Has a Hacker Really Hacked My Email Account?

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Today, I received this lovely email. While I think it is complete BS and I certainly have no intention on taking any action on it, it *does* look like it was sent from my account, i.e., it appears that someone can send emails impersonating me. Do you have any advice what I should do about this?

Nothing.

The questionable email message that this person was reporting describes how this person’s account had been hacked, how changing the password wouldn’t help, and that it was being held for ransom to be paid in Bitcoin. And, indeed, it appeared to be “From:” this person’s email address.

Variations of this scam even include a password — a password that you’ve actually used.

Even so, “complete BS” is very accurate.

Though, if there is a password, then there is one thing you should do.

Read moreHas a Hacker Really Hacked My Email Account?

Dealing with Fake “Ask Leo”

A friend of mine recently forwarded me an email he received that looked like it had come from me.

Except, of course, it hadn’t. It was a complete forgery, and not a very good one at that.

I am both slightly honored that I’m worth forging, and quite annoyed that someone actually did.

We’ll look at the message and all the clues it contains that make it a fairly obvious fake, and then generalize those clues to help you separate spam from legitimate email.

Read moreDealing with Fake “Ask Leo”

How Do I Unsubscribe from All These Unwanted Emails?

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I am receiving a lot of unwanted e-mails from diet pills to pet supplies and I don’t want to keep deleting 100 e-mails every time I check my mail. I hate going into each e-mail one-by-one to unsubscribe and I don’t know how safe it is for me to open those e-mails in the first place. I was wondering is there an easy free way to unsubscribe without needing to open the e-mail.

I know that this is confusing, but it’s important to realize that there are emails that you can and should unsubscribe from, and emails that you absolutely should never, ever “unsubscribe” from.

I’ll explain why that is, and what the relatively simple rules turn out to be.

Read moreHow Do I Unsubscribe from All These Unwanted Emails?

Someone’s Sending from My Email Address! How Do I Stop Them?!

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People are telling me I’ve sent them email I know I haven’t. Supposedly it’s spam, and that’s not something I do. Has my account been hacked? How do I stop it?

While possible, it’s highly unlikely your account has been hacked. Whatever is happening is something significantly more benign. Sadly, it’s something you can do almost nothing about.

There are a couple of variations, so before we begin, let me also mention some articles that might more closely match your situation.

Read moreSomeone’s Sending from My Email Address! How Do I Stop Them?!

Why Is My Mail to this Person Not Getting Through?

Even after all these years, email spam remains a serious problem. With some people (like me) getting literally hundreds of unwanted messages per day, most internet service providers (as well as some individuals) take drastic steps to reduce the amount of junk mail arriving in their inboxes.

A problem with any anti-spam measure is that it will block some amount of legitimate email as well.

If email sent to one person is not getting through, but email sent to other people is generally working, it could be your email is being blocked by an anti-spam tool.

Read moreWhy Is My Mail to this Person Not Getting Through?

Why Is There so Much Spam?

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Between bouts of frustration with my inbox, I’ve been reading your various articles on spam. I think I’m slowly getting a handle on it all, but it sure seems crazy. And it really got me to wondering… why is there so much spam in the first place?

I feel your pain.

Some time ago, I did some research and looked at all my email for an entire year. Not only do I get a lot of email, but my calculations show that 87% of it was junk. Wow.

Why is there so much spam?

It’s very simple, really.

Spam works.

Read moreWhy Is There so Much Spam?

How Do I Get Rid of All this Spam?!?!

Spam is ubiquitous. Everyone gets spam. Those who aren’t will, and those who’re only getting a little will eventually get more.

I get many hundreds of spam messages a day. That’s probably nearer the high end of the average range, but it’s certainly not an uncommon amount.

While one source shows that spam has dropped to just under half of all email traffic for the first time in years, it certainly doesn’t seem that way in our mail folders, does it?

What’s a poor user to do?

