Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Spammers use various techniques to try and force their way into your inbox. One of the most frustrating is spoofing where the message is coming from.

I just received a spam email and when I added it to the block sender file, my email address came up. What's going on here?

It's very frustrating, but you're experiencing one of the many ways that spammers try to force their way into your inbox.

Here's what's going on:

The spammer is "spoofing" the "From:" address. By that I mean that they're not using their real address, but making one up. Or using some other random address as the "From:" address. Or yours.

In fact, they often get creative: you'll often see some other name, but the email address is completely different and unrelated. So often you'll see a unfamiliar name in the "From:" line, but if you look at the email address that's associated with that name, you'll see it's completely different, and possibly even your own:

From: Leo A. Notenboom <someoneelse@example.com>

It looks like someone, but has the email address of someone else. Just another way to hide what's really happening in spam.

"If spammers are constructing 'From:' addresses with your email address there's literally nothing you can do."

So why do spammers go through all these steps? Two reasons: first, they naturally want to hide where they're sending from specifically so you can't block them. Second, by setting the "From" address to be yours, if the mail bounces you'll still get it as the mail system attempts return the mail to the sender identified by the "From:" address.

How did they get your email address? There are so many ways. Two of the biggest ways are harvesting them from web pages or forums where you've provided your email address, and viruses that steal address books.

What can you do about it?

Nothing.

If spammers are constructing "From:" addresses with your email address there's literally nothing you can do. You wouldn't want to block it because as you've seen, you'd be blocking yourself.

The best you can do is hope that your other spam-fighting techniques such as content filtering catch the spam before you see it. Beyond that, I find the delete key exceptionally valuable.

Article C3018 - May 9, 2007 « »

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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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8 Comments
Ken
May 10, 2007 8:32 AM

This is why filtering spam based on the "from" is ineffective.

Also, I always thought that the reason a spammer would set the "from" to the same as the recipient is that many people whitelist themselves, which would allow the spam to avoid any filters you have in place. (Another reason not to whitelist yourself.)

Lara White
August 22, 2008 1:51 PM

I am not having any trouble using someone else's e-mail but when I go to create my own I am blocked and I get this page cannot be displayed and then it says check your settings so I see cookies and files. I don't know what to delete because if i delete the wrong thing I can make it worse. Please help Lara

angry
November 11, 2008 6:37 AM

Well. its time people come up with a solution.Because the answer "there is nothing you can do about it" is the wrong answer.I did block my own email address, but spam mails from myself keep on coming, and they are imported into my outlook as well.Even though I blocked it.Is this legal? This people stole my address and use against my will. Can I sue them?

tracy
December 6, 2008 5:30 AM

"there is nothing you can do about it" is the wrong answer"
Indeed, the right one is: http://corlive.com ,why do people still use emails???

SSmith
November 13, 2009 8:26 PM

If I block an email address what does it look like to the sender. Are they aware that their email is blocked?

It all depends on what email system you're using, they're using and how you block it. Typically the answer is they're not, but it's possible that they could find out.
Leo
14-Nov-2009

Maria
March 1, 2010 2:09 AM

if you have inadvertently "blocked" your own e-mail address (in Yahoo), how can you release the block? i have gone into my spam blocking options and removed myself from the blocking but it automatically goes right back in. any help you can give would be appreciated. thanks

Mariela GAzsi
October 12, 2011 2:11 PM

Can I still send an e-mail to an e-mail address I have blocked?

Yes
Leo
13-Oct-2011

anas khan
May 8, 2012 4:02 AM

if you have inadvertertly blocked your own e-mail address in yahoo and facebook how can you release the block i have into my spam blocking options and removed myself from the blocking

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