Computer Crime Research Center


Spam e-mails

Date: November 25, 2007

Question: I use Outlook on my home PC. When I hit the send/receive button, my mail dumps into my Inbox and clears itself from the Road Runner server (my [email protected] account).

The other day my brother called me and asked about a piece of mail he got that appeared as if it was supposed to come to me. In fact, it was from my bank to me, but was in his mail at his [email protected] account. My first thought was that I had a virus that was sending out my mail to people in my address book and spoofing the addresses.

When I logged into my computer I did not have Outlook running and did not have that e-mail in my Inbox. I clicked on the send/receive button to get my mail from the server and that's when I got the e-mail that my brother already had.

I started a chat with the RR tech who suggested I must have a virus that is "reaching up to the server to send out that e-mail to my brother." Is that possible? It sounds to me like RR has the virus.

— Steve from Irondequoit

Answer: That would have to be an insanely specific virus. It would have to know who you are, who your brother is, figure out that you're related, know what bank you used ... get the picture? It's much more likely that either the bank made a simple mistake, or you had at some point set up mail forwarding to your brother and this triggered it, or (this is the most likely one) it's a scam e-mail that got shotgunned out to a million people, and just happened to pick your bank. Your brother got it, figured it was for you (since he likely uses a different bank), and passed it on.

Be very, very careful about opening it, and don't click on the link. Go to your bank by hand instead, and see what they've got to say about your account.

Question: I have a Windows XP professional system, running Road Runner. I use Mozilla Thunderbird for e-mail. Recently my brother accepted a sales position at a company called Phoenix Textile. When he sends an e-mail to me from his company e-mail address ([email protected]), I do not receive it. I get no notification from Thunderbird that an e-mail was rejected, it does not go to junk. Just nothing at all.

However, other people, his customers, other relatives, all receive his e-mails with no problem. And I receive all other e-mails with no problem (including my brother's when he uses his personal Verizon account).

He asked his company computer guys about it and they said that the problem must be on my end, since everybody else receives his e-mails without a problem. Any ideas?

— Will in Greece

Answer: You've done some good troubleshooting, here. What you've done tells me that there might be a blacklist in operation somewhere; likely at Road Runner.

A blacklist is put in place when a company feels that it is getting excessive spam from another company. Sometimes blacklists are justified; sometimes they're not. Sometimes, they're in place because someone at the company caught a virus, and it was spamming the folks on Road Runner. Road Runner blacklisted the company. The virus got cleaned up, but nobody told Road Runner, so Road Runner never took the blacklist off.

So, the first thing I would do is have a tech at your brother's company get in touch with a tech from Road Runner and explain the situation.

That tech should be able to get your brother's tech in touch with the right person to check the e-mail blacklists, and fix the problem.
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