be a smart choice, but often businesses would rather not spend the money, but hire outside firms out of what feels like necessity.  Well no more!  You don’t HAVE to give over control of your email promotions, because EarthLink Web Hosting has a tool called Announcer Pro.
This intuitive email marketing platform gives you back control.  Announcer Pro lets you create, send, and manage email campaigns with ease. The system is easy-to-use, and is designed to meet your email marketing needs, including
  • creative design
  • contact list management
  • scheduling
  • performance tracking
  • …and more!

With plans starting as low as $12.99/month, Announcer Pro offers unmatched value and flexibility for businesses of all sizes, so contact us now if you have questions and/or want to add it to your EarthLink Web Hosting service!