Self Sending Spam

Posted on October 30, 2002

By Richard Lowe, Jr.

When a spammer sends a message, he has several goals. First, the message must make it through one or more spam filters. These filters may scan the message for "spammy keywords" at an ISP, a web host and at the user's own system (and potentially other places as well).

An especially annoying type of spam is called a "self sending spam". This is a spam message which you receive and the "From:" address is your own email address, or some variation of it. For example, might receive an email with a from of " Sometimes the email has your exact same email address in the "From:" field, making it appear you've sent the message to yourself.

Why do the spammers bother to do this?

It makes the receiver more likely to open the message - Studies have shown that people like seeing their own name. Researchers have found much higher response rates from emails sent in which the sender had the same first name as the receiver.

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It appears to make it harder to trace the spammer - Actually, spammers tend to forge just about everything in the email message, and thus are often difficult to trace. However, making the "From:" address the same makes it appear hopeless to try and find the sender. After all, it is obviously (unless you look deeper into the message header) wrong. So why do any more searching?

It confuses some automated spam reporting programs and scripts - Some programs and scripts have the ability to report spam (automatically or upon command) to various places. The software attempts to determine who sent the spam so it can be reported to the ISP, web host and anyone else who can do something about it. Some of the less intelligent spam reporting software will become confused by self-sending spam and actually cause the receiver of the spam to report himself as a spammer (this actually happened to me once).

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It looks more legitimate - Spammers have to put something in the "From:" field - it may as well be your name or something close to it. They cannot use their own email address (for fear of being shut down) and some strange, random string of characters is not very appealing. So why not just use your own name? It sure makes creating the spam message esay.

What kinds of issues does self-sending spam cause?

Autoresponders - Self-sending spam causes problems for autoresponders. An autoresponder is an email address which returns a message to the sender (the "From:" or "Reply-to:" address). This is a very common method for returning information to people upon request. When one of these self-sending spam messages is sent to an autoresponder, a message is returned - to the sender, which, in this case, is the autoresponder address. Unless the autoresponder code can detect this condition (and most modern ones do), a nasty looping condition can result. An email server can literally send thousands or hundreds of thousands of messages to itself (I've seen it happen and it's not pretty).

Bounce messages - Bounce messages may get returned to you instead of the sender. Not very useful.

Is self-sending spam legal?

As with most legal questions on the internet, the answer is short but not very satisfying. It depends. Some countries have other things to worry about than spam, or they simply do not care. Even if they did, trying to mount a legal challenge in another country might be difficult. In actual fact, trying to even find a spammer can be quite a challenge, and suing, even in your own country, can be a hopeless task.

What can you do?

Get good spam filters and just eliminate as much of this junk mail as you can. Never, ever purchase anything from a spammer. In fact, just delete the messages without even opening them.

About the Author

Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at - Visit our website any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.


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