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donutz's Journal: The Great Hotmail Conspiracy? 2

Journal by donutz

I am an occasional Hotmail user. I use my Hotmail email address to register at websites requiring an email address, and it's listed on my website so people can send me feedback. The likelihood of getting spam (or any other unwanted commercial pitches) is pretty high. Even when you do your best to hit all the opt-out checkboxes on a registration page, you might miss something and get mail you don't want. Perfect use for a Hotmail account then: if I get junk mail, at least it's not in my primary inbox.

So you can imagine my dismay when one day I log into Hotmail and see a message that my account has been deactivated because it exceeds Hotmail's 2 meg limit. I see only about 30 messages (75% of them spam that Hotmail's spam filters failed to catch) in my Inbox, none of which with large attachments.

I look to the sidebar, and see that there's 900+ messages in the Junk Mail folder, where Hotmail's spam filters place messages that it determines are spam. In the past, I've had issues with the filters putting valid mailing list messages from Tech Republic in the Junk Mail folder, but lately it's been pretty reliable: Every single message in that folder is spam. (Not that it catches all the spam...we can only guess what their spam detection algorithm may be...)

So I click on that folder, and what do I find? I've been mailbombed. Spam mailbombed. To be fair, it's not the first time I've gotten a spam mailbomb at Hotmail, and this certainly wasn't to be the last.

And herein our suspicions of a conspiracy start to form. A C|Net news story hinted at user suspicions that this sudden influx of junkmail (I wasn't the only one affected) may be tied to Microsoft's latest pitch to sell increased storage space to people. A little shady indeed, when you receive an email message from Hotmail trying to sell you additional storage space when spam fills up your junk mail folder. And is it really fair for them to charge us storage space for mail that their spam filters identify as spam? I dont think so.

I've received several of those notices and emails in the past weeks. Fortunately there is something of a cure: Setting your Hotmail account to automatically delete spam as it arrives, instead of every 7 days. This means putting full trust into the trustworthiness of the Hotmail spam filter. But the choice is either that, or to bring out your wallet and pay Microsoft.

On a related note, Slashdot reported a few days ago that Yahoo will begin charging for POP3 and Forwarding services. As a Yahoo Mail user, I received the email informing me of this. While I can't say I like it, It sounds fair enough, and getting your mail through their Web interface remains free.

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The Great Hotmail Conspiracy?

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  • Following is a transcript of my email back-and-forth with Hotmail support. Start at the bottom and work your way back to the top. I have to give them credit; in my last reply I told them not to email me their script on how to deal with spam. To their credit, they did not. Instead they sent me another scripted reply that I've seen before. Oh well.

    Enjoy reading!
    === Begin Email below ===

    From : "MSN Hotmail Support" "support_x@css.one.microsoft.com"
    To : "donutz@hotmail.com"
    Subject : RE: RE: RE: CST62341750ID - Comment / CurrentHM / Neg
    Date : Thu, 28 Mar 2002 14:50:38 -0800

    Hello donutz,

    We received your message concerning the problem you are experiencing using MSN Hotmail. Our Technical Support Staff is aware of this situation and is currently working on a fix to the problem. Unfortunately, we can not give you a specific time on when a solution will be determined, but please be aware that our staff is working diligently on the matter.

    Hotmail is continually looking for ways to improve our service. We strive to make positive changes to our product, based on feedback we receive from our customers. We apologize for any inconveniences this may have caused you and appreciate your continued patience.

    Remember that MSN Hotmail also has comprehensive online help available--just click "Help" in the upper right corner.

    MSN Hotmail Customer Support

    --- Original Message ---
    From: donutz@hotmail.com
    To: "MSN Hotmail Support" "support_x@css.one.microsoft.com"
    Sent: Thu Mar 28 14:30:58 PST 2002
    Subject: RE: RE: CST62341750ID - Comment / CurrentHM / Neg

    Do you want to know the funny/ironic thing about the spam I get that deactivates my account because I've got 900+ mailbomb messages filtered by *your* filters into the Junk Mail folder?

