For the last 10 days many emails to one of my email addresses contain non-ASCII characters in the subject line and sometimes in the body of the email. See attached screenshot - the non-ASCII characters appear to be small boxes containing the letters M V S. These emails are mostly spam or advertising emails and are from many different senders. Most, but not all, are directed to my spam folder due to my own previously-entered email filters or due to the ISP’s spam filters. These unusual characters first appeared on July 16th. The appearance is the same in my web browser webmail service (ISP provider is Cox, Hampton Roads area of Virginia) and in my email clients (Apple’s IOS Mail app and macOS Mail app).
The affected email account is one of multiple email accounts provided by my ISP (Cox). I plan to discontinue use of this email account because of the large number of spam emails received in the last year or so. And yes, I realize that it is not a good idea to use an email provided by a specific ISP. It will take some time to wean from this account, however.
See attached screenshot below. Note that the email from Dick’s Sporting Goods on 7/23/21 is a legitimate ad or promotional email, and it does not have the unusual characters. I have no idea why it landed in the spam folder. The remaining emails are spam.
A technical support representative at my ISP (Cox) indicates that that there has been no recent change in their procedures for spam or junk emails.
Has anyone else seen this? Does anyone know what is going on here? Why has this suddenly appeared in the last 10 days? Many of these emails are from email addresses that have sent emails to me prior to July 16th, but the unusual characters were not present prior to that date.
First of all, your ISP’s statement that they did not change anything in their procedures for spam or junk emails is… Well… I think I should not comment on that because… Well… It is… Pathetic?
Fighting spam is hard. I have been doing it for 20 years for my personal accounts and it is a constant cat and mouse game. So, I stopped doing it on my own eventually a few months ago. These days, I am using a web host that is working with https://www.spamexperts.com and it is just great. Spam is not being delivered (not even to my spam folder, and once a day I receive a report with further options if something went wrong).
From their website:
Eliminate spam email before it reaches your network with our proprietary, predictive, self-learning technology. Learning from millions of emails processed daily, the proprietary incoming email filtering system has a nearly 100% filtering accuracy rate.
But that is no option for you as a customer of an ISP because it would be the ISP’s decision to use something like that. And it is not free. But it is not expensive either. My web host bills me 18 Euros per year per domain. No need for apps, rules, configurations, whatever…
You might want to look into solutions like SaneBox or SpamSieve. More on that:
So, what has happened? There is a new spammer in town who got hold of your address and the spammer is doing his job: sending spam mails. Playing with different encodings is something spammers have been doing for a long time. Bad spam filters are not able to keep up with stuff like that.
And Cox apparently does not care or is not able to acknowledge what is going on. It should be easy for an ISP to monitor its systems and to discover spam like the one you are receiving. But ISPs do not work very hard to achieve that.
Then again, there may be options for you as a Cox customer you can activate, but probably not.