Ask Al: Spam From Me To Me?

Dennis writes, "I don't send these various emails under my AOL address, but other people get them, and I get them myself. How can I notify AOL of this and hopefully get it stopped. I've changed my password, which was recommended, but such emails continue." 

I'm a long time AOL user myself. Hey, working in the email industry, you pretty much have to have an AOL email account, if you want to become an expert on how things work over there. I've had one for at least nine years, myself. Even so, I've never run into this. (My AOL account is not very widely known, so maybe I haven't seen this because I do not receive a lot of spam.) But I did investigate a bit, and here's what I was able to find out.

First, keep in mind, this is not a situation where thousands or millions of people are receiving spam purporting to be from you. A common spammer trick is to send spam to YOU (only) with your from address. So, you receive that spam, and on your copy, it has your from address. When I receive the same spam, my copy has MY from address on it.

Why do they do that? Probably with the hope that your spam filter is configured to automatically whitelist emails from yourself, so you don't block your own emails as spam.

Also keep in mind that this DOES NOT mean your AOL account is compromised. The only bit of information the spammer has is your email address. They don't need your password to be able to send you spam that has your own from address on it. Changing your password is never a bad idea. Always better to be safe than sorry, but I strongly suspect you have nothing to worry about here.

I went poking around AOL's help pages and found this useful page.

The best bit of advice on that page, the thing that directly applies to the situation you're running in to, is this: Delete your email address from your address book. That's probably your issue here. AOL whitelists mail (bypassing some spam filtering) from people in your own address book. And if you have your account set up so that it will automatically add people to your address book if you email them, and if you have ever emailed yourself, then boom, you've whitelisted your own email address. And your spammers seem to be exploiting this functionality to fast track spam to you more easily.

To recap, the solution here is pretty simple. Delete yourself from your address book. And don't email yourself, or configure your account so that people do NOT get automatically added to your address book when you email them.

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