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Icesave customers - Don't let the spam filters scuttle your compensation claim!

Icesave customers - Don't let the spam filters scuttle your compensation claim!

Icesave customers - Don't let the spam filters scuttle your compensation claim!

Last week I stumbled across a couple of forum posts on Think Broadband and our Community Site about an email that has recently been sent to Icesave customers from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Now I must admit to not knowing much about this up until now so for the benefit of those in a similar position, here's a bit of background... Back in October the Internet bank Icesave (the UK branch of the Icelandic bank Landsbanki) was declared in default by the Financial Services Authority, leaving more than 300,000 savers waiting for compensation payouts. On the same day the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that he had put in place arrangements to ensure that no retail depositor would lose any money as a result of Icesave's closure. A couple of weeks later the Financial Services Compensation Scheme announced that an accelerated process was being defined that would allow Icesave UK customers the opportunity to claim back their savings. Last week the FSCS started sending emails to Icesave customers containing information about how to claim back there savings. You might at this point be wondering what relevance any of this has to Plusnet? Well, if you've read the two forum posts I linked to above then you'll already know that the email the FSCS sent out became the victim of our Postini anti-spam filters. Courtesy of a handful of kind forum-dwellers (thanks RobAllen, Paul03 & gofaster), I managed to get a glimpse of one of these emails, and could immediately see why the message had been marked as spam. Here's a line from the headers of one of these emails which were sent from an fscs.org.uk address by email marketing outfit Hearfrom:

X-pstn-levels: (S: 0.13289/99.31564 CV:99.9999 R:95.9108 P:95.9108 M:95.5423 C:98.6951 )

The number highlighted in bold is the spam score and anything under 0.15 is likely to get identified as spam. There's more about our spam scoring mechanisms here for anybody that's interested. So why did the message get marked as spam then? Well, due to Postini being a proprietary anti-spam solution I couldn't really say to be sure, but Charles Arthur of the Guardian offers an interesting take on the situation here. In his blog, Charles speculates that to a spam filter the email from the FSCS looks nothing more than your typical 419 scam. An interesting observation, and it certainly casts doubt over the effectiveness of using electronic communication for important financial notices like this. Even more interesting is a comment from Julian Shersby further down the page, whose email to Charles it would seem formed the basis of his article. Julian goes on to say:

"As to the emails from hearfrom.com three discussion threads in the www.moneysavingexpert.com show that these have been almost universally blocked as spam or blocked completely by nearly all major ISPs and the FSCS should clearly arrange for them to be sent again by a competent emailing house not associated with unwanted bulk spam and/or also send these letters to account holders in the post too."

So here we have a reputable financial outfit sending out a pretty important piece of communication via email as opposed to post. Not only this, but the message has very 'spammy' characteristics and doubt has also been cast over the reputation of the company used to dispatch the emails. Should the FSCS have sent this communication via snail mail, or would the money associated with doing this be better spent elsewhere considering the circumstances? I also wonder if the FSCS have used Hearfrom's services before and if they bothered to send any test messages before the live mailshot? So what can you do if you're an Icesave customer who hasn't received your email? Well to begin with the FSCS were advising customers who hadn't received the email by Friday 7th November to contact them on 0845 7300 131 They seem to have since done a bit of a u-turn since then though judging by the post here where they advise customers who haven't received there email that they will:

"publish a further update in the next few days."

They also go on to say that they

"have been talking with a number of Internet Service Providers."

We're yet to here from the FSCS, but there are a few things you can check if you're a Plusnet customer and haven't yet received your email. Firstly check you spam settings using the Manage My Mail tool available on our website. This will tell you if you have spam filtering switched on and if so, where the spam will be getting delivered. Chances are if you've never looked here before your spam will be getting moved to a 'Spam' folder that can be accessed using our Webmail Service. You'll find more detail about how to access this 'Spam' folder here. The second thing you can do is more a reactive measure for any further emails that the FSCS might send. Assuming the from address will be from a similar email address as the first message, then you can whitelist fscs.org.uk to make sure that any emails from the domain bypass our spam filters. This is also done using the Manage My Mail tool as can be seen below. Did you also know that we're going to be switching to IronPort for our anti-spam filtering soon? If not then head over here where you can get the low-down on the latest developments. . Bob Pullen Plusnet Comms Team

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I alerted PlusNet to the problem of the blocked FSCS icesave emails through a member question to the PlusNet help team back on 6/11/08. I suggested PlusNet contact FSCS to sort out the problem but you refused to do so. So it is not just a case that FSCS has not contacted PlusNet, it is also the case that PlusNet have made no attempt to contact the FSCS. I accept that the way that FSCS sent out the emails was completely flawed. I think PlusNet is a great ISP and I can't see myself switching elsewhere. But on this occasion I was a bit disappointed that PlusNet did not proactively respond to the issue when it arose given the importance of these emails.
Whilst I can understand where you're coming from Steve, I don't think there would have been an awful amount of merit in us contacting the FSCS. As I mentioned in my post, Postini is very much a proprietary solution and we have little influence over it's spam filtering heuristics. We could globally whitelist the fscs domain but that's a bit of a dirty solution to the problem in all honesty. I'm very much of the opinion that it's the sender's responsibility to ensure that their emails don't fall foul of popular spam filtering mechanics. Sorry if you feel like we let you down on this occasion though Sad