Read moreHow Do I Get Rid of All this Spam?!?!

Why I (Still) Don’t Like Challenge/Response Spam Blockers

Some time ago, due to an error on my end, The Ask Leo! Newsletter came “From:” the wrong email address.

As a result, in addition to the usual flood of “I’m not in the office right now, but I’ll get back to you…” messages, I also received a number of what are called “challenge/response” messages. These are messages that often begin with: “I’m protecting myself from receiving junk mail. Please click the link below to complete the verification process.”

Uh … no. I can’t. I’m afraid I just don’t have the resources to click through or jump through additional hoops for hundreds of messages like this.

But, honestly, this isn’t about me; I’m concerned about you and what you may be missing.

Read moreWhy I (Still) Don’t Like Challenge/Response Spam Blockers

Does Getting Porn Spam Mean You’ve Been Surfing Porn Sites?

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Why does my sister’s email get hit with xxx-rated “chat ads”? Mine doesn’t ever… would you have had to visit a site of that type or signed up etc. to be getting those kind of ads?

No.

To the relief of those whose partners have wondered, asked, or accused along those same lines, the answer is an unequivocal no. Getting porn spam does not mean you’ve been visiting porn. Period.

The opposite is also true: not getting porn spam doesn’t imply you haven’t been surfing porn.

Getting porn spam and visiting porn sites are generally unrelated to one another. I’ll explain why that is.

Read moreDoes Getting Porn Spam Mean You’ve Been Surfing Porn Sites?

Why Does My IP Address Have a Bad Reputation? And What Do I Do?

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I found on Cisco’s Talos blog that my email reputation is “poor.” Apparently my IP address has been sending lots of email. But I haven’t! I have several computing devices: macOS 10.13.4, Windows 8.1 fully updated running Avast Free with weekly scans and a recent boot-time scan; MalwareBytes free with recent full “threat scan.” My wife uses a Chromebook (up-to-date). I use an iPad 2 and an iPhone 7 (both running iOS 11). Sometimes I use older iPhones (a 4S and a 5S). I have no IoT devices other than the router, a Pepwave Surf SOHO MK3. Pepwave says their routers are not affected by VPNFilter. I use a VPN most of the time on my portable devices, even at home. But not the Windows machine. Sometimes my Windows machine slows down, then recovers. My Windows hard drive often runs and runs. Other times, it times out, as expected. My ISP is TimeWarnerCable. I’m surprised they haven’t contacted me. Is there something I can to do detect outgoing traffic (including, but not restricted to, spam)?

I think it’s very unlikely you are sending spam. Possible, sure, but based on your description, you seem to have things well in hand.

It’s important to realize that you are not necessarily your IP address.

It’s also important not to read too much into anyone’s reputation report.

Read moreWhy Does My IP Address Have a Bad Reputation? And What Do I Do?

Emails Opened? Is There a Reliable Way to Tell?

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In my business, it is critical I know that emails I have sent were received & opened. The emails are time sensitive and contain deadline dates for the information requested.

I have searched for things like “emails opened” and asked questions… but all that has been futile.

I am certain I am not the only person unable to find an answer to this problem.

That’s because there is no answer to this problem.

And you’re quite right, you’re not the only person wishing otherwise.

But wishing – or even the statements of some companies that claim to be able to do it – doesn’t make it so.

I’ll explain why.

Read moreEmails Opened? Is There a Reliable Way to Tell?

“From” Spoofing: How Spammers Send Email that Looks Like It Came from You

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OK, I know that spammers can send email spoofing the “From:” address to make it look like it came from me. But how? How do they gain access to my account to do that?

They don’t.

“From” spoofing means faking the “From:” address on an email to make it look like it came from you, and to do it, spammers don’t need access to your account at all.

In fact, I’d say that 99.99% of the time it has nothing at all to do with your account, and your account is quite safe.

They only need your email address.

While your email account and your email address are related, they are not necessarily the same thing.

