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Blank messages in your drafts folder don't necessarily indicate a hacker. There could be a less nefarious explanation.

I own a Macbook Pro. Lately, I've been receiving blank and empty messages in my Drafts folder. I did a search and I only found one reference which suggested the account might be hacked and to change the password. I changed my password and the following day I received two blank messages in the Draft folder. I ran Sophos, which turned up nothing. Is this a form of spam? Do I need to be concerned and take further steps? If so, can you guide me?

In this excerpt from Answercast #100 I look at some possible reasons for blank messages to be showing up in an email account.

Blank messages in drafts folder

Well, certainly hacking is a possibility. I can't discount that completely. It's not the first thing I think of.

What I would have you do, just to eliminate that possibility, is have a look at an article that I've got right now called, "Email hacked: 7 things you need to do now". That will walk you through seven steps you need to take, beyond just changing your password, to secure your account from a potential hacking.

If someone else has access to your email account then this article will run down the things you need to do to make sure that you regain sole control of your email account.

Drafts in Hotmail

Now, with that out of the way.

It's interesting. I occasionally use Gmail's web interface and I know that you're using Hotmail. I didn't read it in the question but I see that you do.

What often happens to me is that I will accidentally compose a new message. By "accidentally," I'll say that I hit some keystroke combination (a shortcut key actually in Gmail) that is the equivalent of making a new message. If I don't notice that I did that, and I go back to my inbox, what Gmail does is it saves this message that it thinks I'm composing. Even though I haven't done anything with it yet, it saves this message into my Drafts folder.

So I'm wondering if something like that could be happening to you - where accidentally you are telling Hotmail to compose a new message. Then when you don't do anything with that message (you go back to your inbox or whatever, however you navigate Hotmail) it says, "Oh, this message, he told me to create is a new message... but he's not sending it, so I better save it in Drafts."

My guess is that is the most likely scenario. That's probably what you ought to be looking at.

So the first thing I would have you do is to figure out if Hotmail does in fact have shortcut keystrokes for composing a new mail. I'd bet money that they do. I'd actually would bet a couple of pennies on it being something like Control-N or something related to the letter "N" for "new."

See if maybe you're accidently hitting it from time to time. That would explain this completely.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6375 - March 31, 2013 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Steven
April 2, 2013 8:50 AM

Only one problem in the case of Hotmail (which s being replaced by Outlook.com rapidly as I write and I've already been changed over automatically)...Hotmail AND Outlook.com ask you something like "You're about to throw away this message, do you really want to?" if you move away from the message without saving it yourself or sending. You can auto-save an empty draft (I've seen it once or twice) but you'd know you were still in the composing mode unless your computer lost power or accidentally shut down. Some programs suspend shutdown to ask for an action on open files but if notm you would not notice but would find the version of the draft last saved in Drafts.

Outlook.com is actually much like the last version of Hotmail in basic functionality so this applies to both.

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