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I’ve Been Accused of Being a Spammer. What Can I Do About It?

Spam is often in the eye of the recipient.

It's not uncommon for email to bounce in ways that imply you might be spamming. I'll look at what may or may not be happening.
One person pointing accusingly at another person, saying 'SPAMMER!'. The scene is intense, with the accuser looking serious and somewhat angry, while the accused appears surprised and defensive. The background is a nondescript office setting.
(Image: DALL-E 3)

I’ve been wrongly labeled as a spammer. What can I do about it?

I have used the same email address ( for about 10 years. I am the author of a newsletter which goes to about 150 people, ALL of whom have ASKED to be included in my list, and I send and receive about 30 emails/day, mainly business. I never have and do not currently use my ID for any spamming to anyone, nor do I forward any of the dozens of spam emails I receive from “friends.”

When I sent an email to two different local contacts recently, I received the same message by return: “This message was undeliverable due to the following reason: Your message was not delivered because the return address was refused. The return address was “<>” Please reply to <> if you feel this message to be in error.”

I DO consider this message to be SERIOUSLY in error. I have written to them several times, but I have been ignored. What do I do now, please?

Very little you haven’t already done.

You’re assuming the message means the remote system thinks you’re a spammer. While I suspect that is likely, it’s not always true.

Even if it is, it’s important to realize this isn’t some global database where everyone in the world now thinks you’re a spammer.

On the contrary; it’s likely to be this one email system you’re having trouble with — and perhaps only a couple of users.

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Accused of being a spammer?

Email bounces marked as undeliverable can imply many issues, not necessarily spamming. The refusal of your return address could also be a result of address blocks, DNS issues, or a configuration error on the recipient’s server. There’s little to be done other than to make sure you’re following best “I’m not sending spam” practices. Consider using an email service for mass mailings instead of your personal account.

“Return address was refused”

So many email error messages are frustratingly ambiguous. This error could mean many things.

It could mean that some of your readers actively blocked your email address. Depending on the service, this could be entirely separate from spam processing.

It could mean that the mail server was unable to validate your email address. Perhaps the DNS servers resolving “” or the mail records associated with it were having a problem. Again, this is unrelated to spam.

It could mean a configuration error on the part of the recipient’s email server. Particularly for smaller services, this can happen surprisingly easily.

And, of course, it could mean the system has identified your email address as a source of spam.

My assumption

Before I go further, though, I have to be clear about something: I’m assuming you have not been sending spam.

That means:

  • All your recipients asked to be sent your email. Adding recipients to a list without their permission is spamming.
  • Your email delivers what was promised at the time the recipients agreed to get it. If you start with a newsletter about one thing but then transition it to something unrelated, many recipients consider that spam.

You said you’re not spamming, and I believe you. But if somehow you are — even accidentally — that could be the root of the problem. But even if you aren’t, there are two other ways you could be unjustly garnering a reputation as a spammer.

Spam versus spam

Let’s assume for a moment that the email is being rejected because your email address has been listed as being a source of spam.

Firstly, recipients of your email may have clicked the “This is spam” button. It happens all too often on legitimate non-spam — either because the spam button is too close to the Delete button, you’ve said something to annoy the recipient, or they’re just too lazy to look for your unsubscribe link.

Your email address could still get marked as a source of spam.

Secondly, it’s extremely common for spam to be sent “From:” spoofed email addresses. This means a spammer could be sending spam looking like it’s “From:” you, even though you’re not involved in any way. The recipients of those messages could legitimately hit the “This is Spam” button.

This is so common that most spam filters should ignore the “From:” line. The information in that line is random these days and has little to do with the source of the message.

However, some may still do so. As a result, you, an innocent bystander, pay the price.

About “postmaster”

It’s not surprising you’ve had no response to your queries to <>. The email address “postmaster@” is supposed to be valid for every domain capable of sending or receiving email. Most email servers come pre-configured with error messages suggesting you contact that email address for additional assistance.

In practice, it rarely helps.

  • Because it’s predefined, the “postmaster” email address probably gets more spam than any other email address.
  • Because there’s so much spam and so many spam-related issues, the person(s) handling email sent to “postmaster” are likely overwhelmed.
  • The email address is often ignored completely.

That’s not to say that all email servers handle the “postmaster” account poorly, but many do. The work associated with responding properly is just too overwhelming.

One way you could legitimately be at risk

There is one aspect of your description that concerns me. It could indeed cause email services to be more likely to consider you a spammer.

You are sending:

  • A single message
  • to 150 people at once
  • from a personal email account

At best, that’s suspicious. It’s often what spammers do when they hijack an account. As a result, while it may not cause you to be labeled a spammer by itself, it’s a signal spam filters use to increase the odds of doing so.

Instead of sending directly from your email account, consider using discussion groups like, Google Groups, or others, or mailing list services such as Aweber, MailChimp, etc., to send email on your behalf. This is their job, and they are configured specifically to reduce the odds of your email being labeled spam.

Do this

There’s surprisingly little to be done about the situation you describe.

Focus on following best practices to avoid being perceived as a spammer, and consider having a service send that large volume of email on your behalf.

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5 comments on “I’ve Been Accused of Being a Spammer. What Can I Do About It?”

  1. Using a specific email address that’s different from your normal one to send newsletters, etc. is a good idea too. It may reduce the chances your primary account will be tagged as a spammer.

  2. I also post a newsletter to about 60 addresses in the UK.THe BT (British Telecom) Postmaster used to reject my mail “as it may be spam”. This was purely because about 8 of my recipients were BT clients. Solution: I split my list and put half on each one.

  3. I’ve encountered that problem, and following up on it, I found that my domain was being blacklisted for the SOLE reason that it COULD be used for spam, whether or not any actual complaints or reports had occurred. It’s been less of a problem in the last couple years, but still not eliminated. Of course, I can eliminate the problem by PAYING to have it whitelisted.

  4. I’ve also had issues like this because I’m on a Shared Hosting server where I share the same IP address with several if not many other websites. All it takes is for one rogue account with an outdated and insecure script running on it for hackers to set it up as a spam bot. Of course this gets noticed and removed by the hosting providers but not before thousands of spam emails have been sent out. The server’s IP address usually gets blacklisted for at least 24 hours.


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