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Are self-sending email spam legal? It looks more legitimate when email spammers put something in the From: field and not their own email address.  

Self Sending Spam

When a spammer email 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 "spam keywords" at an ISP, a web host and at the user's own mail system and potentially other places as well).


An especially annoying type of spam are called "self sending spam". This is a spam message which you receive and the From: Field address is your own email address, or some variation of it.

For example, might receive an email with a From:

Sometimes the email has your exact email address in the From:field, making it appear you've sent the message to yourself--the purpose of that is to bypass yours or your ISP spam filters.  
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Why do 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.

It appears to make it harder to trace the spammer. Actually, spammers tend to forge/fake just about everything in the email message, and thus are often difficult to trace and making the From: Field address the same as the recipient, makes it appear hopeless to try and find the sender unless you look into the message header.

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).

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 are not very appealing. So why not use the recipient own name? It sure makes creating the spam message easy.

What kinds of issues does
self-sending spam cause?

Self-sending spam causes problems for auto responders. An auto-responder 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.


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When one of these
self-sending spam messages is sent to an auto-responder, a message is returned - to the sender, which, in this case, is the auto-responder address.

Unless the auto-responder code can detect this condition, a nasty looping condition can result. An email server can literally send thousands or hundreds of thousands of messages to itself until all the mailbox space are used up and all your legitimate bounced/returned (I've seen it happen and it's not pretty).

Bounce messages. Spam emails sent to others in your name will create bounce messages and will likely get returned to you instead of the sender/spammer.

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? See: Email Filtering

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.

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