Someone is sending spam from my email: what do I do?

Someone is sending spam from my email: what do I do?

Have you been accused of sending spam to your friends? In this post I’ll try to explain why that might be, and what you can do about it.

Before we start, if you are accused of spamming your friends because you are forwarding ‘send this message to 20 of your friends if you want eternal happiness’ emails… you ARE spamming, so stop it!

But back to real spamming problems…

Case 1: You can see spam in your own Sent Mail folder.

This is the worst case scenario! The security of your email account has been compromised, and possibly even your computer too. There are a number of explanations:

  • Phishing: someone has caught your email password through a fake website where you have entered it.
  • Local theft: someone has accessed your computer in person, or you may have left your account signed in on a public computer
  • Virus or key-logger: malware is always getting cleverer when it comes to stealing your information.
  • Server hacked: if someone hacks your email server, they could retrieve passwords.

Whatever the reason, here is the solution:

  • Change your password, and this time use one as strong as possible.
  • In your settings check your email signature hasn’t been tampered with, and make sure ‘automatic responses‘ have been turned off.
  • Check that any options to automatically forward or import from unknown accounts are disabled.
  • Update your antivirus software, and perform a full system scan
  • Install a link checker on your browser. Here’s one for Chrome, and one for Firefox. This will warn you in future about possibly dangerous links.

Now would be a good time to send an apology to your contacts – but be sure to put all your addresses in the BCC field, so you don’t start another chain of mass emailing!

Case 2: the spam email is not in your send mail folder.

If spam doesn’t appear in your Sent Mail folder, then someone is ‘impersonating’ your email. This is called ‘Spoofing‘. The good thing about spoofing is there hasn’t been a security breach.
Why would a spammer want to send email using your name? It’s all about reputation. People are more likely to open mail and click links from people they know and trust rather than ‘’, for example. This might be happening for the following reasons:

  • a web crawler has picked up your email address by trawling websites automatically.
  • someone collected your address from a chain email you joined.
  • one of your friends or contacts was infected by a virus that stole their email contacts.

Unfortunately you can’t do a lot against spoofing. You may be able to find the real culprit by searching the header of the spam email, and inform your ISP of the offender. However, in general you are not guilty here, and luckily, spoofed emails are getting picked up much better by spam filters today.

Has anyone ever complained to you about spam from your email?

[Adapted from OnSoftware ES]

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