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Issue #589: November 4-10, 2018

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Q: I have email at Cox.net and two accounts at Yahoo.com. On my Cox account I keep getting double emails for some strange reason. I run with Windows 10 and that is the place I have my Cox email set up. I have Yahoo.com mails set up there also but I only get double from my Cox.net account. Could it be that I have email set up also on my Outlook account from Microsoft? I get the same problem on my smartphone also double emails on Cox.net not on the Yahoo.com there in the yahoo mail a separate app.

– Charles M.
Shalimar, Florida

A:  So, the bottom line is that you’re getting double e-mails, but only on your Cox e-mail account; and it happens no matter whether you view the account from a PC, or from a smartphone. I think we can safely eliminate your Yahoo account as the source of any problems, but I’m glad you mentioned that it was working properly.  I do wish you had included some information on whether the Cox issue is a new problem, or if it’s been going on for a while.

One thing I noted that you said is that the problem occurs in both e-mail clients at on Cox.net, by which I presume you mean Cox’s webmail.  When you’re looking at your e-mail like that, you’re getting a pretty good view of exactly what’s on the server.  That means that there really are two copies on the server, rather than a client accidentally downloading two copies of the same message, or something like that.

Some of the things I’ve read in the Cox help forums lead me to believe that problems like this have occurred before, usually on a wide-scale basis after Cox changes something in their servers. When it happens, people who had perfectly functioning e-mail suddenly find themselves with issues, including yours — finding duplicate copies of e-mails in their Inbox.  I read multiple instances of Cox blaming this on pre-existing Inbox filters, or rules.  These are user-programmable tools that allow you to perform custom message routing.  For example, you might put together a rule that says “Check all new e-mail as it arrives, and if it contains the phrase ‘home mortgage’ route it to the folder named Trash”. Rules like this do exactly what they say, so they can sometimes cause inadvertent deletion of e-mail, for example, if a friend happens to use the phrase in a message to you.  Anyway, Cox has said when the issue of duplicated e-mails occurs, users should delete all their rules and filters, then delete the e-mail duplicates and re-create the rules.  Personally, I find that to be pretty lame for a ‘fix’, and an unfair shifting of the problem from Cox itself to Cox’s customers.  After all, customers should expect to be able to make use of common features of their e-mail system without having to worry about re-implementing their configuration every time Cox decides that something on their mail server needs to be tweaked.  Nevertheless, lame though it may be, that is the only recommended fix that I’ve encountered, so if you’ve got any such filters or rules in your account, they could very well be the culprit.

Having said that, there are other possible causes of duplicate e-mails.  Many people set up mail forwarding from one account to another, which can be problematic if not done with care.  One example that I have used myself is to route e-mails from various accounts through Gmail, because Gmail has one of the best free SPAM filters around, and catches mail that slips by other servers’ filters.  When such forwarding is improperly configured you can end up with what’s called a mail forwarding loop.  What happens is that e-mails are forwarded from Server A, to Server B, which forwards them back to Server A.  The mail never has a final delivery destination.  Rather than merely duplicating e-mails, mail forwarding loops are capable of producing dozens, even hundreds of copies of each message.  Some mail delivery protocols are smart enough to detect if they’ve already processed a given message, and break it out of the endless forwarding loop.  So, if you’re using mail forwarding on your Cox account, make sure that nothing is forwarding it back again, causing duplicates.   I sure hope one or the other of these fixes your problem!

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