January 18th, 2017

Why am I still getting spam at my old email provider?

This question came in through “Ask Erik:”

Hi Erik,

I came across your article entitled Split Domain Routing: Getting Email for Your Domain at Two Providers while trying to figure out why one of the people in the small 3 person company I am affiliated with got a call from our web hosting and domain name company asking him to increase his email storage capacity even though we had migrated our email service away from them 2 years ago and at that time had redirected our DNS MX records to our new email provider.

When I looked at my colleague’s email on the old service, I saw that he is still receiving spam mail there even though he is getting all his business mail through the new provider. How is it possible that he gets any mail at the old place at all now? I think the money he paid them is a completely ripoff as that is not his working email! Unfortunately I am the only one of the 3 of us that understands any of this…and that isn’t saying much. Thanks for any thoughts.

Hello!  This is actually quote a common scenario.  If you do not close down your account with your old email provider, then that provider will usually still accept inbound email addressed to you which arrives at its servers.

You would think that by changing your DNS MX records, that no more email would ever arrive there.  And indeed, all of your legitimate email did get redirected to the new location.  However, spammers are lazy folks who don’t necessarily care about how email is supposed to work and just want to deliver email messages as fast as possible.  It is quite common for them to “permanently” memorize what servers accept email for you and to perpetually send their spam there as long as they keep accepting it.  Why? because this allows them to send email much more quickly … not checking if the delivery destination has changed in DNS.

As a result, what you see is that you will continue to get spam and only spam at your old provider and that will continue to pile up.  This is not your old provider’s fault — you have chosen to keep your account open and, as far as they know, there may be legitimate reasons why you may want to have it open and even allowed to receive email.  One example reason, would be to allow you to quickly change your MX records back in case of some kind of failure at your new provider.

So, what can you do?

Your choices are:

  1. Close your old account,
  2. Keep the account open, but disable inbound email delivery for your users or domains at the old provider (if they have this option), or
  3. Get a good spam filter at your old provider, or
  4. Just keep things as they are, letting the SPAM go there, until you are done with the account.

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