Ask Al: How do I track abusive spam?

Cindy from NY writes: "Hello -- I am receiving abusive e-mails and am trying to track them through Sam Spade I think I know who is sending them and am trying to match IP addresses with old legitimate e-mails from the sender. Is this possible? I've spent many hours tracing -- it is exhausting."

After reviewing the spam samples you provided, it looks to me like the mails are just spams. Spammers do a lot of weird stuff in the code to try to sneak through spam filters. That's why they have all those words and sentences all over the emails. Spam filters read them and can occasionally become confused. At least, this is what the spammers hope will happen. I wouldn't worry specifically about those emails. Spam sucks, but there is not a ton you can do on your own to stop it. It's really up to your email provider (Gmail) to take care of it for you. Unfortunately, Gmail is not the best in this regard. Others, like AOL and Hotmail, are far better at it.

I say that because Gmail doesn't report spam back to the source network or ISP. This means that when you hit the “this is spam” button in Gmail, less happens compared to hitting that button at AOL or Hotmail. Gmail will put the spam in your spam folder, and based on metrics relating to your “vote” and others, they decide which mail goes to the spam folder by default, and which does not. Other ISPs and mail providers do the same. But, many do much more than that.

AOL and Hotmail both have very aggressive reporting programs where they work with other ISPs and email senders directly, doing things like providing feedback regarding complaints and notifying sending ISPs and companies that things need to change else mail will get blocked. Gmail, on the other hand, is more of a "black box" where nobody outside of Gmail receives feedback about which mail is causing problems or what needs to change. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gmail reconsidered this stance in the future, but for now, your best bet may be to switch to AOL or Hotmail for your email needs.
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