Emails I send are being treated as spam

  br1anstorm 16:21 03 Sep 2019

Most people tend to seek help in trying to block "inward" spam messages. I have recently come across the opposite problem: genuine messages which I send to friends are going straight into their junk or spam folders.

I think I have found at least a partial explanation. But I'd welcome comments and advice.

The basic situation is this.

  • I have several email accounts with different providers. Specifically, I have two Virgin.net accounts, and I have a Plusnet account;
  • my ISP is Plusnet;
  • I use Thunderbird as my email client software;
  • so I have set up Thunderbird to handle mail from those three accounts, and in general it works well. I have organised filters so that I have in effect three Inboxes, one for each email address. Thunderbird also then enables me to choose which account-address to send from when composing messages.

In recent months I have discovered (almost by chance) that some emails I have sent out from my Virgin.net account-address, using Thunderbird, have not reached their addressees' Inboxes but have gone straight into the recipients' spam folders.

In searching for an explanation I came across this comment on another forum:

...many emails are treated as spam if they are not seen to be coming from the SMTP servers of the email provider. A few years ago it wouldn't have been a problem but security measures have been introduced by most ESPs in an attempt to combat spam and phishing.

This seems to explain things - up to a point. Evidently all outward messages sent from Thunderbird on my computer will go via the Plusnet servers, since Plusnet is my ISP. So a message sent from my Virgin.net account-address will appear to the recipient as a Virgin message, but from a Plusnet server. Mismatch! Thus it must be spam!

OK, that may be the explanation. The question now is - what can I do about it? Effectively the ability of Thunderbird to handle and manage multiple email accounts is compromised. That is a real inconvenience.

Of course I could restrict myself to using Thunderbird, and my Plusnet ISP and servers, to handle only messages to and from my Plusnet email account; and to deal with Virgin.net emails by going online using my browser, logging into the Virgin media website, and sending and receiving messages only as "webmail". But that is tedious.

Is there any way of setting up Thunderbird (or indeed any other email client) to handle multiple accounts without running into the problem of the mismatch between account-address and server?

  JoeK 16:32 03 Sep 2019

I would stop using these ISP email addresses, using gmail or hotmail instead. These email are ISP supplied, they provide these emails as part of a package. They are not email specialists so they are not going to work towards deliver-ability as much as gmail or hotmail which are dedicated email providers.

Gmail and hotmail will have strict anti spam features in place which prevent their services being used to send out spam. Anti spam services know this and they trust emails being sent from these services. Virgin and Plusnet and very small fish in the world of email providers, people outside the UK probably have never heard of them and it's possible their security of outbound spam abuse isn't as great as gmail or hotmail's.

  br1anstorm 17:16 03 Sep 2019

Thanks JoeK.... but I think you're answering a question I didn't ask.

As it happens I already have gmail and hotmail accounts. I access and use them entirely as webmail (ie via my browser and their respective websites).

My question is about Thunderbird (or indeed Outlook or similar email client software) and how to set up, or modify, the servers they use.

After all, if I were to try to add my gmail or hotmail accounts into Thunderbird, (1) could I do so? (2) which server(s) would those accounts use? And (3) if then the gmail or hotmail messages I sent were routed via my (PlusNet) ISP servers, wouldn't they, too, be seen as mismatches and thus also treated as spam?

  Secret-Squirrel 17:46 03 Sep 2019

..........many emails are treated as spam if they are not seen to be coming from the SMTP servers of the email provider.

I agree with that statement and it's almost certainly the cause of your problems.

Apologies if you think I'm stating the obvious but have you tried using the Virgin SMTP details for your Virgin accounts? Even though you're not a Virgin customer any longer you should still be able to use their email service because you'll be using an authenticated SMTP server. Previously you were authentcated using your IP address and when Virgin saw you connrcting from a different ISP it would refuse the connection. Those days are long gone now, mainly due to the arrival of mobile devices where folks frequently use different connections throughout the day.

I found this link for you on how to configure Thunderbird with the Virgin SMTP settings for your two Virgin accounts.

  br1anstorm 21:32 03 Sep 2019

Thanks, Secret Squirrel... I think I shall try to go down the road you suggest. It is some years since I originally configured Thunderbird to handle my emails, and as I recall, I stayed largely with whatever was suggested as the default settings.

As well as the guidance you linked to, I found another guide here which explains how to set up different email accounts within Thunderbird AND have them use multiple outgoing servers. I'm still a little hazy about the distinction between separate profiles and separate identities. But it looks as if tweaking the server settings may resolve the problem.

  Secret-Squirrel 09:04 04 Sep 2019

I found another guide here.............

There's no need to overcomplicate things. The Virgin help page looks like that's all you need. I don't have much experience with Thunderbird but all the other email clients I'm familiar with allow you to mix-and-match server settings so Thunderbird shouldn't be any different.

But it looks as if tweaking the server settings may resolve the problem.

Just change the outgoing (SMTP) server settings to the ones in that Virgin link but first make a note of all the original settings in case things don't work out as expected. It should only take you a couple of minutes.

  br1anstorm 18:24 08 Sep 2019

Thanks, Secret-squirrel, you're quite right. Thunderbird (email client) does allow for different server-settings when set up to handle multiple email accounts. So I have set the Virgin servers for my two Virgin accounts, and left it on the default server setting for my Plusnet account (as Plusnet is my ISP). Problem now solved!

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