FAQ: Spam Email

This FAQ explores one of the hottest topics surrounding email services: Spam!  There are many misconceptions about spam: what it is, where it comes from, what is legitimate spam vs "junk" mail, and most importantly, how to manage it. Here are answers to some of the most common questions we get:

 

 

What is Spam, and were does it come from?

Most people would consider Spam to be any email they don't want.  You may be surprised to know that this doesn't always mean that email is considered Spam.

What does the email industry call Spam?  Spam is any email communication you receive from an undisclosed sender.  In addition, when that message appears to come from a mailing list, it doesn't include an unsubscribe link you can use to remove your email address from that mailing list.

**A good rule to remember?  If it was a legitimate mailing list, they'd give you a way to get your address removed from it.**

To know where these unwanted messages come from, let's take a look at some of the types of emails you might receive that aren't personal correspondence.

Marketing Emails
From experience, we know that signing up for a service, buying something online, allowing access to apps, quizzes, games, surveys on Social media sites, etc., even through a site we have dealt with previously and trust, can result in a flurry of unwanted messages. The senders of these messages are often marketing partners of the original place you gave your email address to. These are not Spam messages. These are marketing emails.

When you sign up for something online, you are agreeing to that company's Terms of Service (maybe unknowingly).  Agreeing to these often includes granting that place permission to send you marketing emails and to also share their mailing lists with their trusted marketing partners, so they can send you marketing emails, too. This is how your email address can wind up on so many mailing lists that you don't remember adding your address to.

The good news is, these are legitimate emails from companies, and because they're legitimate, they're required to supply you with an unsubscribe link. Being vigilant and scanning the unwanted messages for unsubscribe links and using them usually brings this flurry to a stop. Once you remove your email address from the list, the next time that list is distributed to that company's partners, your email address won't be on it.  The benefit?  This gets your email address also removed from all the mailing lists down the line of those connected partners. It can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks to see the full benefit, but if you unsubscribe from all these emails, you will notice an immediate decrease in the emails you don't want to receive.

The best part is, this is something you have direct control over.

These emails should not be marked as spam, unless you do not see an unsubscribe link or button. If there is no unsubscribe option, then it's likely...

Spam Email
If there's no option to remove your email address from the mailing list, then at some point in that connected marketing partner chain, the mailing list might have been shared with a spammer.  These groups are exploiting this chain of marketing email lists for their own purposes and are operating outside the rules. What can you do if there's no subscribe link? You should mark the email as Spam using the Spam button in Webmail.

Malicious Spam
Other forms of Spam come from malicious sources.  These may contain email viruses, or phishing scams designed to defraud or steal personal information from people. These may appear to come from your bank, companies you shop from online, domain registrars, utility services you use, etc.

How can you tell if the Spam email is malicious?  They would ask you to do things like update account information through a link provided in the email that doesn't contain the domain name of the company, reset login info for no valid reason, provide credit card details in plain text, reply back with banking or personal information, or other information they might want to steal from you.

The contents of this kind of Spam varies greatly - they're often creative in the ways they attempt to frighten you into providing your personal information. These emails should never be replied to. If you're ever unsure, reach out to the company the email claims to be sent from (by phone or separate fresh email sent to their "help" email address) and ask them if they sent it.  No legitimate company will ever give you a hard time for asking this question.  If in doubt?  Always better to be safe and ask.

NOTE: Hover will not send you an email asking you to provide personal information to us in an email. We would ask you to go online and update your information through your Hover account yourself. We don't need to ask you for your personal account info, because we hold your account and can see it from our side.  Instead?  If you asked us about something in your account, we require YOU to provide account verification to us before sharing any personal information about your account and services.  Our usual method is by PIN verification, sometimes auth code verification in the case of domains you have rights to and that your contact  information is already noted on OR, when all else fails, verification by signed affidavit you provide to us.

An example of something that is not Spam?

