Most of the regular readers of this site know that domesticat's web server was down for a few days due to a very bizarre set of circumstances. Fewer of you know that I maintain a Hotmail drop box, which I use to protect my real addresses from spam.
Since I had a bit of warning that the server was going down last week, I sent out an email to friends saying that they should use my Hotmail dropbox until my @domesticat addresses were usable again.
All well and good, except that this weekend I was the victim of a computer glitch. Not on my computers, mind you, but on the part of some random spammer. As best I can tell, they were happily spewing their spam emails when their machine hiccuped. On my email address, of course. (Mr. Murphy—about that law—we need to talk. I have some issues.)The end result: hundreds upon hundreds of copies of the same spam email, flooding my hotmail account and rendering it virtually unusable. More amusing, though, were the emails exchanged back and forth between two Hotmail techs and I. When you read these emails, ask yourself this: what problems are these techs trying to solve, and what, exactly, do they have in common with the actual problem I'm having?
(My snide play-by-play commentary may be found by mousing over text with dotted underlines.)
Email #1 to the techs:
From: domesticat @ hotmail.com
To: abuse @ css.one.microsoft.com
Sent: Sat Jun 22 04:38:07 UTC+0900 2002
Subject: Fwd: ~^~^~^~^~^ Order Viagra and Phentermine Online NOW ~^~^~^~^~^
Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed
Normally I don't even bother asking you guys for help with spam-related issues, but this is rapidly getting out of hand.
I have received over six hundred (yes, six HUNDRED) copies of this message within the past 24 hours. I have no idea if I'm the only person getting this many copies, or if this is a bigger problem.
All messages are exactly the same.
They're getting dumped to my spam box, but still, this is ridiculous. Is there any way that these messages can be blocked? I'm getting pretty sick of having to log in every few hours to clear my account of these messages.
Sample message follows. [not included, sorry guys!]
(domesticat [at] hotmail.com)
Response #1, from a tech named 'Maria':
Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail. This is Maria and I am writing in response to your complaint about the multiple mails you have received. I am very sorry for the inconvenience it has caused you.
I understand how important it is to you to have this issue resolved at once. I have cleared all copies of the e-mail in question and your account should now be functioning properly. If you continue to encounter a problem with your account, please reply to this e-mail message with a detailed description. Let us know exactly what you do, step-by-step, and where the process fails Please include the exact wording of any error messages you encounter.
To protect yourself from unwanted mail, turn on the Junk Mail Filter to Exclusive. An "Exclusive" filter means that messages reach your Inbox only if they are from an address in your Address Book. This is the best protection against Junk Mail. By setting your Junk Mail Filter to "Exclusive", you accept only e-mail from your friends. This is e-mail equivalent of "don’t talk to strangers".
NOTE: If you receive reminders through Hotmail, and you have set your filter to "Exclusive", you will need to add yourself to your own Address Book. Otherwise, all your reminders will be sent directly to your Junk Mail folder.
Hotmail helps you to maintain your Address Book by offering to add e-mail addresses to your Address Book when you send out e-mail.
Note: If you want to accept mail from an address but don’t want that address in your Address Book, you can add an address to your "Safe List" (You may want to use this for newsletters, for example).
Remember to check your Junk Mail folder at regular intervals to ensure that the filter is catching only the messages you want to delete. For example, mailing list mail and mail forwarded from another e-mail address may be filtered to the Junk Mail folder. To ensure that these e-mail messages go to your Inbox, create Hotmail filters or add the senders of these messages to your Safe List.
>>> To add an address to your Safe List
1. Click "Options" to the right of the "Address Book" tab. The "Options" page appears.
2. Under "Mail Handling", click "Safe List". The "Safe List" page appears.
3. Into the box at the left of the page, type the address.
4. Click the "Add >>" button to add the address.
5. Click "OK" to save your settings or "Cancel" to return to the "Options" page.
You can also report these violators to their email domain. For instance, if the spammer is from Hotmail, you can send a mail to abuse [at] hotmail.com.
Remember that MSN Hotmail also has comprehensive online help available--just click "Help" in the upper right corner. I hope I have provided you the assistance that you need. If you still have questions or continued problems, please feel free to email me.
MSN Hotmail Customer Support
Your satisfaction with my Customer Service is very important to me. If you consider your issue resolved, please click on the link below to let me know how I am doing. With your comments, please include my name and ticket number (found in this mail's subject line) to help me keep track of my performance.
After I quit laughing and shaking my head, I sent the following reply. Email #2 to the techs:
From: domesticat @ hotmail.com
To: "MSN Hotmail Support"
Sent: Sat Jun 22 18:43:22 PDT 2002
Subject: Re: CST74399643ID - RE:Fwd: ~^~^~^~^~^ Order Viagra and Phentermine Online NOW ~^~^~^~^~^
Hello. While I appreciate the email, I'm not entirely certain you understood the nature of the problem.
It's not that I am unaware of how to clear out the emails from my Junk Mail folder; it's that I've received over five HUNDRED copies of this message today alone (and over three hundred yesterday) and, quite frankly, this is a) getting old and b) is undoubtedly causing server overhead. The messages are continuing to roll in—I have close to 150 copies sitting in my junk mail box right now, and those have all come in during the time I took to see a *movie* this evening. Can't wait to see how many I've got by the time I get up tomorrow morning…
You're welcome to take a look at my Junk Mail box—I'm not going to bother cleaning it out AGAIN tonight—just so you can see how many copies of this one message I'm getting. Spam of this magnitude/frequency is bordering on something that should be dealt with at the server level, not at the user level. This is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
(domesticat [at] hotmail.com)
Response #2, from a tech named 'Lotis':
Thank you for writing us back.
This is Lotis and I am writing in response to your spam compalint.
In line with our commitment to protect the privacy of our members, MSN Hotmail may not be able to regulate the number as well as the kind of message you receive in your account. However, we do provide the feature of block/filter options, which gives our members more control on the type of messages they receive and Junk Mail Filter which when activated will filter messages that are not directly addressed to you.
There are many ways wherein spammers get email addresses to which they send their mails. Chat rooms, bulletin boards or newsgroups, unsecured public e-mail directory listings, or any site that requests your e-mail address are just some of their sources.
There are times when they guess the email addresses of others. This is the reason why we greatly discourage our members to respond with "REMOVE" as subject to any spam message for it only confirms that your e-mail address is valid and existing.
However, if the unsolicited message originated from Hotmail and should you wish the account to be dealt with according to our Terms of Service, we suggest that you forward us a copy of the questionable message with full message headers. We will investigate the issue at hand as soon as we receive this information.
We would like to apologize for the inconvenience encountered in using our services. A number of issues have been already raised against the objectionable materials circulating in our system and we assure you that we are doing everything we can to rectify the situation. Our fight against spammers has been an unending battle on our end, but we will always continue to find ways to address this issue and keep up with our commitment in providing our members with a healthy email environment. We do ask for your understanding with regards to this matter.
Hope this will suffice.
MSN Hotmail Customer Support
Meanwhile, the messages just kept rolling in. I don't know how many I got, in the end, but it was well over a thousand. I'd be curious to know which versions of Windows are running 'Maria' and 'Lotis'…
In the meantime, I guess I should go get my credit card. I have a lot of Viagra and Phentermine to order. It's cheaper than what it would cost to buy the sheer volume of clue these guys seem to need. Ouch.