A number of Scamicide readers have contacted me because they were concerned when they received a mailer-daemon notification in their email that would seem to indicate that their email had been used to send out spam emails. These Scamicide readers were worried that their email accounts had been hacked which, if true, could lead to many problems. Fortunately, the truth is that, in this instance, it is not likely that their email accounts were hacked, but rather that their email accounts had been “spoofed.”
Whenever you send an email it goes to a server named mailer-daemon which then forwards the email to other servers until the email reaches its destination. If the delivery fails, such as because the email address to which it was sent is not a legitimate email address or the email address was mistyped, a mailer-daemon error message is sent back to what mailer-daemon thinks is the original sender. However, merely because you receive a mailer-daemon error message does not mean that your email account was used to send the message. More likely is that your email address was forged and used to disguise the true email address of the sender of the spam. A good way to see if your email account was actually hacked is to check your sent folder. If it does not indicate that you have sent the spam emails, it is likely that your account was “spoofed” or forged to make the message appear as if it came from your email address, so while it is distressing to see that your email address was used in a forged email containing spam, it does not pose a security threat to you and your email address was not hacked.
There is not much you can do to protect yourself from having your email address spoofed, however there are some things you can do that may help and will make you feel better. Use your security software to do a scan of your devices to check for malware. Most likely none will be found. Report the mailer-daemon spam as junk mail to your email provider and send the email to your spam filters which will help your email provider to help prevent this from happening in the future. Finally, even though your sent folder does not indicate that you sent the spam email, you may wish to inform your contacts not to respond to such spam if they get an email that appears to come from you. Do not respond or attempt to block the sender because that merely informs the scammer who sent the spam that your email address is a working account.
For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.” Scamicide was recently cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.
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