Read more“From” Spoofing: How Spammers Send Email that Looks Like It Came from You

‘Tis the Season … to Unsubscribe!

With the Christmas holidays in full swing, it’s a busy, busy time of year.

And nowhere is that more apparent than in our email inboxes. Companies are reaching out to us with a constant stream of last-minute gift ideas, online specials, and more.

The kicker is that these are all legitimate emails from companies we’ve done business with in the past, and that we will, in all probability, continue to do business with in the future.

Just not at this breakneck holiday pace.

It’s the perfect time for a little email pruning.

Read more‘Tis the Season … to Unsubscribe!

How can I keep someone from contacting me in email?

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How can I keep someone from contacting me in email or instant messaging?

Severing communication is an unpleasant necessity at times. For personal or legal reasons you may want someone to stop contacting you or someone you know. The rub is that you’d like everyone else to be able to contact you as before.

We can’t control what other people do, but there are some ways we can either make it more difficult to be contacted, or automate the process of ignoring the contact attempts.

Read moreHow can I keep someone from contacting me in email?

How Do I Stop Outlook.com from Putting Legitimate Messages in the Junk Mail Folder?

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My outlook.com is putting legitimate emails into its junk mail folder. I use 2011 Outlook on my Mac. I never see the emails because outlook.com is putting them in junk mail at the outlook.com site, and is not forwarding them to me. It seems very random, but some of my closest friends’ emails are going into the junk folder as well as other legitimate contacts.
Can I just not use outlook.com, do I need it? How I stop the filtering of legitimate emails in to the outlook.com junk folder?

Spam is an incredible problem, and email providers go to great lengths to filter it out. Microsoft is no different – their email infrastructure deals with an incredible amount of spam, I’m sure.

As it turns out, with any one of Microsoft’s email addresses – @live.com, @hotmail.com, @outlook.com and others – you’re still really using Outlook.com whether or not you ever visit it on the web.

Let’s look at the options you have to make sure you get the email you want.

Read moreHow Do I Stop Outlook.com from Putting Legitimate Messages in the Junk Mail Folder?

My Flood of Auto-Responses

Last week I made an innocuous change to The Ask Leo! Newsletter, and as a result I received a flood of auto-responses delivered to my inbox.

While annoying, it was actually fairly interesting to see no less than three unexpected patterns arise.

It’s important to realize that the various types of auto-responses may not do what you think. In fact, they may be doing something else entirely.

And don’t get me started on those challenge-response spam blockers. (OK, too late…)

Read moreMy Flood of Auto-Responses

Why Was My Email Bounced for Sending Too Much Spam?

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I have just received the message that my response to an e-mail from a friend could not get delivered because there is too much SPAM coming from that IP; the IP given is {removed} but that is NOT MY IP. (Mine is totally different, according to what I saw on the link you posted sometime ago). What is going on? How can I be “punished” for something I did not do? I have NEVER sent SPAM to anyone.

You are exactly right: you are being punished for the actions of others.

To understand who those “others” are, we need to look at how email makes it off of your computer to its destination.

Read moreWhy Was My Email Bounced for Sending Too Much Spam?

Why Does My Account Keep Sending Out Spam?

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Hi, Leo. I changed my password four times on Yahoo yet my account keeps sending out spam. I’ve emailed Yahoo with a spammers address. Where can I report someone who’s stolen my contacts to email people? At least I have the address of just the last one who stole my account. What should I do? People are annoyed because I keep sending out spam – four times in one month. What should I do besides changing passwords and security questions? Even if I change to a non-Yahoo for email don’t these people already have my contacts somehow? Is there a way to delete my contacts? How do I report these people? I feel like Yahoo did nothing with the last ones.

There’s a bucket-load of issues here, and quite frankly an awful lot of confusion.

This can be a very frustrating situation, but what happens next, if anything, depends on what’s really going on.

Read moreWhy Does My Account Keep Sending Out Spam?

