When messages you want to receive are flagged as spam

Some users have reported that messages they want to receive in their Inbox are sometimes being flagged as spam and going to the Known Spam folder. This is called a “false positive” when our spam filters mark a message as spam but you don’t consider it to be spam and want it to be delivered. There are several reasons this can happen. I’ll describe some of those and then describe a solution you can use to help us reduce the number of false positives.
Some common causes of false positives are:

  • You have signed up for a mailing list or announcements from a bulk email sender (a company or organization), but many other users are reporting messages from that sender as spam using the “This Is Spam” button in Web Mail. When a sender has a bad reputation as reported by thousands of users, this can result in their messages being filtered for all users.
  • A person that you correspond with may have a compromised computer that has become infected with a virus created by a spammer, and their computer is sending out thousands of messages unknown to that user. When that happens, that sender can get listed as a spammer and all their messages might start getting flagged as spam.
  • In a few cases, regular message correspondence that is not spam might be incorrectly flagged because it has similarities to actual spam and gets caught by a filter. Your reports help to refine the filters to be more accurate.

If messages that you want to receive are being flagged as spam, please follow these steps and we’ll try to get it cleared up:

  1. In your spamBlocker settings, make sure the setting for “Delete Known spam immediately” is turned off. That allows you to save and view the messages that were marked as spam. To get to the setting, click on spamBlocker / Settings.
  2. When you get a message in the Known Spam folder that should not be there, select the message (or view it) and click the button for “This Is Not Spam”. That sends us a report of the problem.
  3. If after a couple of days, your report using “This Is Not Spam” did not seem to have an effect and the problem persists, then we’d like you to take an extra step to help us investigate it. Report the lastest false positive using “This Is Not Spam” and then also write a new message to us at falsepositivereport@earthlink.net. Provide us with the sender address for the messages that are still being caught in Known Spam, and also the Subject line that was in the last message you reported. This information will help us locate the report for investigation. Make sure you send it from the mailbox where the problem occurred.

If the problem persists, one drastic solution is to turn the spamBlocker level to Off. If you don’t get much spam in your mailbox, that might be a workable temporary solution. Doing that will cause all messages to go to your Inbox and nothing will get filtered.
Aside from EarthLink spam filtering, your own personal Blocked Sender List can also block messages from being delivered. Unlike the spamBlocker filter, which puts messages identified as spam into your Known Spam folder for your review, your personal Blocked Sender List prevents delivery entirely, and messages you block that way cannot be recovered. If you have inadvertently blocked a sender, you can edit your block list by clicking on spamBlocker / Blocked Sender List (or Preferences / Blocked Sender List). Before reporting a false positive as described above, please make sure you aren’t blocking the messages yourself.
One last thing – if you are using spamBlocker on the High setting, then messages from senders not in your Address Book are delivered to the Suspect Email folder. This is completely separate from the spam filtering that puts messages in Known Spam, so don’t confuse the two and only use the steps above when messages are delivered to the Known Spam folder.

38 thoughts on “When messages you want to receive are flagged as spam

  1. You guys really need to have a whitelist feature for the spam blocker – it’s frustrating that a provider of your size chooses not to. On April 1, email from a listserv I am on suddenly started getting filtered, though I’ve received it fine for many months previously. I’ll try using the “This is not spam” button but it would sure be simpler if I could just whitelist the sender

  2. My largest client’s email adresses go straight to known spam in webmail. The mail administrator for that client and myself have been emailing falsepositivereport@earthlink.net for 4 months. There has never been any response. I also continue to classify their email as “this is not spam”. The mail admin for rezlaw.com says the mailserver passes all the spam tests. He also says the only response he gets after calling customer service is to email falsepositivereport@earthlink.net. I’m going on 4 months now without ever getting a response from Earthink. Email server info is: rezmail.rezlaw.com ip: I’ve been told it would help the email admin to at least know why they are clasified as known spam. -Tim

