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Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

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br1anst0rm
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Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

I am a long-time Plusnet subscriber, so Plusnet is my ISP.

In addition to my main  "... plus.com" email account, I have several other email/webmail accounts with other providers (eg gmail and virgin.net).  This enables me to keep separate my different areas of activity:  for example I use one address for family & friends messaging, one for work-related matters, and one for online shopping etc.

I access and manage these email accounts mostly via the Thunderbird email client/app on my laptop, and I can also do so using an app (FairEmail) on my Android mobile phone.

So far so good.  This has worked fine for years.  But a problem has just emerged.

I set the various email accounts up in Thunderbird using the POP option, not IMAP - both because I think this may have been the only option when I first did so, and also because don't want or need to sync messages on different devices in a way which results in their deletion from the servers.

The problem I have is that emails I send - using Thunderbird - from one or two of my non-Plusnet email accounts appear now either to be treated or labelled as Spam by the recipient addressee, or in some cases simply blocked. 

As an experiment, I sent emails - using Thunderbird - from these accounts to myself at my own Plusnet address.  They come through to the relevant Inbox, but with <SPAM> inserted at the beginning of the subject line.  Marking them as 'Not Junk' makes no difference.

I don't fully understand the technicalities of POP/IMAP and of inward and outward servers.  But as I understand it, since Plusnet is my ISP, all outbound emails I send from my laptop - in any of my email accounts - go out via the Plusnet server (relay.plus.net) which is listed in the Thunderbird account settings as the default outward SMTP server. 

Thus the emails I send out from, say, my virgin.net email address (and my replies to inward messages sent to me at that virgin address) are actually transmitted via the Plusnet server.  It seems that the email systems of some recipients see this as a mismatch ("here's an email from a virgin.net sender, but it's actually coming from a Plusnet server - must be dodgy!") - and so it gets labelled as Spam or indeed diverted into a Junk folder or blocked.

I have done a quick forum search to see if this is a well-known issue and/or has a simple solution.  I found this thread https://community.plus.net/t5/Email/e-mails-being-identified-as-spam-junk-by-Gmail-and-Outlook-com/t... which describes a similar situation, but it doesn't offer a solution to the problem I am facing.

I cannot shift to an arrangement where all my emailing in and out is done from only one - Plusnet - email account.  I need to retain and use the other email addresses and accounts I have with virgin, gmx and others, and I need to manage them in Thunderbird (and the app on my mobile phone), not access them only as webmails via a browser.

Thunderbird claims to - and does - manage multiple email accounts set up with different providers.  What can I do to make sure that the emails I send from my non-Plusnet account are not treated as Spam or prevented from getting to their destinations?

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MisterW
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

Thus the emails I send out from, say, my virgin.net email address (and my replies to inward messages sent to me at that virgin address) are actually transmitted via the Plusnet server.  It seems that the email systems of some recipients see this as a mismatch ("here's an email from a virgin.net sender, but it's actually coming from a Plusnet server - must be dodgy!") - and so it gets labelled as Spam or indeed diverted into a Junk folder or blocked.

But as I understand it, since Plusnet is my ISP, all outbound emails I send from my laptop - in any of my email accounts - go out via the Plusnet server (relay.plus.net) which is listed in the Thunderbird account settings as the default outward SMTP server. 

@br1anst0rm  you've got it in one! Basically you need to send mail from your non-plusnet email addresses via the authorised server for that address. Thunderbird allows you to define multiple outgoing (SMTP) servers and to select which of those servers is to be used for each email account.

So for the gmail accounts you should use google's SMTP server https://support.google.com/mail/answer/7126229?hl=en-GB#zippy=%2Cstep-change-smtp-other-settings-in-... . For the virgin.net ones you should use virgin's smtp T https://getmailspring.com/setup/access-virgin-net-via-imap-smtp .

The google smtp access shouldnt be a problem but you MAY find that you no longer have access to the virgin outgoing server.

Moderator's note by Mike (Mav): Quote fixed.

