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Filter Out Backscatter with MailWasher Free

Monday, January 31st, 2011 by | Filed Under: E-Mail Help

Is there any way to prevent backscatter email from inundating my inbox without renaming or otherwise deleting my email address?

Filtering Out Backscatter With MailWasher Free

Are you becoming familiar with e-mails stating “The following recipient(s) could not be reached” or “Delivery Status Notification (Failure)?” Have you seen multiple copies of such e-mails numbering in the tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands, flood your inbox with no idea as to how, or why, they are being sent to you? If you answered yes to these questions, then you are unfortunately the victim of what is commonly known as “backscatter.”

Caused by spammers, but not always actual spam, backscatter is a term used to define many multiple delivery failure notices sent to e-mail addresses unrelated to those which they had actually originated from. Typically, these multiple failure notices are generated legitimately, by real servers across the internet, when a spammer sends e-mail out to a large list of random addresses, with an equally random e-mail address set as the “reply-to” address in the e-mail being sent. This leads to a large number of e-mails being sent to “dead,” unknown, or simply non-existent e-mail addresses (i.e. ~! or $#%RE$ which, in turn, produces a large number of delivery failure notices being sent by the host servers of these undeliverable e-mail addresses (i.e. / to the randomly chosen e-mail address in the “reply-to” field. If you are seeing these large amounts of delivery failure notices arrive in your inbox, congratulations, your address is the not so lucky to be chosen random “reply-to” address of the moment.

When your inbox has been inundated with these delivery failure notices, you may be tempted to call your e-mail service provider and scream at them for not providing adequate anti-spam protection for your account. However, you will want to hold off on making that call, as what looks like spam, is not actually spam. While your e-mail address may have been picked up by a spammer for use in their fraudulent reply-to address field, the actual delivery failure notices being sent to you are completely legitimate automated e-mails from legitimate administrative accounts on legitimate e-mail servers. As such, attempting to automatically filter backscatter induced delivery failure notices without also filtering other important, mostly singular, delivery failure notices is nearly impossible for many e-mail service providers to do effectively. This unfortunate set of circumstances leaves the backscatter recipient with two choices: let this flood of legitimate but unwanted e-mails clog up your inbox until they eventually (hopefully) stop, or install a third party program to manually filter through your e-mails before they reach your e-mail programs’ inbox. As having our inbox cluttered with a flood of useless messages is obviously not desirable, we’ll discuss the latter option: Manual e-mail filtering with a third party application.

While using a program to manually filter e-mail can be an inconvenience, filtering out useless messages before they have a chance to reach your inbox is more than worth the extra minute or two it takes to go through and preemptively delete these unwanted e-mails. Performing this manual filtering is itself quite simple with the right program; in this case a little app called “MailWasher.”

Available for free from Firetrust Software, MailWasher is a very handy tool which allows you to preview e-mails before they are downloaded into your inbox. MailWasher does this by first checking your e-mail before you check it with your e-mail program, then displaying all unchecked e-mails in a compact listing digest format which shows the sender, subject, size, and other essential stats of each message. Once you’ve gone over the message digest, you can select e-mails which you wish to delete individually or in bulk, hit a button to process them, and voila, all those backscatter e-mails will be deleted, making it safe to check your e-mail once again.

Where do you get this MailWasher program and how do you use it? Follow these easy steps:

Step 1. Visit, click the Download Now button, and follow the instructions to download the MailWasher Install file.

Step 2. Once downloaded, double click the MailWasher install file and follow the installation instructions.

Step 3. Once installed, click on the MailWasher Free program icon to start MailWasher. You will be presented with a dialog box prompting you to enter your e-mail account settings. Enter your e-mail settings as you entered them when setting up your e-mail program. Click OK once all your e-mail account settings have been entered.

Step 4. You will now see the main MailWasher interface. Click the Check Mail button to have MailWasher initiate checking of your e-mail. Within seconds, you will begin to see a list of your e-mails in the main MailWasher e-mail digest window pane.

Step 5. Once checking of your e-mail is complete, click the Subject column button. Your e-mails will be displayed in order of similar subject lines. This will allow you to more easily distinguish between backscatter e-mails and regular e-mails as most backscatter e-mails will have similar subject lines (“Delivery Status Notification (Failure)” for example.

Step 6. CTRL+Left Click to select the backscatter e-mails in your list one by one, or select the top most message you would like to delete, hold the Shift key and Left Click the last same subject e-mail you would like to delete to select multiple messages, then click any check box under the Delete category. All selected e-mails will now be marked for deletion.

Step 7. Click the Process Mail button and your selected e-mails will disappear from the MailWasher digest window as they are deleted from the server.

Step 8. Repeat steps 5 through 7 until all your backscatter e-mails have been deleted.

Step 9. Check your e-mail in your e-mail program. You should now receive only the e-mails still displayed in the MailWasher e-mail digest window.

Continue to use MailWasher until backscatter e-mails are no longer being sent to your address, or keep using MailWasher to further filter spam and other messages before they reach your e-mail programs’ inbox. While backscatter typically subsides within a day or so from the initial flood, it does occasionally return when another spammer or spam program happens to randomly place your e-mail address in its spam e-mails. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep MailWasher installed and ready to use, even if you cease to use it after your first backscatter incident.

~J. Conboy


One Response to “Filter Out Backscatter with MailWasher Free”

  1. Robert Wurzburg says:

    In Yahoo Mail I had the same problem. Using the filters in Yahoo Mail helped
    eliminate this problem. These undelivered DAEMON emails soon disappeared in
    my Inbox, without having to resort a program like you describe in the tip.
    There are many types of email filters available, depending on the service
    you use, selectable, quite efective and can be turned of at any time.

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