I’m drowning in spam. What can I do?

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I receive about 300 emails daily. I have no one to help me and I would like to be able to block all this crap. I am not very smart about PCs and need the simple instructions that I can follow. If I continue to receive certain pornographic or offensive emails, how do I ban them? If I open it up to get their email address to try to block them, what happens then? I need all the help that I can get because this is too much to take care of daily. I do delete my history daily, but I don’t think that helps in blocking them. I use Yahoo as my mail provider and am on Windows 7.

Assuming you mean you get 300 spam emails a day, I’ll agree that’s a fair amount. Between my various email accounts, I suspect that I get probably around half that.

The question is not how to stop spam. Ultimately, there’s no way for you and me to do that.

The questions are really how to deal with it when you get it so that it’s merely a minor annoyance rather than an overwhelming chore, and how to avoid it, or at least minimize it, in the first place.

Read moreI’m drowning in spam. What can I do?

How do I stop all this spam?

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I receive about 300 emails daily. I have no one to help me and I would like to be able to block all this crap. I am not very smart about PCs and need some simple instructions to follow. If I continue to receive certain pornographic or offensive emails, how do I ban them? If I open it up to get their email address to try to block them, what happens then? I need all of the help that I can get because this is too much to take care of daily. I do delete my history daily, but I don’t think that helps in blocking them. I use Yahoo! as my mail provider and I am on Windows 7.

Assuming that you mean you get 300 spam emails a day, I’ll agree that’s a fair amount. Between all my various email accounts, I suspect that I get probably around that much.

The question is not how to stop spam. Ultimately, there’s no way for you or I to do that.

The questions are how to deal with it when you get it so that it’s merely a minor annoyance rather than an overwhelming chore and how to avoid it, or at least minimize it, in the first place.

Read moreHow do I stop all this spam?

Why Am I Getting Empty Form Submissions from My Website?

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Hi Leo. I have an email request form on my website. And every now and then I will get a blank form sent to me or maybe with a few URLs for medications of various sorts in it. I’m also getting returned email and “Out of office” messages. I can see that they’ve been sent from bogus names at my domain. How do I fix this?

The bogus email addresses on your domain are easy. I’ll point you at a previous article of mine: “I Keep Getting Bounced Emails for Addresses On My Domain That Don’t Exist. How Can I Stop This?”. The bottom line is that simply having a domain will cause this to happen. And the only solution that I know of is to only pay attention to the email that is actually sent to valid email addresses on your domain. Ignore all of those others.

The form submission issue is an interesting one, and it’s something that I actually deal with everyday.

Read moreWhy Am I Getting Empty Form Submissions from My Website?

Why do I keep getting a CAPTCHA?

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Hi, Leo. I’m really annoyed with those CAPTCHA things that Yahoo sometimes wants me to fill out before my email can be sent. Now, I realize that if I were to send an email addressed to many recipients that Yahoo might assume that I’m spamming, but if I’m just replying to an email from a friend, I really don’t think that this CAPTCHA is called for. I’ve contacted them several times about this, but to no avail.

Before I answer your question, I have to say that I’m not surprised in the least that you’re not getting a response. Yahoo is a free email service and they actually have very little (if any) customer support. It’s not something that I would ever expect them to change. Quite literally, you’re getting what you’re paying for in that regard.

As for your question, why do you keep getting a CAPTCHA?

Read moreWhy do I keep getting a CAPTCHA?

Do Gmail preview images pose a security risk?

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My question is somewhat similar to what others have asked before, but this time, I explicitly want to talk about Gmail. As you 
know, some attachments show a thumbnail of its contents on the email footer. There are times that I receive legitimate emails by mistake, so I open the email to reply and notify about it. By doing that and by being able to see the 
preview thumbnail, am I putting my computer at risk of malware? I never download things that I’m not expecting, but I’m 
unsure if just having this “default preview” setting, I may actually be executing whatever there could be without really knowing it.