If someone forwards an event invitation to 200 people they may not personally know, or someone forwards a chain letter/joke to an office of 50 people, or someone accidentally hits "reply all" to a group company email, that's not Spam.  That's just email you may not have wanted. You could just delete it, or directly ask that person not to forward those kinds of emails to you anymore.

Why should these not be marked as Spam?  By using the Spam button to report these messages to the server as Spam, you could unintentionally contribute to the suspension of that person's email address.

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Why can't you forward ALL of my email, including Spam?

If you use Hover to forward your email to another address, you may have noticed some emails being caught in the Spam folder in Hover Webmail. Some of these emails you may not consider Spam or they've been incorrectly marked as Spam, and you want us to forward those, too.

First thing to know:  There's a very good reason we do not forward emails that are marked as Spam.

Several years ago, all the major email providers made a collective decision to no longer forward messages marked as Spam to each other. This is something all legitimate email providers respect.

Why was this decision made?

When you used to forward a Spam message, your email address and the Hover email server (in our case) that you sent from became associated with the Spam content in the email.  When it hit another email server and was flagged as Spam? Your address, not the original sender, was reported as the source along with the IP address of the Hover email server.  After multiple reports, this put your email address and the Hover mail server on a blacklist.  And when the Hover email server ends up on a blacklist?  ALL users of the email service can't send to the email service you forwarded those Spam messages to.

When every email user at every email service was doing the same thing? Eventually, everyone with an email address experienced periods of time where either their email address was on a grey or blacklist and they couldn't send at all or they couldn't send to some of their contacts at other providers.  It became so bad, large email services (AT&T, Comcast, Hotmail, Gmail, etc) could go weeks or months where their users couldn't send to some of their contacts at certain email providers.  As fast as their email teams got their server IP addresses and user mail accounts removed from those blacklists, they would wind up right back on them, and sometimes?  It was due to a single user who persistently forwarded Spam messages to a specific destination email service.

When the email industry recognised this became a huge inconvenience to everyone, email service providers took action to keep communication flowing between providers.  That is why messages marked as Spam are no longer forwarded.

Is there another way to get all your emails, including incorrectly marked Spam, without forwarding?

Yes! You need to do two things:

  1. Log into your Webmail account through mail.hover.com and set your Inbox as your Spam Folder. This will ensure that when Spam email arrives, while it may be marked as Spam, it isn't delivered to the Spam folder and goes to your Inbox, instead.
  2. Set up your email account in a desktop email client, like Outlook, Thunderbird, or MacMail, OR use Gmail or another Webmail-based service and set up a POP account. The POP connection will download all the new messages from your Inbox, pulling them into your destination service. Since your Inbox is also set as your Spam folder, you will get all the emails, even any incorrectly marked as Spam.

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What happens when I use the Spam button?

You may not realise just how powerful an anti-Spam tool the Spam button in your Webmail account is, or even exactly how it works.  Short and sweet?  Using the Spam button is your best defence against receiving Spam.

Here's why.

When you hit the Spam button, you are making a report about the message you received.  This tells the email server it's Spam.  More than that, it relays information about all the various elements that make up that email.  Not only is the sender email address reported, but all the routing or "header" information that came with it, as well as the sample content of the email itself.  This is important, as it allows the server to incorporate all that new information into filtering out further similar unwanted messages for everyone in the whole email service.  One report using the Spam button won't block out a message (to make allowances for human error), but several reports help the filters learn, so they can start rejecting messages or senders. It may even cause the sender email or IP address to become blocked or blacklisted.

When you use the Spam button on those marketing messages sent from a mailing list that include an unsubscribe link?  That doesn't remove you from those mailing lists.  Remember, you agreed to their Terms that put your address on that mailing list.  Doing so made them a legitimate/trusted sender.  You'll probably continue to receive those unwanted emails and will only frustrate yourself.

This is why it's ineffective to mark email messages as Spam if they're from people you know - through having them in your address book or through delivery history, you've shown them to be a legitimate/trusted sender.  Best thing to do?  Unsubscribe or simply ask them to stop emailing you if it's not from a mailing list.

The “Not Spam” Button

In addition to the Spam button, you also have another powerful tool - the "Not Spam" button.

