How can I tell if my email has been blocked?

Email usually works, but it can fail to arrive for a number of reasons. Being blocked is only one, and it's nearly impossible to tell which has happened.

How can I tell if my email address has been blocked? The email address I send to is good and working, the only problem is, it’s not working for me; have I been blocked? Is there any way of knowing if my emails ever get opened or deleted? And if I’m blocked, is it my email address that’s blocked or my IP address?

The ultra-short answer is: you cannot tell. There’s simply no way to know for sure.

Let’s explore why I say that.

One reason, or many

The root problem is that there are so many reasons your mail may not get through these days, it’s practically impossible to determine which reason is contributing to your situation.

On top of that, it could be a combination of reasons.

You could, indeed, be blocked

Stop!It’s certainly possible that your recipient has blocked you. All that means is that email from your email address is automatically discarded at that recipient’s end.

You will not get a notification; there’s simply no way to tell that this has happened. All you can do is ask the recipient to make sure that they haven’t blocked you. (I assume you’ve been in communication some other way, since you know that your email has not been received.)

It’s possible that your email address has been blocked (or black-listed) by the recipient’s email service, or by a spam filter along the way. Once again, there’s really no way to know whether this has happened. You won’t get a notification – your email will simply be discarded.

Your email could look “spammy”

More often than being blocked, email is often discarded or diverted into a spam folder because it “looks spammy”. Exactly what that means varies quite a bit.

I’ll assume your message isn’t attempting to promote body-part enhancement products or other common spam topics. Even so, it might make sense to review the content of your message, and the terms used, with the eyes of a spam filter in mind.

If  your email gets filtered as spam, once again, you’ll get no notification. It’s possible, however, that your message was placed in your recipient’s spam folder, and you should ask if that’s happened. If it has, make sure your recipient marks it as “not spam”, to train her or his spam filter that you’re not a spammer. It may take marking more than one message to do this.

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Your email provider could have a bad reputation

Your email service provider’s reputation factors in to all this. If your email host is known to be used to send a lot of spam, then all the email that originates from it suffers.

Once again, there’s no effective way to tell if this is the case. Your email may be silently discarded, or it may be placed in your recipient’s spam folder.

Either way, you won’t hear about it.

Things to try

If you find yourself in this situation, I would start by asking your recipient to “whitelist” you, which may bypass some of the possibilities I’ve mentioned above. Exactly how he or she would do so, and in how many places (email program, spam filter, or email provider) depends on his or her email setup.

Another test would be to send using a different email provider, beginning with simple test messages that are unlikely to be flagged as spam due to their content.

This is an update to an article originally posted : October 11, 2007


  1. Morgan

    If I’m able to send an e-mail to an address how do I know whether I’m blocked or that my e-mail is just being either deleted/read?

    You don’t. There is no way to know for sure.

    – Leo
    • bob d.

      to Leo, pls ::

      1) i cant find comment on your front page on does w10 cancel all prior os thus i hope this gets to you because
      i would like to see your answer ::

      2) am thinking of install w-10 on my vista os, but wonder if 10 is merely an extension with upgrades on it:

      3) also seems ok to make a new address and downloade w10 to that thus would leave “vista side by side w10″

      • A new version of an operating system REPLACES the previously installed operating system. Your email address has no bearing on your operating system.

  2. Dilip

    Hi, I have a slightly different problem. Spammers have used my email id as an alias for many years (maybe due to poor server setup), causing my genuine business email to be listed on a lot of spammer lists for no fault of mine. Most of the spam seems to originate from Russia, but I still get the message that spam is originating from my IP address in some lists like Barracuda, which is not possible. How can I prevent my email id from being used as an alias and how can I get it removed from these filter lists?

    To the best of my knowledge you cannot. More here: Someone’s sending from my email address! How do I stop them?!


  3. E. R. WEBB


  4. Mark Jacobs

    If you sister’s domain is blocked, the best thing she could so would be to contact her ISP (Internet company) and ask them about this.

  5. charoen rajbundit

    my e-mail is blocked,maybe someone use my emailI can’t open it..I would like to recover again and wish to change a new password..someone from security asked some question and need the answer about pre-paid card number,credit card 4 last digit number and expire date, I have none creddit card,such column still requested me to fill up the column how can I do that my credit card not available. So please re-open it for me again and a new password will be changed later..Thank you.

    This article discusses recovery options for the various ways that Hotmail accounts can be lost or compromised: What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?


  6. scott E

    A few inquiries (to co’s I am seeking product info) of mine go unanswered ,, and I subscribed to a tech forum that their website would not let me access ,, I contacted the Forum (through F/B) and a Smart Admin there realized I was on some type of “Junk List” and removed me from it !!

    All in all I jus stay away from explicit web browsing and my E-mail addy seems OK ,, dating/singles websites seems to be the culprit that may have put me on a list ,,I recently returned toview one and now I wont go away !!

    How to get Off a Junk List Leo ??

  7. Mark Jacobs

    A few years back, I had a problem with my email provider’s domain being blocked by Hotmail. In that case I got a bounce message from Hotmail. Another way to determine if the problem is with the email provider bing blocked is to Google it, for example something like: hotmail gmx,de blocked.
    If the two emila providers are big enough, that kind of thing will usually show up in forums.

  8. Alex Dow

    Almost incredibly, I find occasional innocent e-mails from my ISP, in my Spam/Junk folder.

    Generally, they appear to be similar to the usual ISP Mail, no obvious reasons for junking them, the ISP Address is not in my reject list etc.

  9. Ron

    There is another reason for emails not getting through and that has to do with the DNS (Domain Name Server). My ISP recently changed their email setup. I could send to everyone except one person on my contacts list. I contacted my ISP and they determined that the server at the other end could not make a Name match with my ISP.

    The two providers worked the problem out between them.

  10. Mary

    If your IP address is what is blacklisted, you may find a workaround by powering off your router.

    Wait about 20-30 seconds, then power it back on. Chances are your IP address will be different unless you have a commercial account.

  11. Frank Camp

    As test, just send an email to yourself.
    Also, if you use an email client such as Thunderbird, go directly to your email at your ISP. In my case it is Verizon.

  12. Esley

    Hi Leo, My daughter and stepson have moved from Germany to USA. They had a .de
    prefix on their email address. I would think their account in Germany is closed.
    How can that assumption be checked. I sent her a couple of mails. Have gotten no
    messages from her browser company.

  13. Michael Armstrong

    I’d had a problem with lost emails over the years, often from websites sending me password-resetting emails. I finally had it happen with a site where I knew the webmaster, and he kindly traced the path of the e-mail he sent. He was seeing messages like:

    “Jun 10 20:27:26 xxxxxxx sendmail[15537]: q5ANsFqg015464: to=, ctladdr=<xxxxxx (500/100), delay=00:33:01, xdelay=00:16:49, mailer=esmtp, pri=8042339, [], dsn=4.0.0, stat=Deferred: Connection reset by"

    (x's replacing actual email addresses). Which seemed to place the blame squarely on mi ISP's (Verizon's) doorstep. I could never find anyone via Verizon's custome "support" who could explain this, much less fix it, so I use another ISP now.

    So, if you can talk your sender into doing a little work to find out where his mail is going, you might find the cause, although that doesn't ensure finding a solution.

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