Q: I receive about 50 junk emails every day. When I look at the sender address, it is ” …@SYNTAX_ERROR.” The emails do not have an error. Because the “from” address of SYNTAX_ERROR is not a domain name, I cannot block these emails. I was able to send them to the junk folder, but I still have to scan that folder for other emails that might not be junk. Can you help me find a way to block these emails?

— Bruce Arbuckle 

A: Syntax errors in emails are reported when the address in a sent email is incorrectly formatted. The mystery is why you’re getting these reports when you haven’t sent the emails.

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One possible explanation is that a spammer has been sending emails from your account or is “borrowing” your address as a return address.

I’m happy that you’ve been able to divert those emails to your junk mail using the text in them as a trigger. Yes, you’ll still have to scan your junk mail folder for “legitimate” emails, but I recommend doing that anyway. Spam filters are far from infallible.

If it was me, however, I’d create a new email account. In fact, I did just that recently. And I keep the old email account as “spam bait.” That is, I use the old account when I need to give an email address to any website, company or anyone who isn’t a trusted personal contact. And yes, I scan that old account once a day for emails I want to see. As time goes by, however, the number of such emails quickly diminishes.


Q: I created a new Gmail account. How can I move the emails and contacts from my old Gmail account to my new one without moving each item manually?

— J. Kenner

A: First, sign into the new Gmail account. Next, click on the gear icon in the upper-right corner, then on Settings. Now click on the “Accounts and Import” tab. Finally, click on “Import mail and contacts.” You’ll then be prompted to sign into the account you want to copy emails from.

Q: I get an error message about “failed authentication” when trying to send emails from my Mozilla Thunderbird and Apple Mail third-party email programs. My host email provider is Comcast. This problem started about three weeks ago after years of trouble-free outgoing emails. The SMTP server address has not changed, and I am using the preferred port number, 587. The only changes made recently are Thunderbird and Apple updates, but updates have never negatively affected my outgoing emails. I’m still receiving emails with no problem. 

— Bob Thirsk

A: You’ve already done the first thing I’d recommend, which is checking the port settings against the settings recommended by your service provider. Next, remove that email account from those mail clients and then reconnect it. If that doesn’t solve the problem, my suspicion would turn to email-syncing issues. It sounds like you’re using multiple mail clients. Are you using multiple devices and syncing emails? If any of those devices is not configured properly, it can result in failed authentication.