    I’ve sent this to the spam manager for investigation.
    Email Guy
  3. Both the number of spam messages getting through to my Inbox and the number of false positives have taken a dramatic jump in the past few weeks. I report the spam, move the false positives to my inbox and send a report to falsepositivereport@earthlink.net. Those false positive reports now seem to have absolutely no effect whereas in the past I would receive one or two messages from those senders before the messages would again be wrongly classified as spam. Within the last month I have reported three times to falsepositivereport that a message was incorrectly classified yet the next message from this sender does not make to my inbox but is once again in the “Known spam” folder.
    Three messages from one sender, three reports they are misclassified, three subsequent messages sent straight to “Known spam”.
    Does anyone actually read the falsepositivereport account? I seems that no one does and my sending messages there is just an exercise in futility.
    Will there be a user-configurable white listing capability when v6 is rolled out? If not, it’s time to seriously consider it.

  4. For the most part, my spamblocker works pretty well. The one exception has been that email that I send to myself from my blackberry (little reminders, you know) get sent to suspect email instead of to my inbox no matter how many times I add my own address to my address book and clear the messages through. Is there a way to fix this? I realized after looking at the source from a sequestered email that every message from my blackberry seems to have a unique return path, could this be the issue? All the “from” fields have the same info- my email address, but the return paths have something like this :SRS0=jxSF+b=4H=earthlink.net=kevingreene@srs.bis.na.blackberry.com. The 6th thru 14th characters vary on each one, like it’s a code or routing number or something… Could this be the issue?

    It’s because you don’t have your Blackberry configured to send outgoing mail through the EarthLink server, so it isn’t really coming from “you” as in you at EarthLink, it is coming from somewhere else. There is no way to whitelist that message to keep it from going to the Suspect folder because our server views it as being a spoofed sender. But you might be able to change your outgoing mail server setting and fix the trouble, if your particular email software allows this (I think it depends on your BB model, the Pearl allows it). If you can, set it to smtpauth.earthlink.net on port 587 and turn outgoing authentication On.
    Email Guy
  5. I am having a problem only with email forwarded to me from my gmail address, after being sent there by a Google group.
    And when I originate an email from the gmail address, it of course also gets sent to Known Spam.
    Have you folks got it in for gmail?
    I hope not. For a couple of years at least, I’ve had no problem getting my group emails via the gmail forwarding to my gmail addy and then down to earthlink. Suddenly, FUBAR.
    Hope you can “address” this soon.

  6. Sorry to report that in the last few days, the false positive rate has suddenly jumped. Mail that had been getting through is getting flagged again.

  7. how to I get somethig flagged as spam to get to input?, It ought to be easy, like underscoring and saying forwarding it to ‘me’

    Before you can reply-to or forward a message it must be moved from the Known Spam folder to the Inbox. Then all actions are available.
    Email Guy
  8. While I have not had a false positive in a few weeks, in the last two weeks the amount of SPAM in my INBOX has increased dramatically – from one or so a week to sometimes as much as 50% of the total new messages in the INBOX. Time to have the filterting company get to work on better filters.

  9. It’s now the beginning of October, and there definitely is a shift in the false positives. Far fewer of them in the Known Spam folder (and those rarely from the major institutional mailers like Sears or Procter & Gamble). Sometimes — and this is a first — I check Known Spam and find zero false positives. There has been a corresponding slight increase in junk mail reaching the regular Inbox, but it’s still relatively trifling — maybe one spam message every couple of hours at most.
    So it’s definitely better. But I still long for a whitelisting solution of some kind.

  10. Me again. As of this week (second week of September) there is a noticeable dropoff in false positives from institutional senders. It’s as though the filters are paying more attention to the “This is not spam” button.
    I hope I don’t jinx it by saying something!

    Yes, we improved the handling and response to those reports, and there are still other improvements in process, so you should continue to see a reduction in false positives over the coming weeks. Once we put the final change in place next month, they should go to near zero.
    Your feedback is always helpful.
    Email Guy
  11. It’s hard to be sure, because the spam trapping is still quite unpredictable, but I would say in a gestalt sense that the number of false positives is going down. Mail from Sears/Land’s End, Ziff-Davis, and Procter & Gamble, which was being trapped quite often, now tends to get through. So there must be some effort to allow institutional senders’ mails to pass.
    But there is still a distressing amount of false positive activity. Newsletters from Writers Digest, for example. And I still have the problem that the 100-message limit in the Known Spam directory will be reached in 12 to 15 hours, so I have to check this folder quite often to avoid losing messages.
    However, it does look like progress is being made.
    I have no problem with systematically whitelisting senders. If that feature is ever introduced, make sure the number of whitelisted senders is made pretty large.

