AOL and Innocent By-Senders -- AOL offers an anti-spam feature called PreferredMail that its subscribers can activate. By doing so, an AOL account can bounce all mail from a list of offenders that AOL is constantly compiling. This may be problematic when they sing "Return to Sender" to the wrong person. John Bowden <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes of his difficulty.
John attempted to send email to a company's AOL account, but they couldn't receive his mail. After two months, he found a non-AOL address for the firm and was able to contact the company. He writes:
The AOL postmaster was contacted (and to date has ignored [the company's representative] and myself); my ISP's postmaster says things are working okay. For whatever reason, [the person I was trying to contact] had the thought to turn off the AOL's PreferredMail. Lo and behold, all of the email I had told her I sent flowed into her mail box.
Somehow the AOL folks have determined I am a source of email spam, and have programmed their filter appropriately. So I can't communicate with any friends or businesses that have AOL accounts using AOL's PreferredMail feature.
John also notes PreferredMail can only be active or inactive, and there's no way to use only part of AOL's PreferredMail site list without going to a lot of trouble. We've heard this comment from others, and it's a real problem. Unless AOL implements some reasonable procedure discussing how ISPs and individuals get added to this list, AOL may become isolated. As Glenn points out, forgery is a piece of cake, so AOL may be blocking dozens or thousands of addresses and service providers who had nothing to do with spam - they were just "innocent by-senders."