Email Frailties

Q:  I just got a notice that my email account rejected a message that a friend had sent me.  (Sometimes the problem is the other way around, and my friend doesn’t get a message from me.)  I got a gobbledygook note explaining why this had happened which is utterly incomprehensible to me but the bottom line is that I am worried that my email address is not reliable.


A:  The big guys like Sympatico, Yahoo, Gmail, etc. operate with great suspicion of one another and are always on the alert for an attack.  That is for good reason; it happens all the time.  Email accounts are constantly being scammed and spammed and if Gmail (for example) suddenly gets several thousand incoming suspicious messages from a Yahoo user (for example) then they will put a temporary block on Yahoo until they perceive that the threat is passed.  A few hours or a day later all is forgiven and they are friends again (until the next time).


Q:  Well what the heck can I do about it?


A:  Not much.  Well, maybe a few things:

  1. Be patient; the problem will probably be resolved very soon without you having to do anything.


  1. Ask your friend to send (or receive) a few more messages to (or from) you over 36 hours so that you can monitor how consistent and longstanding the problem may turn out to be.


  1. Don’t rely on email only, whoever the provider, for urgent messages. Although the percentage of email that is spam has actually gone down slightly in the past couple of years, spammers are now more sophisticated and effective than ever, and with billions (that’s right!) of spam messages being sent every day, a lot of legitimate messages are inadvertently getting caught in the spam filters.  See:


  1. Consider the possibility of creating another email address that you share only with people you trust absolutely – and by this we define “trust” as knowing that they are as careful as you are in how they understand and use email. Inconvenient perhaps but worth it, especially if you set up forwarding of all your email accounts into one, so that checking one Inbox covers them all.


  1. Never send an email to more than about 15 recipients. The number of recipients of a message is a flag in the filtering systems of the email providers and if there are too many, most of them won’t receive it.  If you have to send a message to 60 people, it is better to send it 4 times to 15 recipients.


  1. When you send a message to a group of people, make sure to make yourself the addressee, and put everyone else in the Bcc: box, so that you are not broadcasting potentially private information.


  1. On the chance that you really do have a problem, take time often to make certain that your anti-virus utility is always up to date and working the way you think it is.


  1. See also:   (First 3 paragraphs; ignore the advertising.)


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