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Spam Filtering F.A.Q.

As of Fall 2013, all undergraduates use Apps at UMass Amherst for their University email.

UMail has a robust spam filtering system for all incoming and outgoing messages. Use this list of frequently asked questions to understand the labels on messages that have been flagged by the filtering system.

I'm getting a lot of spam in my UMail account lately, what can I do?

Here are a few steps you can take to protect your account:

  • Use UMail only for University-related email. Create a separate email address for other online activities (e.g., shopping, social networking sites, etc.).
  • Make sure Spam Filtering is enabled for your account (a spam folder will appear in your list of folders). UMass Amherst IT's spam filtering feature is turned on by default, but you may have disabled it. Log in to the UMail Post Office, then click Spam Filtering.
  • Mask your email address. When you post your email address online (e.g., commenting on a blog, on your own Web site, etc.), you become a prime target for spam. To mask your email, insert spaces into the body of the address (e.g., andreeac@domain.com), write out the entire address (e.g., andreeac at domain dot com), or list your user name without the domain name (e.g., andreeac). Make sure you reference the domain name elsewhere on the same site.
  • Do not forward or reply to suspicious messages. Your reply will only verify your email address to potential spammers. If your account receives a lot of spam, we recommend not using automatic vacation replies.

Learn more about phishing and email viruses.

What can UMass Amherst IT's spam filtering do for me?

UMass Amherst IT employs two anti-spam tools - the first identifies messages from known spammers and the second filters spam by tagging suspicious messages and placing them in a spam folder.

Our spam filtering is activated by default for all IT Accounts (a spam folder will appear in your list of folders). Your spam folder is automatically purged every 14 days. Log in to the UMail Post Office to change how often the contents of your spam folder are purged. Note: To avoid using up your quota, we recommend that you use the 1 day or 3 days options, especially if you receive a lot of spam.

What if the spam filter tags a message that is not spam?

In rare instances, our spam filtering software will incorrectly filter an email from a legitimate source and place it in your spam folder. These incorrectly filtered e-mail messages are called false positives. If you find a false positive, please forward the message as an attachment to false-positive@it.umass.edu. We will notify the software company.

To forward an email as an attachment from Microsoft Outlook:

  1. Open a new message addressed to false-positive@it.umass.edu
  2. Drag the flagged message from your spam folder into the new message, and send.

To forward an email as an attachment from Mozilla Thunderbird:

  1. Open the flagged email
  2. Select Message > Forward As > Attachment from the menu. A new message will open.
  3. Address the new message to false-positive@it.umass.edu and send

To forward an email as an attachment from UMail on the Web:

  1. Select the flagged email
  2. Select Forward > Forward As Attachment from the drop down. A new message will open.
  3. Address the new message to false-positive@it.umass.edu and send.

What does it mean if my message is labeled [SPAM] followed by a percentage sign (%)?

Any email suspected of being spam will be placed in the spam folder (if you have enabled spam filtering for your account) or otherwise in your Inbox. The message will be tagged in the Subject line with the percentage probability that it is spam.

What do the labels associated with my emails mean?

The new spam filtering system screens all incoming and outgoing messages and their attachments for potential spam and viruses. Emails with suspicious attachments will be tagged with one of the following labels in the Subject line and the message body:

  • [UNVERIFIED ATTACHMENT]
    Applies to all email
    The attachment(s) included with this message cannot by scanned by our virus checking software. Attachments may be encrypted, password-protected, or may contain a virus. Open this attachment only if you trust the sender.
  • [SUSPECT ATTACHMENT]
    Applies to all email
    The attachment included with this message does not contain a known virus, but could be malicious. Open this attachment only if you trust the sender.
  • [ATTACHMENT REMOVED]
    Applies to inbound email only
    The attachment (attachment name) associated with this message may have contained a virus or other malicious software. To protect your computer and personal information, the attachment was removed. If you need this document, please contact the sender and make other arrangements to receive it (e.g., use UDrive).

These messages will be appear in your Inbox. If they are also classified as spam and you have spam filtering enabled, they will be placed in your spam folder.  

Will the filtering system remove suspicious attachments to incoming messages?

Yes. Any suspicious attachments to inbound emails will be removed and the following message will be inserted into the body of the email:

The attachment (attachment name) associated with this message may have contained a virus or other malicious software. To protect your computer and personal information, the attachment was removed. If you need this document, please contact the sender and make other arrangements to receive it (e.g., use UDrive).

Who should I contact if I have more questions about the spam filtering system?

Contact it@umass.edu with any questions regarding the spam filtering system.