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Why Ebay mails get caught in my SPAM filter

April 9th, 2008 by TheBonsai

Yesterday, I bought something via Ebay. This morning, I found the related automatic mails stuck in my SPAM filter – I analyzed a bit, because it seems to me that Ebay is the only company that sends automatic mails to me that trigger my SPAM filter (others are mostly okay!).

SPAM filter said “Invalid date in header (wrong GMT/UTC timezone)” to

Date: Tue, 8 Apr 2008 09:16:18 -0700 (GMT)

…which is a very weird timestamp, because last time I checked, the GMT wasn’t 7h away from the UTC.

Next was “Subject: has too many raw illegal characters” to a subject headerline containing unquoted non-ASCII characters. Though this is a minor issue, I see nothing over-complex in the nearly 25 years old specification of how a mail has to look.

The rest of the SPAM scoring was the text layout and the HTML glibberish that is typical for a SPAM mail.

I don’t get why Ebay – a relative big Internet company – sends such mails. Alone the date/timestamp – I hope the administrators of the mail systems don’t touch the critical stuff like PayPal or similar. Alone if you look at those mails – there’s no big optical difference to the SPAM mails offering Viagra&Co.

I’m not that picky about emails and their standards compilance, but at least two of the factors shown above are simply silly and easy to fix – for a big Internet company. I wonder why those mails aren’t touched by the mail-provider’s filters. And no, whitelisting the sender address is not a nice option – spammers also know these addresses, and spammers also will use them.

Just my 2ct for today

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 9th, 2008 at 17:06 and is filed under english, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 responses about “Why Ebay mails get caught in my SPAM filter”

  1. Jean said:

    Such problems are indeed very annoying. We had something similar with a php script we wrote for our contact-form. When we used \r\n in the headers, the mail was detected as spam. When we used only \n everything was okay. “Note: If messages are not received, try using a LF (\n) only. Some poor quality Unix mail transfer agents replace LF by CRLF automatically (which leads to doubling CR if CRLF is used). This should be a last resort, as it does not comply with ยป RFC 2822.”

    Another thing, thats what you’ve seen, are charset problems. for example if using php with utf-8 and using an iso-8859-15 sending script and vice-versa..

    i don’t know why great companies like ebay don’t fix their mail systems, but i know ebay is not the only one doing such things.

  2. Jean said:

    ermm.. i meant.. if the database is in iso and the sending script is in utf8.. etc. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. TheBonsai said:

    If it was just a problem with my “weird UNIX MTA/MDA” then it would be my personal problem ๐Ÿ˜‰ But no, unfortunately not. I also didn’t mention the messages about the SPF record set of the sender domain, because I’m not familiar enough with SPF.

  4. Jean said:

    using spf records to detect spam is another thematic. It’s suggested to use it only for “scoring” – using spf directly for blocking or other purposes will result in very very much false-positives.

  5. TheBonsai said:

    Yes, it influences only the score, of course. But I’m not that familiar with SPF to tell something about why it failed (scored +1.4pt due to SPF softfail).

    Even with that SPF failure the mail wouldn’t have been blocked when it was a normal email with a normal timestamp ๐Ÿ˜‰

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