It’s very important to never tag real Spam as Not Spam. This will negatively affect Spam filtering and, in turn, will allow more Spam to be received into everyone's Inbox.

The ONLY time you should use the Not Spam button is if you see real, legitimate emails, from people and sources you know and trust, being incorrectly marked as Spam and delivered to your Spam folder.  By marking these legitimate messages as Not Spam, in the same way you can teach the Spam filters what you identify as Spam through the reports you make, you can also teach the email filters what messages you consider safe, and... well, Not Spam!

In addition to this, you may choose to also add these legitimate senders to your Safe Sender list. This will allow emails from them to bypass any existing Spam filtering in the meantime until the filtering system "learns" and updates to allow them through.

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What can be done about Spam?

Spam will always be around and it's no longer reasonable to believe you will never see another Spam message. All email providers reject billions of Spam emails every day. It's an ever-evolving situation where Spammers work to get around filtering by changing the construction of their messages and the best approach is to continue to improve on how we manage it.

Our email filters play a huge part in protecting you from Spam at the server level, before it even gets to your Inbox, but it doesn't stop there. Some Spam may still get through.

It's important to note that if you're using an email client, such as Outlook, Thunderbird, or MacMail, you should routinely go to a web browser and log into Hover Webmail at https://mail.hover.com to use the Hover Spam filter settings available to you. Any filters you create or reports you make through a third party email client or mobile device will only exist on and for that device.

Some email users choose to allow the local filtering that comes with their firewall or anti-virus software to filter their messages picked up through the email software they use.  This is another great way to filter Spam messages and definitely a legitimate option.

If you prefer to use the Hover tools, in your Hover Webmail account, we provide you with some additional tools you can use to help keep Spam away from your Inbox.

  • Add a custom spam tag:
    This allows you to more easily spot which emails are flagged as Spam by our system. When our system flags a message as Spam, you can't see this flag, but by creating your own custom Spam tag, such as [SPAM], this will add [SPAM] to the subject line of those emails you've specified as they arrive. The tag doesn't have to be "Spam" and you can make any tag word you like.
  • Create a filter:
    You could then create a filter that will pick out any email with [SPAM] in the subject line and direct it to another folder, such as the Spam or trash folder. This works best for those messages you've only recently reported as Spam and before the server filters adjust. This will keep those out of your Inbox.
  • Adjust your Spam block level:
    Increasing the Spam block level will refine the filters and make them a little more strict. Setting your filter to Very High will block more Spam emails. However, be mindful that in doing this, you may also find some legitimate messages that contain some of the same elements as real Spam messages are also then tagged as Spam. These messages are referred to as False Positives. To let the email filters know these messages are actually legitimate, find them in your Spam folder (in Webmail) and use the Not Spam button to make your report.

For instructions on how to use these tools, and other Webmail tools, visit: How To: Use Webmail

If, after using all the available tools to report it, you continue to receive a specific real Spam message, we can help.  Don't delete it and let us know which one it is.  We can take that sample email and get the email team to make adjustments to filtering by hand to block it out for you.

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Should I use Block Sender list to block Spam?

In a word - no.

The Block Sender list has a specific purpose. It's not designed to block Spam.

The Block Sender list is used to block a single sender email address, domain or IP address.

When do I use the Blocked Sender list?

  • To block out a single persistent sender (ex-employee, ex-spouse, cyber-bully, trolls, etc)
  • Someone is harassing you.
  • To prevent or stop online stalking.
  • To block email from a fraudster or scammer.
  • To block a hacker who may be trying to contact you.

In these or similar types of situations where the source of the email is coming from an unknown individual, (not a mailing list) you can block that individual sender's address, domain or IP.  The Block Sender list is very powerful. Anything sent from a source you have blocked will be rejected by the email server and return a bounce-back error message to the sender. You will never see any messages from that specific source again.

Why Can't I Use the Block Sender list to Block Spam?

