Email Reliability and Hoaxes
Advice on how to make your email communication more reliable and how to reduce junk mail.

Email is becoming one of the most important means of communication because of its cheapness, flexibility and almost instant delivery to anywhere in the world. We rely on it every day, but unfortunately from time to time emails are lost and never arrive at their destination.

The major culprit for this is junk mail. Also known as spam, it now outnumbers legitimate emails and many people receive dozens of them every day. Most business and domestic systems employ some kind of spam filtering, which gets rid of the majority of the junk. Unfortunately the junk-mail writers are cleverly disguising their spam as legitimate mail and the filters have a hard job telling the two apart. Occasionally genuine emails are deleted in error.

Here are some things you can do to reduce spam and to increase your chances of getting your mail delivered.

1. Turn on acknowledgment receipts.

Most email programs allow you to automatically ask for a receipt to let you know when your email has been delivered and read. This function is normally switched off, but can be turned on from the settings menu. At the bottom of this page, we describe how to do this for Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express and Windows Mail programs - the most common email programs in use today.

2. Make sure your outgoing email has the correct name heading

All email programs allow you to insert your name as you would like it to appear in the "From" line on your recipients screen. Spam filters look at this line carefully and if it does not appear to be a legitimate name, they may label the email as junk and delete it. This will result in your email not being delivered.

Make sure your name appears correctly in your program settings - usually under "Email accounts" - more information at the end of the page. Some programs put your email address here by default, but this is NOT correct, the email address appears elsewhere. The name box should only contain your name, e.g "John Smith".

3. Keep your email address safe

The more people get hold of your address, the more chances there will be of you receiving spam. Only give your email address to people you know. One of the worst things is to reply to unsolicited adverts and junk mails, even if it's just to tell them that you do not wish to receive their emails. A lot of them are just a way of harvesting email addresses in order to sell them to spammers.

When forwarding emails that you have received, be careful you don't inadvertently also send with it the entire list of recipients. All their email addresses will be visible. If you need to send an email to multiple recipients, put their addresses in the BCC: box (Blind Carbon Copy) and only put your own address in the To: box.

When forwarding emails, trim the body of the email to only show the relevant information. It is bad practice to leave all the contents of the earlier replies together with the company disclaimers, signatures etc. This only helps to give away information about your contacts to eagerly waiting spammers.

4. Use only one email address

Every email address will receive spam. If you use two addresses, you will receive twice as much spam. Sometimes, more than one email account may be set up on your computer, possibly without you even realising. Check your email account settings in the tools menu and delete any accounts that you don't use. Just be careful you don't delete the one you ARE using, by mistake.

Hoax emails

Meanwhile, have you been getting some unusual alerts or warnings lately? Here are some tips on how to identify virus hoaxes:

1. Detect the undetectable. Beware of warnings that claim a virus is undetectable - this is never true. In general, if you keep your antivirus software up-to-date, your system will nab the latest viruses so you should have nothing to worry about.

2. Study the subject. If the e-mail message's subject line includes words such as "Urgent," "Warning," or even "Virus Alert," it's often a good indication that you're dealing with a hoax. Read the e-mail message with great scepticism, not great urgency.

3. Beware of tech talk. Look out for pseudo-technical discussions on the dangers of the virus. Some hoax messages include pure gobbledygook, like "This virus will burn up your hard drive" etc.

4. Check the sources. To create an aura of credibility, a hoax often quotes a well-known company or agency, such as Microsoft, the Federal Communications Commission, the Police or an antivirus company. Check the Web sites of the sources quoted (or see your antivirus vendor's site). Remember also that Microsoft never posts virus alerts via e-mail.

5. Scrutinize the instructions. Beware of messages that insist you delete a file manually. This is almost guaranteed to be a hoax which is trying to get you to delete a vital file, and in doing so may stop your computer working.

6. Don't spread the word. False alerts always urge you to tell everyone you know. Genuine alerts never do. Ignore the instructions, delete the message, and don't alarm everyone on your mailing list.

Any email which asks you to "send this to everyone you know" or "forward to everyone in your address book" is certain to be a hoax. The perpetrators are merely trying to cause concern and  panic and to clog up the system with useless emails.

If you forward a hoax warning to everyone in your contacts list, you may also find your email address will be black-listed by your internet service provider as a source of spam !

Definitely do not do it.

Your email program settings
(for Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express (used with Windows XP) and Windows Live Mail (Windows Vista and Windows 7)

On most programs, the "Tools" menu contains the settings you need to check.

To turn on receipts of email delivery

Microsoft Outlook
Select "Tools" and "Options", then "Email Options...", then "Tracking Options ...".
Then tick the box opposite "Read Receipt" next to "for messages I send, request:".
You can also decide what happens when you receive a request for a receipt. In the same box, at the bottom, either select the first option "Always send a response" or the last option "Ask me before sending a response".
Then click OK three times to close all the dialogue boxes.

Outlook Express - coming soon

Windows Live Mail - instructions coming soon.


To fill in the correct sender's name

Microsoft Outlook - select "Tools" and "Email Accounts, then select "View or change existing email accounts" and click "Next". A list of your email accounts will appear. If you have more than one that you are using for sending emails, you should check them all one by one. Double-click on the account name. Under "User Information" make sure the box "Your Name" contains your name as it should appear to the recipients of your emails (e.g. John Smith). This box should not contain anything else. If it is a business email, it can contain the name of your business instead of your own name. Click "Next" and if you do not have any more accounts to check, click "Finish".

BC website reference section

The reference section on our website contains much valuable information, not just about carriage driving.

  • COMPUTER VIRUSES - find out how to easily avoid viruses and virus hoaxes
  • EMAIL and SPAM - Make your emails more reliable, protect your email address and reduce the amount of junk
  • ON-LINE SALES SCAM - make sure you don't lose your money or goods to fraudulent dealers
  • DOWNLOADING FILES - how to download and print out files and forms.