 

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br1anst0rm
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

Thanks @MisterW ... it is useful to have expert confirmation of my 'amateur' suspicions about the cause of the problem.

But a couple of aspects still puzzle me.

First, how come I have for many years been able to send emails from my non-Plusnet accounts in Thunderbird, via the Plusnet outgoing server, with no problems and no risk of them being labelled as Spam or blocked from delivery to the addressees?  The flagging- up as Spam and the non-delivery has only just started happening in the last week or so.  And I was only alerted to it when meetings failed and appointments didn't happen because - it emerged - the people to whom I had sent emails said they had not received them - even though they had appeared in my Thunderbird Sent folder as successfully despatched (ie no bounceback)!

Second, I can't quite see how to specify different outgoing servers for each of my email accounts in Thunderbird in the way suggested.  Am I being dim, or have I overlooked something?  When I set up or add an account, of course I have to put in the details of each account's inward and outward servers.  In the account-settings page of Thunderbird, each account and its inward server settings are displayed;  and (obviously), inward messages from each account come in via the relevant inward server. 

But - at the bottom of the Account Settings page in Thunderbird - there is only a single side-heading for the outward server.  The 'details' box does indeed list each of the separate outward servers relating to the various email accounts.  But (unless I have missed something) only one can be identified as the default.  This appears to mean that whichever I choose as the default, this becomes the default outbound server for any and all the multiple accounts.  Until now, the Plusnet outbound server has been that default.  So how do I select and set different outbound servers as the defaults for each of the separate email accounts?

By the way - and this relates to the links kindly provided about settings for gmail and virgin - I should just say again that at the moment I have set up these multiple accounts in Thunderbird to use POP, not IMAP.   So I specify the POP servers. I don't know if this makes a difference to the choices available regarding setting of the default outbound servers....

 

 

MisterW
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

Fix

First, how come I have for many years been able to send emails from my non-Plusnet accounts in Thunderbird, via the Plusnet outgoing server, with no problems and no risk of them being labelled as Spam or blocked from delivery to the addressees?  The flagging- up as Spam and the non-delivery has only just started happening in the last week or so.

@br1anst0rm its likely down to SPF ( Sender policy framework ) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sender_Policy_Framework checking becoming more prevelant and also being used as a factor in determining spam scoring.

But - at the bottom of the Account Settings page in Thunderbird - there is only a single side-heading for the outward server.  The 'details' box does indeed list each of the separate outward servers relating to the various email accounts.  But (unless I have missed something) only one can be identified as the default.

That is correct

  This appears to mean that whichever I choose as the default, this becomes the default outbound server for any and all the multiple accounts.

but that isnt!

If you select Settings for an account (right click the account and select Settings) , then at the bottom of the page ( may be initially off the screen so scroll down ) there is a drop down box to select the smtp server ( from the list above ) for that account.

Using POP or IMAP make no different, I have a mixture of POP and IMAP accounts configured ( about 10) and each uses its own smtp from about 4 different ones.

Hope that helps but if you still have problems , post back and I'll try and do some screen dumps

Moderator's note by Mike (Mav): Quote fixed.

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br1anst0rm
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

Once again, @MisterW , many thanks for that very clear explanation. 

 

And you are right - I had missed, or overlooked, the fact that there is an 'outgoing server' box at the bottom of each account-listing on the Thunderbird Settings page, as well as the  side-heading at the bottom of the left-hand 'menu' which lists all the outgoing servers, with one labelled as the default.

It looks as if I have been fortunate that the settings I had in place worked well for so many years and have only now fallen foul of the apparently tougher SPF checks.  I had been operating on the basis that if it wasn't broke, it didn't need fixing.  But clearly a fix, or adjustment, is now required.

So I think I can now sort out and untangle the individual account settings to ensure that each account is now set to use its own outbound server rather than all (as I think was the case before) routing their outward messages via the Plusnet server. 

Thank you again for helping me along this particular learning curve....