By now, it’s just good common sense to turn off images in your email viewer. That prevents spammers from using images embedded in a message to confirm that they’ve found a real email address where someone actually reads their email.

Attachments, on the other hand, are a little different. They typically make it to your inbox, and your security depends on your ability to distinguish between safe and unsafe attachments. By now, you should know only to open attachments that you know are safe.

Google occasionally includes preview images of your attachments. Because attachments can be dangerous and images are sometimes an invasion of privacy, is there an issue here?

Not really. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I’ll explain why.

Read moreDo Gmail preview images pose a security risk?

How Do I Protect My Email Address Book?

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How do I stop [email being sent as me] or prevent a hacker from getting into my address book?

This was a follow-up question from someone who’d discovered that, as they put it, “Somebody is using my email address book to send spam to my friends.” I had pointed them at Someone’s sending email that looks like it’s from me to my contacts, what can I do?

What’s critical to realize here is that it’s extremely likely that they don’t just have access to your address book; they have access to your entire email account.

And that’s exactly where prevention begins.

Read moreHow Do I Protect My Email Address Book?

Why Am I Being Labeled a Spammer?

As I write this, over 125,000 people have my email address. Probably more, but that’s the number of people subscribed to my newsletter. Right there on the “From:” line is an email address.

Naturally, some of them will forward me jokes, virus warnings and other hoaxes or urban legends. I know that they mean well and do so with the best of intentions.

But, I mark them all as spam. I have to.

Because that’s what they are.

Even if I don’t, others may, and because of that, there’s a very important lesson here in making sure that the rest of your email keeps getting delivered.

Read moreWhy Am I Being Labeled a Spammer?

Why Am I Getting (or Sending) Emails that Contain only a Link or Spam from My Contacts?

If you’re getting emails from a contact of yours that have either no subject line or one that doesn’t make sense and the message consists of a link to a site that you’ve never heard of…

Your contact’s email has likely been hacked.

If people are telling you that they’re getting these messages from you… well, you can guess what it means.

It’s your email account that’s likely been hacked into.

Read moreWhy Am I Getting (or Sending) Emails that Contain only a Link or Spam from My Contacts?

Why Are Electronic Greeting Cards a Bad Idea?

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 I recently sent a friend of mine an electronic greeting card. He replied that I shouldn’t have. He said that because of my good intentions, he’d now be getting even more spam than ever. Is he right? Did I just screw up? 

Electronic greeting cards seem like such a good idea. A quick point-and-click at an e-card service, and you can send a cute virtual “card” via email. Often they’re even animated, with sounds or music in the background.

Unfortunately, all too often they also have a hidden agenda.

You may be “giving” more than you think.

Read moreWhy Are Electronic Greeting Cards a Bad Idea?

Someone’s Sending Email that Looks Like it’s from Me to My Contacts, What Can I Do?

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Hi,somebody is sending emails to my contacts using my email address to which I haven’t sent. How can this be? Have I been hacked into? I do have full internet security avg 9, could you please let me know what action to take if any as I find this quite worrying! I have changed my password so far, but that is all.

You should be worried.

I’m not sure that I’d say you’ve been “hacked into”, but my guess is that your email account has indeed been compromised.

I’ll look at what likely happened, why this isn’t like other “Someone’s sending from my email address!” kind of issues, and what steps you need to take next.

Read moreSomeone’s Sending Email that Looks Like it’s from Me to My Contacts, What Can I Do?

How Does Using BCC Help Reduce Spam?

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Is it true that if I use BCC to email attachments, it will mean less danger of spam? How’s that?

It’s not so much about attachments as it is any email that you receive and then forward.

And it’s not so much about saving yourself from getting more spam, but saving the people that sent you the email you’re about to forward.

It’s all about keeping their email addresses private and un-harvestable.

Read moreHow Does Using BCC Help Reduce Spam?