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Shooting Blanks?

Blank Emails and Email Etiquette

Have you ever received a blank email? One that appears to come from someone you know? What’s up with that?

A site visitor writes:

What does it mean when someone replies to your email with a blank message (i.e., empty message box; no message text, not even your original message)?

Net [email protected] Site Visitor

Check Your Email Settings

Hmmm… it could be several reasons. If the email is from someone you know, they could be using formatting that you cannot read. First, check to make sure your email program is set to read HTML email. That can be a reason you are unable to read a formatted email.

Another setting to investigate is whether your program is set to AUTOMATICALLY DOWNLOAD HTML GRAPHICS. When that setting is off, an all-graphic email will not display without your approval.

I don’t have this option checked as I don’t want anything to display by virtue of code without my knowledge. (Some viruses count on this option being available).

Another cause can be if the underlying HTML code is broken. But, again, that is out of your control to control.

What you can try to do is right-click on the blank message and choose VIEW SOURCE. There you will see any underlying code and possibly even the message that the non-standard code is preventing you from viewing.

They continued…

There were no attachments from them, nor a return receipt function from me. (If I had to guess, I’m inclined to the view that it’s simply a way of acknowledging receipt of email.)

I don’t think so. It is the epitome of laziness to send a blank email to acknowledge the receipt of an email. I’ve never had that happen to me or considered that as an option.

Is there a virus at play?

Is the email from someone you know? They may have a virus generating and sending out these emails.

What if the email is from someone you do not know? It could be a spammer (or a spammer’s virus). A spammer may be trying to verify if your email address is valid. They send an email; it doesn’t bounce back. You’ve confirmed your email address is active. Add your email to the list!

Here’s another reason why I don’t have AUTOMATICALLY DOWNLOAD HTML GRAPHICS turned on. A tiny invisible graphic is embedded in the code. When the email is opened, the little hidden graphic displays. You don’t see it because it is so tiny.

To display that graphic requires a call to the server where the image is stored. This tracking pixel reports back to their server that your address is valid/live. Because you opened the email.

Your email address is then added to the list to be spammed in the future or sold to other spammers. Nice, huh?

That’s why I have AUTOMATICALLY DOWNLOAD HTML GRAPHICS turned off. I then have the option of displaying images on an email by email basis.

Always be Cautious!

Bottom line? In most cases, these emails are either spam, or your contact has a virus. So do your contact a favor and email them to give them a heads-up.

Ask them if they know if their virus software is up to date. For example, when was the last time was an entire system scan? Then, of course, they will want to run one just to be safe.

Trust your gut. When you see an email that doesn’t make sense, it tends to be something you want to be wary of.

Get the word out...