Support THIS.

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 @
To: abuse @
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]

Response #1, from a tech named 'Maria':

Hello Amy,

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]

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.

Maria O.
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 @
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]

Response #2, from a tech named 'Lotis':

Hello Amy,

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.


Lotis D.
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.

all tags: 


this sounds like a job for Starlady and her Cluestick!!!

Why were you having to dump from your Junk Mail folder at all? I just have mine set to can stuff from there if it's been in there over N days, where N=7 at present. I'd just do that if it weren't affecting my service otherwise...

Because it was going to max out my account's space if I didn't.

I have long suspected that mail sent to request help for these kinds of issues are divvied out based on keywords searched out in your mail, and then the person responding only reads the first 2 lines of your email. Here's to hoping your bags of spam soon stop!

Ahhh, yes, the "you only have N MB of space on your Hotmail account for free ... but we'll sell you MORE for $gajillion a month!" bit. Forgot about that. Of course, I get *zero* legit emails at my hotmail account. I have it only to connect to MSN Messenger.

They were trying to phase us towards form emails at Hiwaay shortly before I quit. There are some emails in which a form mail reply is perfectly reasonable (e.g. How do I connect to the Internet?). But, in a case like this, a form mail is unconsciable. I'm not one bit surprised, though. Hope the spam stops soon

Another winner for Microsoft! Sorry, Amy. :(

In my experience these kinds of emails are pieced together from pre-existing blurbs prepared by corporate, because God forbid that the company would want their minions to actually try to rub two brain cells together and think about what the problem is actually about. Taking the time to investigate an actual solution would take precious time and it's all about quantity, not quality, when it comes to this kind of support. Oooh, I said that in my outside voice, didn't I?

i think it would be neat if you could set one of their precious filters up to automatically forward all of the e-mails from that address to hotmail's address. of course they'd probably delete your account but i would like to think it would get the point across. :)

Actually, it wouldn't be too hard to set up a filter to do that. It just all depends on the type of filters they have set for their incoming mail as to whether or not it would be worth it.

Pity you couldn't forward them all to their tech support ...

Methinks that their tech support might not be set up to deal with clueful users. :)

I've always loved hotmail *extreme sarcasm there* . I once created an email with them for the purpose of recieving mail from one single email list that had so much traffic I didn't want it coming to my regular account. I religiously went through and unchecked all the "let us send you...." boxes in the sign up, and had not told anyone on the planet that this address was being created. Then I got busy and forgot to actually subscride to the mailing list, so there was no record of the account anywhere but on their server and I had told them not to send me anything or relese my email to anyone, or list me in any directory, etc. A week later I logged into the account and already had almost 300 spam. more than appears in any of my accounts that I have used publically for years.

I wonder, Amy, when Hotmail is so famous for being a spammers' heaven, why on the earth do you still use it? If I were you, I would run away as quickly as possible. There are free webmail providers that aren't so corrupted and yet offer similar level of services as Hotmail does.

Uhhh....except as a spam drop, I don't use it. I have my @domesticat domain, which works very nicely for my real mail. I've had this particular @hotmail backup for many years now, and it serves its purpose—as a spam drop for businesses and websites whom I don't trust. That's all it's for. That, and it's just a good idea to have a secondary email address on a different network in case things on your primary network fubar. (See also, this past week.)

*nod* it isnt about whether hotmail is good or not, it is simply that, we use it for various reasons (messenger acct, subscribable email addy for weird stuff, email that doesnt go away if we change ISP/jobs etc) or whether other providers offer a similar service. The point is: this is a simple fix for any admin with two or three braincells, and it should require ONE email to tech support, who should respond with "thank you for the heads up, we have added that particular spam source to our blacklist, and we are contacting the upstream providers from the source also. please contact us if you have any further issues of this magnitude, we appreciate your help". THAT is what should happen. THAT is why this is hilarious and amusing, because the solution is so obvious, and the techs are so incompetently ignorant...

Will, one of the reasons I adore you: you speak your own particular brand of WillGlish. It looks like English, but there are all kinds of subtle changes (spelling, syntax, grammar, etc.) that make it plainly obvious that it really isn't English. /me files away 'incompetently ignorant' for her next flamefest

heh. willglish... i likes. =) i am totally convinced that you can understand what im driving at... english is in the context not the syntax. I will admit that its not as easy to read willglish (ok, i am fully in LOVE with that term now. damn you) but the gist is there. (i definately have a problem that is deeper than typo's.. i tend to change words/tense/etc halfway through, and not actually remember that i need to change the stuff before... especially obvious when i change my mind about the word im gonig to use mid-word... or decide to tack on a thought that goes with the begininng of the current sentence or paragraph, but dont actually move teh cursor and just add it instream... maybe its same mutated form of dyslexia? who knows.. where was i? oh yes, close bracket) ok ok. so its it is total giberish. but Im damn cute and thats gotta count for something. i prormise i will try harder to reduce the willglish on '

and, after reading that mess, i can safely say, the best way for me to reduce the willglish on is to simply NOT POST. =)

Nah, keep posting, I find it amusing! :) You actually remind me of my friend Daniel, who grew up in the fUSSR before coming to NYC when the Soviet Jews left en masse. He writes rather well, but he just has funny syntax. [But he's also a CS person.] Actually, time spent reading William Faulkner and the fact that I read your comments as stream-of-conscious seem to make it flow rather smoothly. As to you being cute, well, Becka thinks you're cute, too, Will. ;)

I completely agree that Hotmail has handled this situation in the worst manner. In defense, though, of an email service so far as spammers are concerned (I know this, because it was one of our most regularly handled situations at Hiwaay): A small ISP/email provider can afford to block any spammer that spams within their network because they don't have a lot of customers, so there are not as many spam block requests. This was the situation Hiwaay is in. Even then, though, we had to be extremely careful about blocking addresses. Usually, when blocking stuff, it doesn't just mean blocking one address, it means blocking a whole group of addresses if not the whole domain that the spam came from (ie Now, the larger email providers such as AOHell and Hotmail can't necessarily follow the same practice. If they did, they would have to have a whole army of techs that just handled spam complaints. Also, if they started to block all of the spam that came into their network, they would wind up blocking everyone including themselves. That rather defeats the point of having email when you can't receive email from other people. Now, these two techs that handled this case were just plain stupid and that's what I found amusing in this case. They have a book of common replies and solutions to typical responses and when your email didn't fit any of those, I'm sure they went to the next best thing that they could find (which, of course, had nothing to do with this particular problem) and responded using that form. *sigh* That's my biggest beef about tech support nowadays. Rather than getting quality tech people in there and paying them decently, these people are farming their tech out to people with binders full of problems with stamped out solutions. So, instead of encouraging techs to individualize each problem, I wouldn't dare even calling these people techs because most of them don't have a clue what they're doing. They just flip through their binders and answer form questions with form answers (because that's mostly what comes through tech support anyway) and the rare occasion when someone intelligent (cue the domesticat) comes along and asks an intelligent question, they're completely dumbfounded. My only suggestion to you is that if this gets wholeheartedly frustrating, call tech support, give them your trouble number and then demand that this be escalated to the next level of tech support until you get someone who doesn't have a binder and can actually do something for you. Happy tech hunting.

You have to wonder when Hotmail and some of these other groups will outsource their blacklisting to folks that do it for fun/free/etc.

Well, that's the thing. They don't really blacklist. The worst they'll do is that if it's coming from inside, they'll discontinue the user's account.