How to handle spam filter false positives

spam filter false positives

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Spam filters are our friends.  They help keep us safe from phishing attacks, money laundering schemes, malicious hyperlinks and viruses, boat loads of unwanted ads for umm… “male performance medications”.   We like our spam filters, but sometimes they get things wrong and we need to take extra steps to correct them.

Before we get too deep into this subject, we first want to cover the number one lesson in email whitelisting: MAKE SURE YOU ACTUALLY TRUST THE SENDER!

What I mean by this is that an illegitimate company may try to to convince you to whitelist them for a seemingly benign reason so that they can follow up with a malicious email.  If you are doing business with a company that you solicited or you are trying to receive and email that is being blocked from a person you actually know, then whitelisting can help make sure that you receive all the emails you are supposed to be getting. But if an Algerian prince or Microsoft Tech Support randomly contacts you and asks you to whitelist their emails, well that is not a trustworthy source.

Whitelisting Instructions by Email System

In the following examples we will pretend that these emails are coming from the email address  For your own purposes, substitute this email address with whoever you are trying to unblock.


  • Login to your email account.
  • Click the “Spam” link at the bottom of your folders list in the left hand column.
  • Click on an email sent by the person or business you want to unblock.
  • Click the “Report Not Spam” button above the message.
  • To also unblock images, click the green box above your message that says “Always Display Images from”.

Windows Live Hotmail

  • Login to your email account.
  • In the upper-right corner of the Windows Live Hotmail home page, click “Options”, and then click “More Options”.
  • Under Junk Email, click Safe and Blocked Senders.
  • Click “Safe Mailing Lists”.
  • Add the email address to the list.
  • To also unblock images, open an email from the sender, then click “show content” at the top of the message.

Microsoft Outlook

  • Right-click on any message in your Inbox and point to Junk, then to Junk E-mail Options.
  • Select the Safe Senders tab.
  • Add to the list.
  • This should also unblock images.


  • Login to your email account.
  • Go to AOL Keyword: “Mail Controls”.
  • Next to Sender Filter, click the “Edit” link.
  • Under “My Sender Filter”, click the “Use a Custom Sender List” link.
  • Choose the “Block all senders and domains listed below or Allow only the sender and domains listed below” option, then click the “Save” button.
  • Click the “Save” button to close the Sender Filter window.
  • Click the “Save” button to close the Mail and Spam Controls window.
  • To unblock images:
    • Click the Mail menu.
    • Click Mail Settings.
    • Click the “Hide images & disable links in mail from unknown senders” box to clear it.
    • Click the “Save” button.


  • Login to your email account.
  • Click “Options” at the top right.
  • Click “Filters”.
  • Click the “Add” button.
  • Name this filter, then where it says “From header contains,” put the email address you want to allow.
  • Where it says “Then…Move the message to,” select “Inbox”.
  • Click “Add Filter”.
  • To unblock images:
    • go to the “Spam Protection” section and click “continue” until you’re on the 3rd step of the process.
    • If you’ve taken the above steps to designate the sender as not Spam, select the “Block images in messages that SpamGuard thinks are spam” option.

Postini Spam Filter

  • Login to your Postini Message Center.
  • Click “My Settings” in the upper right-hand corner.
  • Click “Approve Senders”.
  • Add the email address to the Approved Senders box.
  • Click “Update Approved Senders”.


There are two ways to whitelist a sender in SpamArrest.

  1. Designate them as an Authorized Sender by:
    • In the “Members Area,” clicking the “Senders” tab.
    • In the field “To authorize a sender enter their email address into the field below,” enter their Email address to designate them as an authorized sender.
  2. Verify them as an Authorized Sender by:
    • In the “Members Area,” clicking the “Mail” tab.
    • Underneath “INBOX” in the left hand column, clicking on the folder “Unverified”.
    • If an Email from the sender is in your list of unverified senders, check the box beside them in the list and click the “Authorize” button to whitelist their Email address.


Business Email Accounts

If you are using an email account provided by your company, it is likely that your IT department is using additional business grade spam filters which you may not have direct control over.  You may either need to contact your IT department to whitelist the email address, or use a personal email account instead.

Internet Service Providers

If you are using an email account provided by your Internet Service Provider (Cox, Charter, AT&T, etc.), it is likely that they are using additional proprietary spam filters which you may not have direct control over.  You may need to contact tech support at your ISP to whitelist the email address, or use a different email account instead.


Many emails these days contain at least some HTML.  Most email programs can handle HTML including Gmail, Hotmail, MSN, Yahoo! Mail, Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora Pro, Netscape Navigator, Netscape Communicator, Mozilla or AOL 6.0 and up.  On the off chance you are using Eudora Light, an earlier version of Eudora Pro, or AOL 5.0 or earlier, you will not be able to receive HTML emails.  In some cases, more modern email programs may be set to Text Only mode, in which case, you may have issues reading HTML emails.  It is also important to note that most email programs don’t support all HTML; so, an email that does not render well in one, may look much better in another.

Address Book Required

Some Email systems require a sender to be in your address book to keep the Email from being diverted to a “junk” or “bulk” mail folder.  If your system has this requirement, add the sender’s email address to your address book.