  12. [W]e made changes this week that are going to improve that steadily over the next few weeks, and there is another change coming next month that should almost eliminate the trouble. Thanks for your patience.

    Not a moment too soon for those changes, in my opinion. I haven’t seen any significant difference so far, but it’s all so unpredictable — in general, mail from the very same senders gets through one time and gets blocked another. There’s no obvious pattern to it, so it’s hard to detect any change.
    Of course, genuine whitelisting would solve the problem once and for all. 🙂

    Yes, after the first instance and you whitelisted the sender. I really want to have this feature, but it is not trivial for us to provide and I don’t know yet when I can get it. But most false positives should go away soon from the other things we are doing.
    Email Guy
  13. Two comments:
    1. My most recent “false positive” stats (as of a few minutes ago):
    54 messages flagged as “known spam.” 13 of those messages are legitimate mail (false positive). Thus, the false positive rate is close to 25%.
    2. I continue to be concerned about the unannounced decision to greatly truncate the storage capacity of “Known Spam.” I pay for an extra 200 MB of mailbox size. Seems to me that should carry over into the “Known Spam” capacity as well. 100 messages of backlog isn’t very much. With the ridiculously high false positive rate, there can be no doubt that many legitimate messages are likely to disappear forever if I don’t check the “Known Spam” listings at least a couple of times a day.
    Back in the BrightMail days, the “caught spam” capacity was significantly higher.
    I can’t believe that the typical Earthlink customer realizes how much legitimate e-mail is being systematically thrown away by Earthlink each day.

    We’re working on this, but to clarify, this almost always only occurs with bulk emailers that are frequently reported as spam by other users, not with personal email correspondence. I understand in your case it is bad, but you are overstating the general problem. That said, we made changes this week that are going to improve that steadily over the next few weeks, and there is another change coming next month that should almost eliminate the trouble. Thanks for your patience.
    Email Guy
  14. I’m guessing, unhappily, that “Realistically it could be several months. – Email Guy” means that whitelisting taking precedence over auto-spam-filtering is not in 6.0? How about 6.1?
    The problem with the status quo is that many (most?) users probably don’t even know that the problem exists. Unless they happen to check the online known spam folder (which they have no discernible reason to do if they’re getting their mail throuch Outlook or some other 3rd party mail handler), they’ll never know that some mail they should have received was sidetracked.
    I think that, unless a fix is right around the corner, then at the very least Earthlink should send a high-importance email to all its users informing them of the issue and of what they need to do to keep from losing erroneously filtered non-spam.
    (Or would the spam filter block THAT email? )

    What you describe is true on all email systems everywhere, as spam filtering is never 100% accurate. There is always that risk that a good message gets filtered. We are working to reduce the number of false positives, and we are also working on getting whitelisting of your address book. Users also have the option of turning off the spam filtering entirely, and if they use POP software they can do the filtering on their computer locally using whatever junk mail filter is included with their email software (or not). I’m not recommending that, but it is an option if the chance of losing anything is critical in your situation.
    I hope to be able to offer full whitelisting capability soon.
    Email Guy
  15. The stats at 10:15 this morning:
    92 messages caught in “Known Spam.”
    18 of these are false positives.
    Meanwhile, 10 actual spam messages delivered to my Inbox.

  16. This evening I checked “Known Spam” and found 59 captured messages, of which 10 were false positives.
    That’s a 17% false positive rate.

