A friend of mine, who is with a different ISP, quite regularly has emails
returned to her that she sends to me. The reason given is that my email
provider, Hotmail, received complaints against her IP address and hence they
put a block on me receiving her emails. This is a complete puzzle to me. How
has this situation that has nothing to do with me occurred and how can I ensure
that this block is being removed and that I no longer have problems receiving
I can theorize why it happened, but I can’t hold out much hope for getting
It’s not your fault, of course. It may, or may not be your friend’s fault,
and she should do a couple of things to make sure she’s in the clear.
Ultimately, it’s the fault of spammers, and perhaps overly aggressive spam
It’s Not Just You … or Her
First let’s be clear – if Hotmail received complaints and blocked email from your friend’s IP address, it’s not just you who can’t get her emails – it’s anyone she might send to via Hotmail. Hotmail believe’s it’s identified a source of spam, and as a result is protecting all Hotmail users from receiving more.
A laudable intent, if it were always accurate.
And it might not be only she who’s blocked. Anyone who appears to be at her IP address may also be blocked. IP addresses are often shared by multiple computers. In some cases, mostly business, perhaps many computers. All of those computers and their users would be blocked from sending email to you or anyone at Hotmail if their IP address is blocked.
It Could Be Someone Else
That leads us to the first potential cause of your problem: perhaps she shares an IP address with a spammer.
That could be anyone behind the same router she uses or perhaps at the same location, if a common internet connection is in use. There’s no easy way for her to determine who the culprit might be, other than to contact whoever’s in charge of the connection. If that’s her, then she needs to check with all of the users of all of the computers to make sure they’re not spamming. (They might not know it – more on that in a moment.)
It’s also possible that the IP address she’s currently assigned was formerly used by a spammer. This actually happens from time to time – a spammer will use an IP address as the source of a massive amount of spam resulting in it being blocked. The spammer moves on to another IP address, and releases the old. That old IP address may come to its next owner with the “baggage” of lots of blocks and a very poor reputation.
The same happens with DHCP where you might be assigned a different IP address each time you connect to the internet. If the one you’re currently assigned was previously abused by a spammer, you might end up in this situation.
The only real potential solution here is for her to ask her ISP for a new IP address.
It Could Be Her
The reason that this form of spam blocking even comes close to making sense these days is summed up in one word: spambot.
Spammers used to hijack or compromise mail servers and send out large amounts of spam from a single source. Naturally, that IP address was quickly blocked.
Zombie networks allow spammers to control thousands of machines, all at different IP addresses. Each machine is infected with malware – a spambot – that responds to the remote control of the zombie network to send spam. Since each machine is at its own IP address, blocking an IP address is relatively ineffectual at stopping spam. It blocks the one machine, but the remainder of the zombie network continues unabated.
Yet individual IP addresses are still banned. If nothing else, this helps ISPs identify individuals who are infected and who are responsible for sending some amount of spam. These individuals can then be notified and their machines cleaned.
This could be your friend.
It’s quite possible that her machine is unknowingly infected with malware that is causing it to send spam as part of a zombie network. Needless to say, she needs to run up to date anti-malware scans as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, once she’s confirmed clean there’s still not much to be done. The block may expire some day. She might try contacting the Windows Live Mail postmaster to see if the block can be lifted. Or she might ask her own ISP for a different IP address.
But sadly none of this is guaranteed.
Perhaps you might open a new email account with a different provider that’s not blocking her.