Character sets and Spam detection – Graham Jones

Graham Jones (Vancouver, BC, IT Pro and UserGroup Lead)

Character sets and email being flagged as Spam

I haven't come across this myself as of yet, but it is something that you should be aware of in case you are emailing individuals and getting strange bounce messages by their hosting providers.

In this post - Graham explains a situation where his email was being flagged and bounced from being delivered to his daughter. Interesting fix. I find that as a mail administrator (I admin and run my own mail server for my personal domain) you always have to stay on top of these things... SPF records, authorized senders, blackhole relays, false blacklists and the like... Looks like I have to add ONE MORE THING to my list of checks.



My wife and I regularly exchange email with my daughter-in-law and everything was fine until the other day when everything bounced with the problem message being, “The user does not accept email in non-Western (non-Latin) character sets”. Huh! I hadn’t changed a thing (truly – I know you must have heard that many times from users). Equally this was the only email account that was creating problems. So I tried sending email to her via my webmail account with the same ISP – no problem! Conclusion – it has to be something to do with Outlook but what and besides I didn’t change anything!

Then I remembered that my daughter-in-law’s email was handled through Godaddy. So I started digging around on the Internet and guess what, a lot of other people had suddenly had the same problem. Seemingly Godaddy had added an option to their spam filter to reject email containing, you guessed it, non-Western characters. But I am using English (well my approximate version of it originally being from Yorkshire) so what the…..? A little further investigation and I found the root of the problem and how to change some settings in Outlook to fix it. Apparently there is a character, “windows-1250" which sometimes appears in the HTML version of Outlook messages that gets interpreted as a non-Western character (who knew!?).

The fix which I found, and seems to work so far, is as follows:

Tools > Options > Mail Format > click the International Options button > check both boxes use English for message flags and English for message headers on replies and forwards > uncheck Auto Select encoding and choose Western European as preferred encoding for outgoing messages

I also discovered that this new spam option can be turned off for each email account via Godaddy. So if you suddenly encounter similar problems this might help. Incidentally, I am using Outlook 2007 and my wife is using Outlook 2003. The web info that I found suggested that the problem was confined to earlier versions but that would appear to not be the case.

Graham Jones
President, VANTUG

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