  17. It appears to me that the “Known Spam” folder drops messages quickly if they’re not reviewed. It used to be that flagged spam would be kept for at least a couple of weeks. Now it appears to be essential to review that folder before the message count hits roughly 100 messages or the oldest ones will scroll off and be lost, regardless of their actual age.
    I would reiterate my urgent suggestion that you suppress the display of “zero” next to the Known Spam link on the main mail page. Just turn it off, so there is no number showing at all. That programming should be ludicrously simple and easy to implement with only a tiny amount of testing. You don’t have to fix the long-broken routine that inaccurately resets to zero five minutes after someone visits the Known Spam directory. Just suppress the display. Otherwise you are misleading thousands of customers into thinking they don’t need to check this folder for legitimate mail, and it is obvious that this is a dangerous falsehood.
    For example, yesterday I visited Known Spam and 102 messages had been flagged. Of these, 13 were legitimate mail (false positives), including at least one individual e-mail to me from another individual. That’s just under a 13% false positive rate. Meanwhile, some pretty blatant spam is getting through to my Inbox despite the overzealous filtering.
    Sorry to be such a broken record on this, but I think Earthlink customers are being gravely disserved by the false positive problem, particularly when the display of zero messages next to the Known Spam link falsely leads them to believe that there are no messages to review. It really seems to me a matter of major urgency, and I am disappointed that Earthlink is responding so casually to it.

    The displayed count for that folder is fixed in the 6.0 release, coming soon.
    The rule on storing Known Spam is the most recent 100 messages, up to 10 days old, are stored. So it is auto-deleted down to those two thresholds periodically, but not in real time, which is why you sometimes see more. The auto-delete trigger is every 1MB of new email you receive, then all the auto-delete settings are triggered, for the Trash, Known Spam, and Suspect Folders (trash and suspect settings are controlled in your preferences).
    We are working hard on the false positive problem, and are very aware of it.
    Email Guy
  18. Firstly, I am glad I stumbled on to this blog. Nice to know there is someone out there listening to the users.
    Secondly, I have been a pretty long time Earthlink customer (since 2002) and have no intention of leaving.
    I do have concerns about the false positives issue, though. I hope a working whitelist becomes reality soon, as long as it performs better than the ‘address book’ does. I don’t use WebMail to read and send email, I use Mac OS X ‘Mail’ program. Since probably for a year or so, I have been having to use WebMail to check for the false positives of Spam Blocker. I kind of thought that Earthlink would eventually get it worked out, but that has not happened, as yet. I have finally decided to try to give feedback and so here I am.
    I am grateful for the time that G Bryan has spent on this subject. I mostly have the same problems, although I don’t have as high a quantity of email in and out. I do get about the same percentage of false positives, though.
    I especially agree that the ‘senders that are being blocked have been previously reported as spammers’ is not necessarily true. I have had Spam Blocker block emails from my bank that were brief text messages and in no way were anything like spam.
    I am another voice advocating a working whitelist (and to fix the bug – false reporting of zero messages for Known Spam). It seems to me that it would be a simple programming fix to have Spam Blocker review a whitelist before labeling something spam. But, I am not a programmer of this scale.
    Keep trying Email Guy!!

  19. Another day with “Known Spam” problems, only now the billing update from the local Toll Tag authority has been black-listed by the so-called SPAM filters. This is in addition to the suppression of emails from relatives and various mailing lists.
    It’s really getting tedious!

  20. Today was typical. I went to the “Known Spam” directory. 100 messages had been flagged as “known” spam. Of these, 15 were legitimate messages, including (a) press releases from PR Newswire, (b) a newsletter announcing cultural events in my area from The Teaching Company, (c) two notices of upcoming seminars offered by IT experts, (d) a message from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, (e) customer newsletters from L.L. Bean and The Jockey store, and the like.
    This is a 15% false positive rate. All of these senders are people I have specifically noted in the past using the special “false positive” procedure you set up some time ago (but which I have now stopped using after concluding it was a waste of time).
    Fifteen percent.
    That’s lousy.
    And these are all reputable senders, whose mail I want to receive, and who abide by all the rules.
    Meanwhile, a steady stream of diploma mill and stock scam e-mail makes it past your filters to my inbox. So they’re not doing that great a job of flagging the true spam.
    It really is a matter of some importance to get the whitelisting capability in place.

  21. “Realistically it could be several months.
    Email Guy”
    Patience is a virtue. Wish I were more virtuous.

