Q: I'm getting numerous extremely vulgar emails from someone I've never heard of and then getting requests from others I've never heard of to remove them from my contact list and threatening to report me. None of these people are in my contact list, so I'm not replying as I fear it is just a hacking scheme. Here's a part of one of the emails I'm receiving. Don't let any young eyes see this and let me know if you have any suggestions.

-----Original Message-----

From: [REDACTED]

To: [REDACTED]

Sent: Sat, Jul 14, 2018 1:15 am

Subject: Re: BULL****..and...EAT **** and DIE ****YOU, **** YOU,and **** YOU, **** YOU, **** YOU, **** YOU, **** YOU, and **** YOU. ****-HEADS. LYING ***HOLES

Profanity like this is not part of my world. And how you got my email is beyond me. But if I hear anymore of this I will report you to the FCC.

— Bill F., Freeport

A: Oh my. Even with replacing all the profanity with asterisks, that's still pretty over the top. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like one, perhaps two "**** YOUs at the most would have been sufficient for this person to get his point across. It appears to this Geek that someone has some rather severe anger issues, and is likely headed for an early heart attack.

If you're able to look past the profanity and the keyboard rage, the situation actually has a tinge of dark humor to it, especially this schmoe's no-holds-barred reaction. I would submit, however, that this unrestrained rage is symptomatic of the problems we are currently experiencing in our society. Thank heavens for you, for the anonymity of the Internet. I sure wouldn't want to meet that guy in a nightclub or share the roadway with him. I don't think this person should even be allowed on the Internet until he learns a little bit of self-control. Or at least attends an anger-management session or two. OK, three.

Whew! Now then, I'm going to guess this all probably started when your email got hacked. Spammers often use other people's email accounts to send out their trash. They'll acquire a list of addresses somehow, and use each one to blast out a few thousand emails, then abandon it and move on. To the recipients of these emails, they appear to come from you (hence, the "how you got my email is beyond me" part). In this case, the contents of one or more of the emails sent appears to have pushed the wrong buttons with one of the recipients, and in his utter ignorance of how SPAM actually works, he went off on you, and in a mighty big way. It's unpleasant, but I wouldn't let it worry you. It's just a little more insult on top of the injury to having been hacked.

Responses from SPAM recipients are only one of the potential problems from such an attack. If the spammer sent out enough emails from your account, and/or sent them to people who take reciprocal actions instead of just spouting filthy language, several worse things can happen, including your email address getting black-listed as a known source of SPAM, or even your ISP terminating you for terms of service violations. The term "innocent victim" comes to mind.

You can stop any further incursions by immediately changing your email password. Of course, you need to choose a good, hard-to-guess password to minimize the chance of this happening again. Hopefully, this bout with SPAM didn't do any of the further damage I mentioned above. Worst case, you might need to get a new email address to fully recover from it, but that's only in extreme cases.

A strong email account password is your first line of defense against this kind of hacking. Also, watch for inbound emails that appear to be replies to things that you know you didn't send. That includes "bounce" notifications from servers that received an email for an invalid or unknown address. These responses are often the first hint that your email address is being illicitly used.

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