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My wife had an old hotmail account which she recently closed. Some people that she used to communicate with from that account have recently been receiving spam emails from this account. I don't see how this is possible because the account is closed. I considered that maybe the email address is being spoofed, is there a way I can tell from looking at the email headers or something? Or should I take this up with hotmail?

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migrated from superuser.com Dec 24 '10 at 4:53

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3 Answers

Since the source email address is nothing more than an in-no-way-authenticated header in a transmitted email, it's most likely that the address has been harvested by a spam-bot and is being used by a sender in no way connected to the the actual account.

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I guess it's just funny that it's sending spam to several people (including me) who she used to converse with. Maybe her account got hacked at one point and our her contact email addresses got taken? –  Marplesoft Dec 24 '10 at 0:19
    
@Marplesoft: No, actually it's not. If your address book from that account was harvested at some point, then the spammer might well use the source email address to target the harvested addresses. Much higher probability that they will be opened that way. –  Software Monkey Dec 24 '10 at 0:30
    
And don't forget, every time you do something like giving a website like FaceBook your user and password to "help you find friends" you are granting it full access to your address book to do so. –  Software Monkey Dec 24 '10 at 0:31
    
Your address could have been harvested from someone else's address book that also contained the others that received the spam -- often there is overlap between the address books of people in the same social or business circles. –  TomG Feb 27 '13 at 2:40
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If you checked to make sure the account is still closed, then yeah, it's spoofed. There's not really anything you can do to prevent it, since there's no kind of authentication in place (although a good mail filter will notice the headers don't match the actual origin and flag it.)

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Spoofing an email address is about as easy as writing someone else's return address on an envelope and dropping it in a mailbox. Checking the headers may provide a clue that it's spoofed, but not always; somewhat parallel to checking if the postmark and return address agree. –  TomG Feb 27 '13 at 2:38
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It's very easy to send an email appearing to come from any address you choose. I actually do this quite a lot myself, although I only send using addresses I actually own.

If anybody is sending spam using your email address, there is nothing you can do about it. It usually stops after a few days, from my experience.

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Yes but multiple people are all getting the same spam messages appearing to come from this one account. Isn't that a bit strange? –  Marplesoft Dec 24 '10 at 0:17
    
@Marplesoft: No, it's not strange, as that is what usually happens, but if they are people you actually know, then they must have gotten access to your web-email account at some point. –  paradroid Dec 24 '10 at 0:21
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