A door mail slot lableled “No Junk Mail”.

Report spam emails to their hosting providers with SpamCop

A persistent spammer led me to explore options for taking action against their obnoxious bulk emailer. SpamCop proved to be an effective solution to disrupt the spammer’s operations.

In December, I migrated from FastMail in Australia to Mailbox.org in Germany. Right around the time I moved my email, Mailbox.org had a bug that left spam messages in users’ inboxes rather than moving them to the Spam folder. This bug led me to take another look at this constant stream of spam messages I’ve been receiving.

I’ve received the exact same couple of spam messages several times per day for over a year. There may have been a few new messages added and some removed, but it has been a consistent stream from the same sender. I’ve just left them be and let them rot in my Spam folder until now.

The majority of them had a unique email header with a list-subscriber number that was found in every email regardless of the apparent origin domain of the message or service being promoted. I figured that this may mean that the hundreds of emails I was getting probably originated with a single operator or even a single server.

I remember using a service called SpamCop from over a decade ago when I used to host my own email servers. The service analyses email headers from submitted spam samples, identifies the network, hosting, and other involved service providers that the spammers use, and then auto-formats abuse reports that you can send to these providers.

I sent maybe a dozen reports for these email through SpamCop, and for the first time in over a year the messages stopped coming. It took two weeks before I saw any more messages from the same spammer pop up in my Spam folder. I quickly submitted new reports, and I can happily report that I has been three weeks and the spammer haven’t resumed sending more junk. I can only hope that their service providers terminated their contracts and that they haven’t been yet been able to find another service provider willing to host them.

I must admit it feels kind of good to throw a spanner into someone’s obnoxious spamming operation. I only regret not doing it earlier! I won’t bother reporting every spam message I receive but I’ll try to be diligent with reporting phishing emails and especially persistent pests when I notice them.

This is just an anecdotal tale of effectiveness of reporting spam emails via SpamCop service. I couldn’t find many accounts of anyone having any success using the service so I thought I’d share my experiences. It’s what a blog is for, isn’t it?