The Block Sender list doesn't report anything to the email server filters which makes it useless as a Spam blocking tool.  It doesn't pass on sender info or the elements of messages, so filtering will never adjust.

Additionally, Spammers go to a lot of trouble to hide their sending source and often use "aliases" to cover up their true sending location or address.  Spammers will often send Spam from email software like Outlook, so they can exploit the software's ability to create aliases for their own purposes.  They do this specifically so you can't block them.  And they won't send you email from the same address twice.  This means, adding the "sender" email address you can see doesn't mean you've actually blocked the sender's source.  What does that mean?  Even though you've added the sending address you can see to the Block Sender list, you will continue to receive unwanted messages from them.

Using the Block Sender list as a method to block out Spam can lead to frustration as you will not stop any of the unwanted emails from arriving. The Block Sender list should be your last resort to block out persistent emails you don't want to receive - better than this, is to let us know what the email is, so we can get the email team to adjust filtering by hand.

Not reporting these unwanted Spam messages with the "Spam" button actually does more harm than good.  It creates a cumulative flood of things that have never been reported that continue to deliver to your Inbox. When this happens, you may find yourself in a situation where you can no longer see your legitimate messages through all the Spam and unwanted emails.

If you are receiving Marketing Messages from a mailing list advertising products or services, please make sure you check to see if these are legitimate emails or Spam messages by reading over the above answer for What is Spam, and where does it come from? so you can learn how to stop those by using the provided unsubscribe links.

 

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Why do some emails come from my own address?

If you are receiving returned emails that appear to have been sent from yourself, you're likely being spoofed.

This means, a Spammer is pretending to send email from your email address by masking their own sending address with yours - they've used your email address as an alias.

If spoofing isn't the case, then it's also possible your email account has been compromised.

This means, a Spammer, or perhaps a virus/malware, has gained access to your password, and is using your account to send Spam messages from. The fastest way to stop a Spammer from using your email address?  Change your password.  To determine if your account has actually been compromised, have a look at our help article: Am I being spoofed, or has my email been compromised?

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Should I unsubscribe from mailing lists?

Yes, absolutely!

If there is an unsubscribe link provided in a Marketing message or store flyer type of email that you don't want to receive, you should definitely use the unsub link to remove your email address from the mailing list.

One of the misconceptions we see all the time is that it's unsafe to click on unsubscribe links.  This is incorrect.

All legitimate mailing lists (marketing emails, store flyers, community groups, etc) are all now required to provide a way for you to have your email address removed from their lists - through an unsubscribe link.  Go ahead and click that unsubscribe button or link, so you can stop receiving emails from that mailing list.

If you're still unsure about this, and you haven't already, please review the first question, What is Spam, and where does it come from? for detailed information about what makes an email message Spam.

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How did I get on a mailing list?

If you find yourself on a mailing list you didn't sign up for, it's likely your email address has been picked up online somewhere and added to a list. This list could have been sold to another list, and so forth. Next thing you know, you're getting emails from mailing lists you've never even heard of. Since they're not legitimate lists you've opted-in to, that don't provide you with an unsubscribe link, they are sending you Spam.  Use the "Spam" button in Webmail or your local email filtering software to report these, so they can be blocked.

How did my email address get picked up online?  If you've posted your email address on the contact page of a website you run, on a blog or forum, or published your email on the Internet in any public way, it could be picked up by web crawlers designed by Spammers to collect email addresses from the Internet.  This includes the registration contact information in your domain's registration info.  Domain registration information details are public records available through a multitude of WHOIS registration look-up tools and are viewable online.  For domain registration info, use the Privacy option (it doesn't cost anything) in your Hover account to hide your personal contact info from public view.  This prevents bots and web crawlers from scraping your contact email address from your domain's registration info, so they can't send you Spam.

I have to publish my email address online, so what can I do?  If you must have an email contact address publicly displayed on the Internet, it's a good recommendation to use an alternate email address specifically for those online accounts. Only provide your primary email address to family, friends, and trusted businesses, such as your bank, Internet provider, doctor’s office, etc.  This is a great way to cut down on the amount of Spam you receive to your main account.