 

MisterW
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

Happy to have been able to help😀

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br1anst0rm
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

Well, @MisterW .... I may have spoken too soon!   Your advice was extremely helpful and I thought I had managed to sort things out, by ensuring that each of the email accounts set up in Thunderbird had the right outgoing server (ie its' own) assigned to it. 

But there is still an issue.  One of my email accounts - the virgin.net one, as it happens - is in effect my "main" account.  It is the address and account I have had since I first connected to the internet some 20 years ago, using (back then) Virgin Dial-up.  That email account and address still underpins a significant part of my online life, from banking and insurance to membership of organisations, magazine subscriptions and contact with colleagues across the world. So it is crucial.

I have accessed that account through a succession of computers over the years using Outlook Express, Outlook and latterly Thunderbird, with no problem.  I also check the account via the Virgin Media site's webmail pages from time to time.

Now a problem has arisen and persists.  I have made sure the account settings and server details are correct in Thunderbird.  Inward messages arrive into the inbox.  But I cannot send replies or outward messages:  I get a popup saying ".. unable to authenticate to outgoing SMTP server..." .  Meanwhile I can still log in to the account via the Virgin Media webmail site, and receive and send messages.  So my password is valid and correct, and the account there can receive and send as normal. 

So I'm baffled.  I notice a comment in an earlier post that  ".... you MAY find you no longer have access to the virgin outgoing server....."  That indeed seems to be the situation.  Why?  My password and the settings are correct.  Is it some sort of anti-spam measure (and if so how to get it removed)?  Or is this virgin - for some reason - simply blocking my account because Virgin is not my ISP?  Yet I can continue to operate the account via webmail.  It all seems a bit strange, and very frustrating.

 

MisterW
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

Is it some sort of anti-spam measure (and if so how to get it removed)?  Or is this virgin - for some reason - simply blocking my account because Virgin is not my ISP?

@br1anst0rm its basically Virgin not allowing you use their facilities since you are no longer a subscriber. The fact that your email account still works at all is just good luck!. Since you are (i assume) not paying them anymore , you cant really expect them to continue to provide the services.  In the short term, I guess all you can do is revert to using the PN server for outgoing virgin mail and accept the spam possibility and in the long term move away from using the virgin.net email.

UNLESS virgin will allow you to pay for the email account and access to their servers ?

Long term , my suggestion would be to get your own domain and paid email service, then you are completely independent of an ISP. A domain will cost less than £10/year and an email service about £20.

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br1anst0rm
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

Thanks yet again, @MisterW , for the helpful advice. 

It is the case that - since PlusNet is my ISP - I am no longer paying Virgin for the email service that was set up when I first connected to the internet some 20 years ago using, and paying for, Virgin Dial up.  I do still pay Virgin for my mobile phone subscription, but I guess that doesn't help....

Precisely because that particular email address was the first and main one, it has always been used for my banking, registration with government departments and other organisations, NHS (!!), and other online activity from shopping to communicating with colleagues and family.

So setting up and migrating to another provider, or a new domain, is no small matter.  No doubt Virgin's Ts & Cs permit them to move the goalposts, delete accounts and arbitrarily block access to their servers.  But I would have hoped for, and expected, reasonable notice and proper explanation - not a sudden discovery that I can no longer send messages.

Short term I may have to try the option you suggest, of attempting to send out messages from my virgin.net account using the Plusnet server (if that is technically possible).  Longer term, I'm sure that setting up a personal domain is a safer and more assured way to go.  The cost isn't a deal breaker:  I'll just have to do a lot of homework on exactly how to go about it!

MisterW
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

@br1anst0rm 

No doubt Virgin's Ts & Cs permit them to move the goalposts, delete accounts and arbitrarily block access to their servers.  But I would have hoped for, and expected, reasonable notice and proper explanation - not a sudden discovery that I can no longer send messages.

they almost certainly will give some notice before they actually disable receiving email on old accounts. As regards sending, its probably similar to the way Plusnet worked until a year or so ago. When people left and requested retaining email, then they did not have access to authenticate to the smtp server. Only recently has the situation allowed access. I suspect that you may not have realised that access wasnt possible since you were sending all mail via the PN server. You will still be able to send virgin mail from their Webmail system I guess, because when logged in to webmail you are hosted on a virgin IP and therefore dont need to authenticate with their smtp server.

