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Issue #590: November 11-17, 2018

Q: We are purchasing a second home in Texas and for several weeks now we have been corresponding with the realtor in Texas via email. Two days ago we stopped receiving all emails from our realtor although she was receiving ours. I spent many hours on the phone with Cox support to alleviate this problem. They took control of my computer, checked all the pertinent settings (all were good). Since I was using a very old and unsupported email program (Windows Live Mail) they suggested I change to a more modern email program. I am now using Outlook and I am having the same problem. I can send to anyone and anyone can send to me EXCEPT my realtor in Texas. I have insured her email address and domain are not in my blocked sender/domain blocked list. I have also insured the same is included in my safe sender/domain list. I then requested she send all her correspondence to my iCloud account on my iPad and everything arrived safely. I then attempted to forward said email and attached PDF documents from my iPad to my Cox mail and it will not send, although it is in my sent folder on the iPad.  Your help is greatly appreciated. I read your column every Saturday in the local paper and learn tremendously from your articles.

– Kelly S.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A:  It sounds like you lucked out and got a customer service agent at Cox who was willing to take your problem seriously.  I’ve fielded questions from a lot of Cox customers who relate getting little-to-no assistance, and as a result, I’ve been a little down on Cox in recent issues, so this is a refreshing change.

Let’s look at what we know, and eliminate possibilities.  You have tried at least two different e-mail clients with the same result, so we can safely eliminate the client as the source of the problem.  You said that you’ve checked your block lists for the account and domain of your realtor.  You verified that the sender is not having any issues sending e-mails, because you’ve been able to receive them on a different e-mail account.  You can send e-mails to and receive e-mails from anybody else.  All-in-all I’d say you’ve done a pretty comprehensive job of eliminating most, if not all of the factors under your span of control, from your e-mail configuration to the software that you’re using to send and receive e-mail.

That leaves only those factors that are outside of your control, and there is lot to consider.  First of all, I suggest that you check with your realtor and make absolutely sure he or she is spelling all the parts of your e-mail address correctly.  If that’s not the problem, we must turn our examination to the path that the e-mail takes while travelling from your realtor to you, because obviously it’s being stopped somewhere along the way.  An e-mail’s journey between two accounts is far more than a single jump from one to the other.  An e-mail goes through multiple servers and over many dozens of network segment hops. The potential exists for it to be interrupted for any number of reasons at any point.  However, the Internet is pretty robust, and rather than simply fail when a problem occurs, it is designed to reroute message traffic to other, functioning paths to ensure network traffic gets through.  Besides, if such a failure occurred, it would affect all network traffic, not just e-mail.  The problem would probably have been detected and corrected long before now.  So, the likelihood of any type of failure along the line being the problem is unlikely indeed.

That leaves only one possible avenue that I’m aware of: the e-mails is being intentionally stopped.  How, and why, you might ask?  Well, in a world where 86% of all e-mail that goes across the Internet is SPAM, there are those server operators that try to do their part to combat this scourge.  They track known sources of SPAM, and when a server or account is identified as being associated with such activity, the account, or even the entire server can get blacklisted, which essentially means all e-mail traffic arriving from that server is refused.  It’s similar to the blocked list you mentioned, but at the server level, and on a far larger scale.

Now, I’m not saying that your realtor is a source of SPAM.  However, by all outward appearances, their account or their domain has blacklisted, possibly at Cox.  I didn’t see any mention in your question that anyone checked to see if Cox itself might be blocking the e-mails, so I suggest you re-engage with Cox customer service and explore that possibility.  Also, consider sending a note to your realtor suggesting they do a little legwork to determine if they have been blacklisted.  Their IT department will know how to do that.

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