  22. Dear Email Guy –
    You replied to a May 14 comment in here that “I agree, and I’m trying to get that done.” It’s been a month now. Just wondering if there’s any progress to report?
    Bruce Reaves

    Realistically it could be several months.
    Email Guy
  23. I would like to add my vote to quickly fix the failure of the Known Spam process to honor my Web Mail address book. I blissfully had my spam set to automatically discard Known Spam. After reading discussions on the blog I changed my setting so that I can review it and empty it myself (I get 50-100 Known Spams daily). I have discovered 3-4 messages a week that are being trapped as Known Spam. Some are simply straightforward replies to an email of mine, others included a notice from my bank. It is not one or two senders, but a variety.
    I find this both irritating and a concern, as I may overlook something important and lose it. Added to that is the steady Spam for prescriptions and stuff that are obvious in the subject line but the system fails to trap, increasing the irritation.

  24. I have resorted to checking my KNOWN SPAM folder daily due to the number of important and/or wanted emails (including email-delivered credit card statements) being categorized as spam. I always move them to my inbox by identifying the message using the THIS IS NOT SPAM button. It seems to make no detectable difference.
    PLEASE work on the white list. I have tried adding those that recurrently get misdirected to my address book, but that makes no difference either. This is a very time consuming and frustrating issue and I would expect that a white list could help.

  25. I am now convinced that reporting the “false positives” using the procedure you have described is a waste of time. The same reputable mailers continue to be shuttled to the Known Spam area rather than delivered to my inbox, despite repeated reports.
    I plan to collect statistics next week on the poor track record of your current anti-spam provider (I’m not sure whether it is a third party or whether Earthlink has chosen to move its efforts in-house). I am expecting the false positive rate to be somewhere between 3 to 6 percent, based on my informal observation. As virtually all of these false positives involve reputable, institutional mailers whose e-mails are fully CAN-SPAM compliant, contain all required unsubscribe mechanisms, and are addressed to people who opted in to receive them, this is an embarrassing rate of failure.
    What is particularly annoying is that, at the same time, the rate of “real” spam reaching my inbox has recently increased. Thus, not only is Earthlink’s spam processing generating too many false positives, but it is missing the diploma mill and sex enhancement spam that ought to be easily filtered.
    I feel sorry for those, like one of the commenters above, who have missed incoming mail by not checking their Known Spam folders due to the false reporting of zero messages in the queue. I would recommend that you immediately disable this reporting. Just suppress this number in the display. That is a programming change that should be extremely easy. That way, at least, you won’t be lulling customers into thinking there is no need to check for false positives.
    The situation right now should be pointedly embarrassing for Earthlink: A Known Spam folder full of false positives, and a display of “(0)” that suggests no need to check that folder.
    Chaos obviously reigns in the spam processing function. I’m guessing there is employee turnover and that there are open positions. What would it take for Earthlink to raise the priority on solving the spam problems?

  26. I haven’t raised my level of spam filtering, nor allowed auto-deletion of “caught” spam, because of the too-high level of false positives.
    What I’d really like is for my address-book “whitelist” to take precedence over automatic “known-spam” filtering. That is, if the sender is in my address book, put the mail in my inbox regardless of whether it looks like it might be spam.

  27. One of my email addresses receives much expected mailing list email. [It gets a bit of spam too].
    Recently, I have seen a lot of false positives. Political email, weekly messages from my grocery, even one of the mailing lists I subscribe to all appeared in the Known Spam folder.
    Before a couple of weeks ago, I was not frequently reviewing this because the number in the folders list always indicated 0. So I thought that no spam was being caught. I will admit that I had been pretty content that there were no false positives – but that was a couple of years ago.
    I also have to deal with spam that do NOT get filtered. It’s a pain to have to check both ways.
    The false positives concern me. And how many got by before I began checking again.

