Why am I not getting the email I signed up for?

Over-aggressive spam filtering may be the reason why you're not getting the email that you signed up for.


Why am I not getting the email that I signed up for?

Email mailing lists are a staple of the internet. From technical issues to social clubs to formal publications distributed by email, the email mailing list has become a critical component of how we conduct business, socialize, and interact on the internet.

Unfortunately, it’s also the backbone for spam. And therein lies the problem.

As I outlined in a previous article, “Why is my mail to this person not getting through?“, which discusses this same issue from the sender’s side, spam prevention measures have begun to erroneously block legitimate email with almost frightening frequency. Sometimes filtered email is simply lost and other times it may be returned to the sender (a.k.a. “bounced”). Legitimate senders might have to go so far as to suspend sending to you simply to avoid all of the bounced messages filling up their email.

Internet publishers are definitely feeling the pinch, particularly from large ISPs who aggressively (some say overly-aggressively) filter spam to appease their subscribers.

On top of the spam issue, the ongoing rash of email-borne viruses have also caused a new and different type of havoc that can also result in your being unsubscribed from certain types of mailing lists. It works like this: someone, not you, has a virus and that virus spreads by reading addresses out of that person’s address book and sending email. It ALSO uses those addresses to create a fake “From:” line. So if one of the addresses that it elects to send email to is an email list’s unsubscribe address and the address it fakes in the from line is yours, then you may get unsubscribed and stop receiving mail from that list.

Of course, there are all of the “normal” things that can go wrong: although very rare these days, mail can be lost in transit due to purely technical reasons. This will depend greatly on your individual ISP and will typically manifest as more random email loss rather than a specific list or sender.

And finally, who hasn’t hit the Delete key just a little too quickly? I know I have.

So what’s a person to do? There are several things that can help.

  • DO NOT use a “Report This as Spam” button on email that you requested. It is not the proper way to unsubscribe. I’m hearing of many legitimate publications being blocked because people have been using the Spam button to unsubscribe rather than unsubscribing the correct way. This does real harm to the publisher and to the other subscribers of that newsletter. Most newsletters will have instructions on how to unsubscribe if not in every email, then in your initial welcome message or on their related archive or website.
  • Whitelist your subscriptions and the addresses of anyone else who might send you email that you want to make sure don’t get spam filtered. Most ISPs and spam filters provide a way for you to “whitelist” email coming from specific addresses that you can specify. This tells the spam filter to never block email coming from that address.
  • Adjust your spam filtering. Many spam filters allow you to configure just how aggressive they should be. By making them a little less aggressive, you might get a little more spam, but you will also get more of the legitimate email as well.
  • Check the spam bucket. Most spam filters will move suspected spam to a junk mail or spam folder. Check it every so often for legitimate mail and use that opportunity to whitelist anyone that got mistakenly filtered.
  • Complain to your ISP. Not about spam – they get enough complaints about that. Complain if you lose legitimate email, especially paid subscriptions. Even if they don’t provide you with a way to do it, ISPs should provide a way to ensure that people get the email they requested, and especially email that they’ve paid for.
  • Consider RSS. RSS is a new distribution mechanism that many online publishers are using that both avoids spam and is anonymous as well. See the related links below for more information.
  • Preach the anti-virus gospel! Make sure that you and your friends and acquaintances all run up to date anti-virus software and practice “safe computing” – 90% of the time that simply means never opening an attachment unless you’re absolutely positive that you know that it’s safe.


  1. Kevin Connell

    I am a software developer that owns a small business. I have created a reporting tool that attaches pdf documents and fires them off with an automated COM email object that I purchased from Server Objects INC. I used to work with no problems. But over the past year Spam filters have been blocking. I test with hotmail and yahoo emails, and they are blocked there. Other clients have been blocked as well with various domains. I have no problem sending a manual email to any address that fails with the automated version. I have talked to different email providers with no avail. Do you have any advice on the problem? How do I get my legit auto email to respond like other big name companies that are able to get email throught to me in an automated fashion.


  2. Leo

    This is a tough one, and rest assured, large corporations and on-line publishers are facing the same issues that you care. Here’s one site that will allow you to test your content: http://www.lyris.com/contentchecker/ . I would also recommend placing the PDFs on a website and emailing a URL rather than sending the attachment. If there are security issues, you can set up a simple password protected site.

  3. jodonrose

    out of 10 emails sent out I have only received 1
    it was sent from 25miles away.But from Canada and Philly I get no answers.I have called them and they say they have sent several out.And I’m not getting them.It’s beginning to @*^? me off.

  4. Ramona Elder

    The email that is being sent to me is not getting through. Is there anyone here that can check to make sure that my email is working properly? I have a business and rely heavily on my email. Thank you.

  5. Myra Long

    I am not receiving emails from another hot mail account. This email is on my SAFE list and doesn’t show to be BLOCKED. What can I do to receive the emails that I have been receiving for a year now?

  6. mohika

    hi. i have a problem with my yahoo. i am not getting any e-mail.my frind send me e-mails, but they get failure notice.my friends have yahoo, but they don’t have this problem.Can u please help me?

    thank u.

  7. Ida

    I recently sent myself an email and it never came up in my mailbox. Then I realized that I was not receiving any emails. What is going on? How do I fix it?

  8. KUKKI


  9. Tammy ngo

    i get notice that i have e-mails in my in box but when i go to see what they are there is none but my way old ones that i had saved wh is this & how do i fix it i have done the spam thing bt it is still not working whatdo i do HELP

  10. Nichole Myres

    In this case, there could be a mail server issue. It can be on your side or the sender’s mail server. You can always verify it with your mail server provider if they interruption or an issue.

    Water Lipo

  11. John Orella

    In regard to not using the mailer sites “unsubscribe” instructions: It has been the experience of both of the adults in our household (no kids here) that this often does NOT release one from the list. We have been continuously requesting removal from a couple of sites for going on a year. To date we still get their ‘mail’ on a weekly basis. This seems especially pervasive with some of the ‘social networking’ sites. (one of the ones we reference above). Having retired from a medical field, I find my former professional associations extremely difficult to get released from.

  12. Nick

    Re John Orella’s problem with the “Unsubscribe” facility, what I do when subscribing to anything is use a disposable email address (such as available on Yahoo and GMX). Then, if the unsubscribe facility does not work, simply delete the specific disposable email address to instantly solve the problem.

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