Why are some emails not reaching my Inbox (or even my Spam folder)?

By: standss , Jul 14th, 2010

I was sitting at a friend’s office on Saturday when he told me that he was having problems with emails from a particular person. They had send (and resent) emails to him several times but he did not receive them… and they weren’t in his spam folder… and the sender was not receiving any bounce back or undeliverable message?

Where were the emails disappearing to? How many other emails was he losing that he did not know about?

The answer… they were getting caught by the SPAM filter setup by his ISP. The emails were getting moved by his ISP to a special online Junk Mails folder… so they were never making it down from the Internet to his computer.

The solution… use your webmail client (Your ISP should have given you a URL) to login to your mail online and then check your online Junk Emails folder.

I know I wrote about this topic last week (Why Outlook users NEED to check emails using their ISPs webmail client too) but in light of what James discovered on his webmail, I thought it was worth writing about again.

(James has more than 200 emails in his online Spam Folder with a reasonable number of them actual work emails)

Do you find that online spam filters block too many of your emails? Let me know by leaving a comment on the blog.

11 Replies to “Why are some emails not reaching my Inbox (or even my Spam folder)?”

  1. This is a perfect example of what I was talking about a week or two ago when I commented on why it makes sense to rely primarily on an automatically updating whitelist for spam control.

    The challenge with spam control is not keeping bad stuff out. That’s easy. The challenge is letting ALL the good stuff in. Doing that requires SOME amount of human intervention. We want to make that as easy as possible.

    My advice:

    1) Go to the control panel for your ISP/Hosting company and set the spam filter to a low enough setting that you can be sure it won’t block any good mail. (This will probably take some testing/trial and error. In my case, my hosting company uses SpamAssassin. I set it on “5” and had it flag emails it thought were spam rather than delete them. I ran it that way for three months to satisfy myself that it wasn’t flagging any good messages – it wasn’t – and then went back and changed the setting to “delete.”) If your ISP won’t let you adjust the settings on the spam filter they use, turn it off.

    2) In Outlook (2007 in my case), go to Actions/Junk E-mail. On the OPTIONS tab, choose “Safe Lists Only.” Whatever you do, DO NOT (!!!) choose “Permanently delete suspected junk e-mail. . .” as this would prevent you from checking blocked messages in your spam folder.

    3) On the Safe Senders tab, check the two boxes at the bottom (“Also trust e-mail from my Contacts” and “Automatically add people I e-mail to the Safe Senders list”).

    That’s it. You will have to check your spam folder once or twice a day, but as the post indicates, you’re going to have to do that anyway. You may as well do it on your computer instead of on your ISP’s website.

    A final tip: When you “un-spam” messages from spam folder, sending any reply (i.e., “Thank you for your email”) will add them to your safe senders list, so their email will always come through in the future.

  2. Some other possibilities for missing email include:

    1. Email providers may block relays which are seen to be spamming. Even if spam is not actively monitored, if a relay is passing on massive amounts of spam it may overload email servers. If servers are overloading, or a large proportion of spam is seen, then relay(s) may be blocked by the mail provider (at least til traffic/spam subsides). In many cases ALL mail being blocked (including non-spam) would never be delivered nor bounced (it silently disappears)

    2. SORBS and such blacklists may be used to block incoming mail coming from certain IP/IP range(s) – usually this will mail the sender to tell them that they have been blacklisted and steps they need to take to remove themselves from the list. Sender’s IP can be blacklisted because of some past “bad” activity – eg spamming even if it was a virus/trojan. If IP is dynamic, blacklisting can also be inherited from someone who was assigned the IP earlier. In most cases the intended recipient of the mail will never be notified.

    3. Blacklisting can be employed on outgoing email as well (the simplest example is an enterprise that disallows mail sending outside the organisation or country). I have an email provider based in USA and many European companies seem to disallow emailing to my address. I’ve not been able to determine why, apparently because explaining why filtering is “needed” on outgoing emails “could compromise enterprise security”. Usually the sender will have the email bounced back to them, but sometimes it will just disappear silently

    4. Some email providers may delete emails that are seen to contain a virus (may or may not be notified to sender/intended recipient)

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  6. Thanks for this info. I look after my dad’s email account and we’d been waiting for an important email containing bank details for transferring inheritance money. I’d not received any of the SIX emails that had been sent. I didn’t even know this online junk folder was a thing! But there they all were.

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