  28. I have to scale back my optimistic comment (#10) from April. In recent days, the number of false positives has gone way up.
    Again, what are being flagged are messages from reputable mailers, fully compliant with all e-mail laws (such as CAN-SPAM), whose e-mail I want to receive.
    I find it objectionable that I have to go to so much trouble, day after day, to fish these e-mails out of the “Known Spam” directory, just because (according to your explanation) other people are supposedly flagging them as spam. If so, these other people are either lazy (too lazy to just unsubscribe, using the links readily available in these e-mails) or stupid (too stupid to realize that they are receiving the e-mail because they did something to trigger it, like subscribing or buying something).
    Thus, my ability to receive e-mails that I want to receive is apparently being dictated by strangers whose cluelessness is setting an incorrect standard. If the mail bothers them, then I’m not allowed to receive it. Baloney.
    For a time it seemed as though sending the “false positive” reports was making a difference, but now I’m not so sure. I’m still doing it (which of course adds to the burden of the false positive problem) but am beginning to wonder if it’s just busywork.
    It really is time for Earthlink to solve this problem once and for all, by implementing a robust whitelisting system.

    I agree, and I’m trying to get that done.
    Email Guy
  29. False Positives Decreasing
    I have been dutifully sending along “false positive” reports as requested, and my informal observation is that these senders are being flagged as “known spam” far less often. I’m not sure what’s happening over in the spam filter department, but it does appear that someone is paying attention to the false positive reports. I appreciate it.
    I just hope I haven’t jinxed anything by saying something about it. 🙂

  30. Whoa! I just previewed what I’m trying to send (below the dotted line), and the preview eliminated the entire addr. that is under “L.A. Times Opinion”. How can I get the addr to you? It starts off w/ a (less-than sign, which won’t show up in the preview, but I don’t see a > anywhere in the long addr. I’m going to break the addr. into pieces and list it, and
    see if that will show up in the preview.
    I’m not sure this is where I shld address my problem. My LATimes newsletters all show up
    in the daily Spamblocker rpt even tho’ I don’t have them in my block list. And unlike the items that *are* in my block list which say “Blocked Domain (*)” under the “Reason” column, the LATimes newsletter items say “(none)”. And the addresses are long and very weird. When I wrote the LATimes, they said just be sure I haven’t blocked latimes.com, but that’s not what the domain in the blocked addr. is. Here’s one from today:
    “L.A. Times Opinion”
    (less-than sign)19MK67-ZM9DH-YBG2A
    X-ELNK-BLOCKED-REASON: Blocked Domain(*) Opinion L.A. 04/14/2008 (none)
    I don’t have anything in my block list that starts w/ “tribune” either.
    I’m aware that the Tribune purchased the LATimes a few mos. ago–could that be relevant?
    What’s happening?

    The block list can act on a couple of different headers in the message, which may not be the same as what is displayed in that summary email. But there is a match. The blocking checks the From line, but it also checks the MAIL FROM envelope header (the way the sender identified themself to our mail server), which you can’t see because you don’t have the message to check it.
    By the way, on these comments I can see everything you actually typed in, but the preview window (and published comments) are restricted as to what HTML are allowed to be entered, as some things are harmful to the site. Less-than and greater-than signs make the filter see that as an HTML tag, so they are suppressed in the preview.
    Email Guy
  31. What happened to the blocked senders list??
    It’s gone as of today – clicking on preferences leads to a list of all sorts of options, but …
    That is by far THE most valuable feature of Earthlink web mail. (All these other filtering options that are supposedly being worked on for 2-3 years, hah hah, never seem to happen. But why take away the one GOOD feature of webmail?)

    After clicking Preferences, explore the four tabs shown at the top. The Blocked Sender List is under the Address Book tab. It is also linked from the spamBlocker / Settings page (click spamBlocker).
    No option were removed.
    Email Guy
  32. I know this is a common question and I have looked in the FAQ and I have had numourous chats with the help box .. I have had the spamblocker turned OFF on our email and people who are in our address book are having their emails bounced back to them with a “550 550 Dynamic/zombied/spam IP’s blocked” error. One person who this happened with asked me to email them so they could reply to my email and the same thing happened. I was told by the chat box people that I would have to contact of our clients and tell them to send the bounced emails to BLOCKEDBYEARTHLINK@ABUSE.EARTHLINK.NET. I am not sure how I am suppose to know who is being bounced. Why, when I have the spam blocker OFF is it bouncing emails? This is very frustrating. Please Help