Let me know if you would like any info on personal domain and email hosting

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br1anst0rm
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

@MisterW   I think you must be spot on with this observation

"I suspect that you may not have realised that access wasn't possible since you were sending all mail via the PN server."  

That is indeed what I've been doing (without really thinking about it) for oh, maybe the last 5 years or more - simply because the PN server was designated in Thunderbird as the default outgoing server - for all my various email accounts! 

As there was no sign that anything was broken, I never needed to investigate or fix anything.  Only when I embarked on configuring Thunderbird in a 'new' laptop did I even look at the account settings.  And that was where the saga of problems started and I launched the original post in this thread...

Right now the position is indeed as you describe:

"You will still be able to send virgin mail from their Webmail system I guess, because when logged in to webmail you are hosted on a virgin IP and therefore don't need to authenticate with their smtp server."

For the moment that's a bit of a lifeline, even if less than convenient.  But I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that a personal domain may be the only sensible way to go.  Until now I had stayed away from that idea as I have no need to set up or host a website, run an online business, or start a blog....  All I need is a solid email service!  So thanks for the offer of info - any tips or advice (recommendations on providers, points to watch, whatever) would be very welcome.

br1anst0rm
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

Update....

Curiouser and curiouser.  In efforts to figure out the problem, I have just sent a test email from that main virgin account to my wife, using Thunderbird.  I got a popup asking me to enter my virgin account password.  I did so...and then hit Send.  It went, via the virgin outgoing server as programmed in the T'bird account settings

And ... it arrived as normal.  No error message saying I didn't have access to the outgoing virgin smtp server.  No <spam> label in the message subject line when it was delivered.

So - do I conclude that Virgin didn't actually block my access to the server, but that for some reason the password or authentication had failed on previous attempts in recent days and somehow it has now cleared? 

If that is indeed what happened then it's a sigh of relief (until the next time!).  But maybe I ought nevertheless to pursue the search for an alternative to my current virgin.net email, in case it does get blocked, deleted or suspended in future.

MisterW
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

All I need is a solid email service!

Likewise, I have two domains and email services. They are hosted by different providers purely on not 'putting all eggs in one basket' principle.

One is hosted by https://www.ecohosting.co.uk/email.html  the other by https://www.mythic-beasts.com/hosting . Both are very similar in price for an account supporting multiple mailboxes. If you only want one mailbox then ecohosting have a cheaper basic account that may suffice.

In essence , you register a domain name of your choosing , I'd suggest a .me.uk or a .uk one for personal use. Then your email  service enables you to have email addresses of the form <mailboxname>@<domainname> . It's not necessary to register the domain with the same provider as the email service but doing so usually makes DNS configuration simpler ( and often automatically setup ). 

Both the above providers support secure encryted IMAP or POP access to mailboxes and authenticated SMTP.  They also support SPF & DKIM . In addition they support aliases or forwarders which allows you to use different names for the same mailbox. For example i use a different alias for each shopping site e.g amazon@<mydomain> or argos@<mydomain>, mail arrives in the same mailbox but should I start to see spam to an address, I know exactly where its coming from.

Hope that gives you some initial info to look at. If you have more detailed questions ( I'm sure you will ) then maybe drop me a PM rather than post in the forum and I'll be happy to help

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MisterW
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Re: Emails I send are being flagged up as Spam - how can I sort this out?

Your post crossed while I was writing...

So - do I conclude that Virgin didn't actually block my access to the server, but that for some reason the password or authentication had failed on previous attempts in recent days and somehow it has now cleared? 

It would appear so, and as you say that's good news and means you can consider the domain and email service in a more relaxed scenario.

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