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Issue #362: Jun 29 – Jul 5, 2014

Q: I send out group emails to about 400 addressees for an organization I belong to. Every time I send one I get a mailer daemon message saying “[redacted] is not a valid recipient”. I am certain I have no such addressee on my list. It’s just a nuisance but I’d like to get rid of it.

– Bud F.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: It really is only a minor thing, Bud. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the situation, and maybe we’ll learn something along the way. The way I see it, there are two problems here. The first is that you’re assuming the e-mails you’re sending are going straight to the intended recipients and stopping there. What you’re failing to take into account are e-mail forwarding services, out-of-office replies, and so on. I suspect that someone’s e-mail account is auto-forwarding your e-mail to this address, but leaving your address in the “Reply-To” field. So, when it fails, you get the bounce notification. The second problem is that the recipient account in question does not exist. I sent an e-mail to it myself, and it was immediately bounced with a “This user doesn’t have a account” error.

So what to do? Well, you could make this whole thing go away immediately by simply going out to and creating the account in question. That, by the way, is why I redacted the e-mail address in your question. If I hadn’t, sure as I’m sitting here typing this, some joker would go out and create the account before you do, and thwart your attempt to find out who is doing it. Once the account is created, if you never looked at it again, who cares? Your mail bounce problem will have gone away, since there is now a valid recipient. However, if it was me, I would go and look at the account the next time you send out one of your mass e-mails. You should find your e-mail in the inbox, and an examination of the e-mail’s header might just reveal whose account is auto-forwarding your message to this non-existent account.

If you don’t like that option, there’s another way you can find the culprit, but it’s a bit more work. Take note that you cannot try this method after trying the one above, because existence of the account will cause the e-mail to no longer get bounced. This second method involves sending e-mails out to accounts until you’ve narrowed down which one is causing the bounce-back. No, you needn’t send 400 e-mails to do it. Using a little trick that we Computer Science Geeks call a “Binary Search” you should be able to do it in no more than 8 e-mails. What you do is divide your e-mail list in half, and send a test message out to one half. If you get the bounce-back, you know the culprit is in that half. If not, it’s in the other half. Divide that group in half again and repeat. Keep repeating until you’ve narrowed it down. Again, with 400 addresses, it should take only 8 e-mails to narrow it down to a single address. Once you’ve pinpointed the culprit, remove that one from your distribution list, and the annoyance is gone.

Q: How do I get rid of the popups that seem to multiply?

– T. W.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: This sounds like the setup line for a bad joke. Really, my Dear Geeks, there are no extra points for verbosity. I can’t use questions that are too long, but when they are so short that they don’t really describe a problem, I can’t use them either. Nevertheless, I’m going to try.

First of all, make sure any pop-up blockers that are already on your system are turned on. Since you didn’t tell me what browser you’re using, or anything about any anti-malware, or system security software you might have, I can’t give you any instructions on how to turn them on for your particular setup, but the Internet can. Do some searching on it.

Second, try running any or all of the following pieces of software to clean up any ad-serving malware that might be infecting your system: CCleaner, Ad-Aware, SpyBot Search and Destroy, SuperAntiSpyware, and Malwarebytes Antimalware. All of these can be found using your favorite search engine, and downloaded for free.

For readers of the Northwest Florida Daily News:

The Daily News has informed me that effective next week, I.G.T.M. will no longer publish on Sundays in the Lifestyle section. Instead, it will publish on Saturday on the business page. Now, I know there are many of you who only get the paper on Sunday, and so might not be able to read It’s Geek to Me in the paper anymore. Fear not! New editions of the column will continue to be available online every Sunday morning at (not .com!).

Until next week – good luck and happy computing!

– Geek


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