    Your spamBlocker setting isn’t related to this at all. Those emails are not being blocked by you, they are being blocked when sent to anyone at EarthLink. The people getting the bounce need to follow those instructions sent to them, and if they were blocked by mistake it will get fixed. But there is some reason their server was blocked.
    Email Guy
  33. I work for Temple University, and often want to send material from my earthlink e-mail to my Temple e-mail, and there are others who want to be able to e-mail me at Temple from their earthlink accounts. But it seems there is an intermittent problem, identified by sorbs.org, that is often blocking legitimate mail from myself and others from reaching my Temple address. Senders are told that their messages have errors and cannot be sent, but Temple tells me it appears to the system here that the Temple system is identifying many messages from earthlink accounts as having come from IP addresses associated with spam, which is not the case. This is clearly not a satisfactory situation.

    We are actively working with SORBS to get our IP numbers removed from their list.
    Email Guy
  34. Thanks very much for your help with this. It’s nice to have some idea of what’s going on. I’m glad to have come across the blog….

  35. The email I sent to myself was going into the known spam folder. I think it’s entirely possible I have a spam virus although when I spoke to tech support they didn’t mention that could be the cause. For months now my email address has been hijacked and used to send spam email everywhere. I get the bounced emails. When I checked into whether there was a way to stop this, I was told that short of setting up a new email address I was out of luck and that often the hacker would abandon the hijacked address and move on. I didn’t know I could have a virus. I run a spyware/virus scan weekly (Earthlink programming) and the report says everything is fine. It used to regularly report several items to delete but lately it shows nothing and says all definitions are up to date. I’m running the Windows firewall as the Earthlink firewall sent constant pop-ups asking whether to allow program access and no one at tech support, despite numerous attempts, could sort out why. I’m wondering if there’s anything else I can try that will tell me if I have a virus.

    I’m checking to see if your address has been flagged due to it having been hijacked by spammers and used as a bogus From address. That’s why you get those bounces. I don’t think they flag anything based only on the From address, but I’ll find out. It sounds like you are probably protected from a virus.
    Email Guy
  36. This morning to test whether or not I was receiving email properly, I sent myself several emails and when I didn’t receive them, I went in a search of them and found them in my spam mail box. The messages were sent from my computer to my own email address which is listed in my address book. I checked my blocked sender list and made sure my address hadn’t landed there as a possible source for this problem. I also checked the “This is not spam” box and resent an email to myself, but it still went into the spam box. In every instance, I left the subject line blank.
    I sent this information to the falsepositive email address as outlined in the blog and have now turned the Spamblocker level to off. I conduct business from this address and can’t risk losing any mail. I haven’t been in the habit of checking the spam mailbox because I had no idea until this morning’s search for information led me to the blog that it would screen out addresses that are in my address book. Now I’m concerned about what mail I’ve missed of a business nature because it was treated as spam and ultimately deleted. At this point it appears to me that Spamblocker is not only useless but dangerous.
    I hate having all the disgusting email come into my inbox but I assume from what I read here that this is my only choice at this point. I’m wondering if this situation has always existed with the spamblocker tools?

