What’s Good for Fighting SPAM is Bad for You

Outbound spam filters can make sure your legitimate e-mail communications do not wind up as collateral damage.




Some say it’s a losing battle. Spam is here to stay, and the enemy is gaining ground. But take heart: Spam filters are becoming more sophisticated, with forceful weapons that can fight off the worst of foes.

Weapons for the arsenal

That’s good news, but where does it leave you – the legitimate email marketer with important information your members want to read? New tools put in place to combat spam are blocking your email communications as well. Internet Service Providers have new rules that will immediately shut off your credit union’s outbound email or place your IP address and domain on their blacklists. New rules based on:

  • Volume of email sent in a given timeframe
  • Content of your email and percent of images to text
  • Too many recipients reporting the email as spam in a given timeframe
  • Repeatedly sending emails to addresses previously reported as bad
  • Incorrect Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record

Are your emails reaching their targets?

Frankly, without strong email practices and some elbow grease, it will be almost impossible to mass email your members in the near future. EStatement notifications, e-newsletters, promotional emails and eSurvey invitations are getting credit unions' institutions across the country blacklisted each month. A strong spam checker on outbound email is becoming one of the most important tools for ensuring that your messages are even considered for delivery by the major ISPs. Credit Unions' institutions and top-notch email service providers should employ a forceful system that routinely tests outbound email messages and alerts you to problems. If a message scores too high, you can make the necessary changes to send it on its way.

Department of Labor Federal Credit Union (DOLFCU) in Washington, D.C., recently learned firsthand the value of a good spam checker on their outbound emails.

“We had two email alerts that didn’t pass a tough spam-check process,” said Joan Moran, president/chief executive officer of DOLFCU. “Our scores weren’t outrageous, but the ratio of images to text was higher than normal, which served as a red flag that we were above the normal threshold,” Moran said. “We were notified right away so we could adjust the copy and graphics.”

Moran says the minor inconvenience of altering content or subject lines is a small price to pay for knowing her credit union’s email alerts reach their destinations. That’s even more important in DOLFCU’s case because most of its members are federal employees or contractors, and government spam filters are notoriously intolerant.

“Before using DigitalMailer, we couldn’t tell if our messages were being received or not,” she said. “Now we know the status right away – they inform us, help us fix any questionable areas and send us regular reports. Our enhanced ability to test messages has meant far fewer rejections.”

Knowing that email messages from the credit union are safe-listed also provides comfort to members, according to Moran. “We have permission to send email alerts to nearly 20 percent of our members, and we’re working for 100 percent,” she said. “Most of our members are Web-savvy, but they still worry about being attacked. They’re quick to let us know if they receive bogus email that looks like it’s coming from us.

One of the ways DOLFCU uses email alerts is to provide member education on, well, bogus email alerts. “We’ve had very good pickup with our alerts; members really like communicating with us in that way,” Moran said. “I think the key is to keep members informed, carefully design messages and take advantage of spam-check services – that’s making a big difference for us.”

Action items to be battle ready

For most credit unions', staying out of spam filters requires adjusting their own systems or working with email service providers, like DigitalMailer, that know how to play well with ISPs around the world. If you do decide to go it alone, be sure to:

  • Get your credit unions' institution’s email system certified or safe-listed with ISPs;
  • Use internal “spam-check tools” to evaluate outgoing email to truncate, and repair, email campaigns that are likely to trigger spam filters at ISPs;
  • Consider an email software engine that uses throttling programs, and more, to ensure you conform to ISP’s requirements for “numbers of emails sent” and “numbers sent in specified periods;”
  • Automatically shut off bad email address reported by ISPs and don’t send to them again;
  • Give careful consideration to email content and the number of images in the email;
  • Choose your subject line carefully, avoiding words and punctuation that might look suspicious or illogical. Also, make sure the recipient’s name is displayed in the “to” box and that your full name, or credit unions' institution’s name, is in the “from” box;
  • Send preference-based email messages – ask members’ permission to send them email and let them choose the type they receive (e.g., car-loan sales, rate changes or account notices). That makes your institution a welcome guest in their email inboxes;
  • Register your own Sender Policy Framework (SPF) records to protect against forged sender addresses, and to meet the growing list of ISPs requiring this form of “identification” and
  • Monitor “end-user spam reporting” and research why members reported the email as spam.

Want to know if your emails are getting through?

DigitalMailer has a state-of-the-art email system that carefully analyzes clients’ outbound email, enabling us to maintain certification on 4.3 million servers worldwide. We are offering a FREE report on how ISPs are rating your organization’s emails for content, if you are blacklisted and where, as well as if your SPF records are in place and correct. For your FREE email check up and to win the battle against spam filters, contact us at info@digitalmailer.com or click on the ICON.


DigitalMailer (www.digitalmailer.com) is a leader in digital communication and the tools needed to reach your online members. To subscribe to our eNewsletter that shares resources, industry trends, best practices and valuable lessons learned from credit unions' service providers, visit: http://www.digitalmailer.com/newsletter.html

Greg Crandell is an Executive Vice President at DigitalMailer, Inc., a digital communication provider that helps clients gain a strategic business advantage through eStatements, e-LERTS, e-newsletters, email and other virtual tools on the Internet. You can email Greg at gcrandell@digitalmailer.com if you want more information on any topic found in our newsletters or web site.




May 7, 2007


  • Very good information. We were just discussing today if anyone knew the "big red flags" for out bound e-mails.
    Larry Hoffman
  • Good information as we get into email.