Creating an account on a free service like Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail is perfect if you need to register for mailing lists, online blogs/forums that display your email address to the public, chat services, online gaming, online shopping/purchases, etc.

Remember, when you share your primary email address online, you are sharing it with people across the globe.  Making thoughtful choices about where you choose to share your primary contact address can have a significant impact on the amount of Spam you may or may not receive.

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Can I prevent my email messages sent to others from being marked as Spam?

While we can't foresee how someone will respond to a message you send to them, using best practices will decrease the chances your messages will be marked as Spam by someone else.

Remember the golden rule for sending email:

Don't send email to people that you don't directly know, and don't send the same email to everyone you know.

People you don’t know are more likely to report an unsolicited email as Spam.  If you forward an email to 200 contacts in your address book, there's a good chance a couple of the recipients might report the message as Spam.

Multiple Spam complaints reported against your email address (by those recipients hitting the Spam button in their own email service) could result in a temporary suspension of your ability to send messages out through your mailbox.

Don't risk it.  Follow the golden rule for sending email.

We can't reverse a Spam report from another email service you reached with a message you sent.  You'll end up suffering the inconvenience until the temporary suspension ends.

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Is there anything else I should know?

We have a very clear and easy to read Acceptable Use Policy for using our email services.

Hover does not allow mass mail sending.  Persistently sending the same email message to everyone in  your address book will eventually, after several temporary suspensions, result in your email address being shut down.  If you haven't already, please, take a few minutes to read our Acceptable Use Policy over so you know how our email service works to know if it's right for you.

Don't Open Suspicious Attachments

Never open file attachments from unknown senders.  If you receive a suspicious attachment from one of your regular contacts, send a reply and ask what the attachment is before opening it, just to be safe.

Many email viruses are spread by opening file attachments.  Infected computers are used to send copies of the virus to address book contacts stored on the infected computer. This malicious code can often also read email passwords when you type them in as you login and allow Spammers to gain access to send Spam through your address.  Always ask your contacts about attachments if you're unsure.

Use Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software will help protect you from sending and receiving email viruses. This reduces the number of infected computers on the Internet, and in turn reduces the amount of Spam caused by email viruses.

Watch Out for Scams and Phishing

Phishing is an attempt to acquire personal information for the purposes of identify theft or domain and email hijacking.  Beware of unsolicited email messages that ask you to reply with personal information, or visit a website through a link to provide personal information online.  They often attempt to mimic trusted brand names or services you use to trick you into replying with your personal info.

Remember, almost every service in every industry now provides its users with an online account where you can log in yourself and check and/or update your information with that service.  At the very least, there's a contact phone number so you can reach them directly to update that information over the phone.

There's never a need to send banking or other personal information to any provider you use for any service through clear text email.  Don't do it.  If you're unsure, call or email the service the suspicious email came from and ask them if they sent it.  They'll never give you a hard time for checking - every service wants to make sure their customers are safe.

Emails from Hover will come from help@hover.com, and we will never proactively email you to ask for any of the following information:

  • Birthdate
  • Mother's maiden name
  • Social Security/Insurance Number
  • Home address
  • Phone number
  • Driver's licence 

If you contact us for assistance, we use other methods to verify ownership of the account. We will never initiate the first contact with you to gather personal information that you have already provided to us in your Hover account!

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Is there anything I should or should NOT do?

  • You should NOT open any email, or click on any links, if they look suspicious. When in doubt, DELETE!
  • Don't send Spam!
  • Be cautious about where you enter your email address online. Signing up for anything on the Internet now often creates the situation where the place we may have allowed to know our email address also has hundreds of advertising partners who access their mailing lists.  Read their Terms before agreeing!
  • Don't publish your personal email address on the Internet in a public-facing comment, blog post, contact page, invitation, etc. Putting your email address out there increases the risk of a Spammer getting a hold of that address.
  • If you use email on a domain you own, you SHOULD enable WHOIS privacy to protect your personal information from being displayed in a public WHOIS database.

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