    When you say “spam mailbox” it matters whether you are talking about the Suspect Email folder, or the Known Spam folder. The Suspect folder is only used when you set spamBlocker to the High setting, and it catches all email that isn’t flagged as spam and isn’t from a sender in your Address Book. That is how it is supposed to work and the setting is very clearly described when you enable it, but it is not enabled by default and is only turned on by users who only want email from trusted senders to go to the Inbox. That feature is a simple allow list defined by you, without regard to whether a message is spam.
    The Known Spam folder on the other hand, is the one the article above is about, and your Address Book has no affect on the spam filter or on messages going to that folder. It contains messages that the EarthLink spam filters have identified as spam, and occasionally (but rarely) that folder can have a false positive. If email to yourself went in the Known Spam folder, your report will result in it being investigated. It does not necessarily mean that email from any other desired sender ever went in there.
    It’s possible that there is a valid reason for it, and it is possible your computer is infected with a spam virus sending out email unknown to you. Make sure you are running up-to-date anti-virus software. Also make sure you are sending these emails to yourself using the EarthLink mail server, and you must have smtpauth.earthlink.net in your software for the outgoing mail server. Otherwise, email sent to yourself will look like it was spoofed since it originated outside EarthLink.
    Email Guy
  37. While carrying out this latest mission, I have noticed a significant pattern in the false positives I am now experiencing.
    A large number involve professional announcements for seminars and web presentations, which are distributed by the sending address “enterpriseannounce.com.” It appears to me that this is part of the Ziff-Davis organization, although it may simply be that Ziff-Davis is just a really important customer.
    In any case, I am troubled by the fact that Earthlink is so systematically flagging these announcements as “Known Spam.” It is obvious on the face of the messages that they are not what we would think of as spam (i.e., they don’t promote sex enhancement, Canadian pharmacy, Viagra, casinos, or “business loans”). Rather, they are plainly legitimate messages announcing webinars on subjects of interest to telecom and data security professionals (that’s why I’m on their lists), coming from sponsors such as Oracle, Symantec, Citrix, and the like. And, most important, each of these messages includes elaborate information explaining (a) why the recipient is getting it, and (b) how to unsubscribe.
    Despite all of this, and despite the fact that I have repeatedly sent these to the “This Is NOT Spam” button, Earthlink’s spam filtering systematically flags every one of these messages.
    Now it may be, as you say, that other recipients have been claiming to the blackhole reporting services that these are spam messages. (I doubt it very much, but I can’t prove it one way or the other.) I think it’s more likely that these messages are being flagged due to a faulty scoring algorithm that awards points to such things as links, images, and HTML.
    On their face, however, they clearly are not spam in any generally accepted sense of the term. Moreover, they clearly offer an unsubscribe option, which I am confident will be observed.
    Earthlink should not classify messages like this, that obviously strive to behave as good citizens, as “Known Spam.” Rather, Earthlink should deliver these messages to the recipients. If those recipients don’t want to receive the messages, they should unsubscribe.
    I feel the same way about bulk messages from reputable senders such as Sears, Land’s End, Procter & Gamble, and other responsible e-mailers — all of which have ended up in my “Known Spam” directory over and over again. Unless your techs are observing that the true spammers are spoofing addresses from these institutional sources (in which case the filtering should look more to the content than the sender address), I would advocate a tweak that presumes in favor of delivery from these institutional mailers. That would solve a huge portion of the false positive problem in my own case.

    I have passed this on to the spam team, and I’ll let you know if I find out anything. But the most likely cause is probably that large numbers of users (thousands or more) regularly report these messages as spam. Obviously that can sometimes happen just due to lazy users who signed up for the list somehow somewhere and won’t bother to unsubscribe. But quite often even these large and ostensibly reputable senders do behave like spammers, and send vast quantities to users who had no intention of ever getting such messages. They sign up for something specific one time, and end up getting on every mailing list in any way associated with that organization, and lots of them even sell and share mailing lists. That truly makes them spammers. I’m not saying that is the case in any of your examples. We’ll see what feedback I get from this report.
    Thanks for the information.
    Email Guy
  38. Hi EMG —
    As you know from our earlier correspondence, this is an issue that has been front-and-center for me. I still look forward to the day when Earthlink will implement a positive whitelisting function for addresses, that will override the spam flagging algorithms.
    I have been a diligent user of the “This Is Not Spam” button when patrolling the “Known Spam” folder, and it seems to me to have little effect on things. I am hopeful that whoever receives these things considers me a reliable user of the button. Every once in a very long while — maybe once a year — when I have checked all the true spam messages that I want to delete, I will inadvertently click “This Is Not Spam,” thus accidentally shipping a bunch of unquestionable spam to the analysis function. Does this now mean that Earthlink will consider me to be an unreliable reporter of these things?

    I’m working on getting that whitelisting feature.
    Reputation scoring is automatic based on the accuracy of your reports. I doubt that an occasional mistake would cause your reports to be ignored by the system.
    Email Guy

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