    The funny thing is that I can't even forward such a message to your spam abuse email address or anyone else's, because my account is deactivated. And I can't copy one instance of that mailbomb message from the Junk Mail folder to my Inbox without being prompted to allow all email from that address to come to my inbox and not be filtered to Junk (which I most certainly do not want to do). So my choices are limited to: 1) Manually delete every other message from the Junk Mail folder till I'm below the size limit for my account so my account can be reactivated, or 2) Empty the Junk Mail folder and thereby remove every trace of the message so I'm unable to email it to you. Lovely solution huh? At least for you guys....you can thereby avoid fixing the problem because you can claim ignorance.

    Spare me any more automated responses about how I can deal with SPAM. Give me some real help for this problem that I and many thousands of other users are facing with your service.

    Adam

    ----Original Message Follows----
    From: "MSN Hotmail Support" "support_x@css.one.microsoft.com"
    To: "donutz@hotmail.com"
    Subject: RE: RE: CST62341750ID - Comment / CurrentHM / Neg
    Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 09:52:11 -0800

    Hello Adam,

    Thank you for your inquiry about the "spam" that you have received.

    There are several places where a sender of unsolicited bulk e-mail (or "spam") can find your e-mail address: chat rooms, bulletin boards or newsgroups, unsecured public e-mail directory listings, or any site that requests your e-mail address. There are programs widely available on the Internet that allow "spammers," the originators of this type of email, to forge the From line to any name.

    There is no technology which can entirely stop this behavior.

    If you wish to direct your complaints appropriately, we would suggest that you start by tracing the origin of the message. Under "Options," choose "Mail Display Settings." Then, under "Message Headers," choose either "Full" or "Advanced," and click "OK".

    A good tutorial on how to read these message headers can be found at:

    http://ddi.digital.net/~gandalf/spamfaq.html

    You may also find some of the links below useful in your efforts:

    http://www.hotmail.com/cgi-bin/dasp/hminfo_shell.a sp?content=tos
    http://www.cauce.org/
    http://www.spamcon.org/
    http://spam.abuse.net/

    We are constantly working on new way to improve our service, and we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you.

    Remember that MSN Hotmail also has comprehensive online help available--just click "Help" in the upper right corner.

    MSN Hotmail Customer Support

    --- Original Message ---
    From: donutz@hotmail.com
    To: "MSN Hotmail Support" "support_x@css.one.microsoft.com"
    Sent: Wed Mar 27 20:45:28 PST 2002
    Subject: RE: CST62341750ID - Comment / CurrentHM / Neg

    Dear Hotmail Support,

    I have since this first incident received two more mailbombs, and both times found my account to be disabled due to the size of these messages counting against my limit.

    Is it that difficult for Hotmail to just DELETE each copy of a mailbomb message? When there's 600+ or 900+ of the same exact text, same header, same everything, it seems like quite a good clue.

    I've read on a news website that I am not alone in suffering from this, and even rumors that the mailbombs are perpetrated or facilitated by Microsoft, in order to coax more free hotmail users into paying accounts. I can only hope that such tactics are not being considered, and that in fact tactics to stem the flow of spam are put into place. I'm not subjecting myself to the advertisements this service gives me for nothing.....I expect a reliable email service in return.

    Adam

    ----Original Message Follows----
    From: "MSN Hotmail Support" "support_x@css.one.microsoft.com"
    To: "donutz@hotmail.com"
    Subject: RE: CST62341750ID - Comment / CurrentHM / Neg
    Date: Fri, 8 Mar 2002 12:42:36 -0800

    Hello donutz,

    Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail about the mailbomb you reported.

    This is Neovanni. We 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.

    We apologize for any inconvenience you've experienced.

    Sincerely
    Neovanni T.
    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. Customer Service Survey: http://msn.surveyhost.com/hotmail/

    --- Original Message ---
    From: donutz@hotmail.com
    To: "MSN Hotmail Support" "support_x@css.one.microsoft.com"
    Sent: Fri Mar 8 11:18:47 PST 2002
    Subject: Comment / CurrentHM / Neg

    I just got a message from "member services" saying my account is too big so its disabled...

    Ok, well it's pretty crappy that access to my account gets cut off when some spam dealer f**ks up and sends me a thousand copies of the same message....all of which, I might add, end up in my Junk Mail folder anyway....I just think it's pretty stupid that you cut off access to people legitimately trying to email me because someone sends me crap that your filters filtered as junk anyway! Junk mail shouldnt count against my limit...Only mail that ends up in my inbox and other mailboxes. Maybe that's a feature you should consider. I know I'm looking at other free email services to see if I can do better than this there.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern

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