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Saturday, February 2, 2013

1315. Email Return Receipt Requested?

I sometimes receive an email that I open and I see a pop up message
that says the sender requested a receipt confirmation. What does this mean? And
what should I do?

Some people feel the need to be
notified when and if I open their email. Not all email systems support this
feature, and those that do handle it differently. But from your perspective,
receiving the email, you don’t care how it works. It’s just somewhat intrusive,
and to be honest, we’re not thrilled having people know the details of our
email reading habits.

From the sender’s point of view,
you have the option on most email clients of requesting a receipt when the user
has opened your message. Once that happens, you’ll see an email in your inbox
indicating that the recipient has opened the message. (Of course, the receipt
will most likely say that the recipient has “read” the message, but there isn’t
any guarantee of that. We’re humans, after all.)

You always have the option to
opt out of sending the receipt, and we recommend that, unless the email comes
from a business associate and you want the sender to know that you’ve read the
message, you should opt out. You have no obligation to let anyone know that you
have opened their email.

If the email comes from a vendor
you haven’t done business with, or from someone you don’t know, you should
never even open the email. Unfortunately, the world is full of “evil” people
working hard to make your life more difficult, and email message can contain
bits of program code or markers that can send information back to the sender
without your knowledge. Malicious emails that you open and view in your email
client can, and sometimes do, install software onto your computer that can
cause all sorts of trouble. In other words: If you don’t know the sender, or
have any reason to believe that the email is a fraud, don’t open it. Delete it!
(And that’s not really a tight enough filter—recently, there have been a spate
of emails sent through Yahoo/SBC Global/AT&T email servers that come from
someone you know, and contain only a link. Even though these emails come from a
friend, they’re malicious. If you see an email with only a link to a web page
in it, delete it. Don’t even think about clicking the link. We have been
getting these emails recently from friends who are no longer alive. It’s

If you find that your email
provider and/or email client does not allow you to reject receipt requests, we
suggest that you switch email clients and/or email providers. We’ve talked
several times in the past about the reasons to not use email addresses provided
by your ISP, and this may be the impetus to get you to switch. Remember: Unless
the email receipt request comes from someone you know, and unless you really
want that person to know that you have opened their email, you should reject
the receipt request.  No one needs to
know when and if you opened their email, otherwise.

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