Act Now to Stop Being Spammed Via Google Groups

Yesterday I got some spam. Nothing new or unusual about that. What was strange was what followed. I deleted the spam but then started get dozens and dozens of replies from people asking to be removed. Some polite, some abusive but all very misguided in believing their actions would work.

I must have gotten close to 50 emails, which needless to say is annoying. Despite using GMail's "Mute" feature people were changing the subject, which unmuted their newly created thread and the emails continued. What bothered me was that I didn't understand how it had happened, so I set about working it out.

The Reply-To and the list of To addresses for the email are all *@GoogelGroups.com addresses. Googlegroups.com does in fact point to their site and appears a legitimate domain.


To work out what was going on I signed in to Google Groups and clicked in "My Groups" (I've used Google Groups in the past but don't recall ever signing up to any). Nonetheless here's what I saw:


So, apparently, I'm a member of the group to which the reply-to of the spam was sent. As are lots of other people. Hence all the round-robin emails from all the idiots to the other idiots.

Then, under the Manage My Memberships section I found the issue.


Looks like I "allowed" myself to be added to groups by their "managers". WTF Google!?

Needless to say I've now disallowed my addition to groups and removed myself from the two I was in, which should stop the current spam stream and any future spam.

If you have a Google account I suggest you check your Groups settings before you spend a day deleting emails from deluded people thinking that replying to spammers gets you delisted.


    • avatar
    • Emma
    • Thu 24 May 2012 04:38 AM

    Apparently I haven't got an account with Google so I have no idea how to remove myself from the group list! What a nightmare this is!

    • avatar
    • Jo
    • Thu 24 May 2012 04:42 AM

    Hi Jake,

    I don't have a Google account yet I keep getting all the random "stop sending me emails" all from people who are not on my mailing list!!

    I did a double check & my email address & it confirms no Google account!

    Goodness knows how I've been included!

    So unless people follow your instructions they'll keep coming to me & I can't remove myself because I'm not there in the first place!!!


      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Thu 24 May 2012 04:45 AM

      Hmm, that is odd.

      I guess Google allows group "managers" to add any email address to be added as a member of a group - regardless of whether that email address is tied to an actual Google account.

      In which case the only solution would be (I assume) to register for a Google account using the email address being spammed and then use the above instructions. Seems a bit perverse, but hey...

      Show the rest of this thread

    • avatar
    • Alex
    • Thu 24 May 2012 04:50 AM

    Thanks Jake it worked for me

  1. Thanks for sharing that. I hadn't gotten into the situation you had, but now I know I should be able to avoid it. :)

    • avatar
    • Mark Teichmann
    • Thu 24 May 2012 06:41 AM

    Thanks for sharing. I did not get spam until now but fixed the setting in Groups account.

    • avatar
    • Joel
    • Thu 24 May 2012 06:51 AM

    Thanks very much for this!

    I too did not have a googlegroups account, but when I created one I found I had been added to five groups by their 'managers'!

    After spending lots of time getting rid of various incarnations of google chrome from my home computer, I now get this on my work email!

    Google really are rubbish.

  2. thank you !

    • avatar
    • Elizabeth
    • Thu 24 May 2012 07:25 AM

    Hi everyone,

    Just as Jo, I got spam on another e-mail than my google account. I've looked in to the details from the email and there were instructions mentioned about how to unsubscribe. Depending on the group that you're added to the email address might be different but this is the one I had:


    I send a blank e-mail without a subject or anything in it to the address and instantly got a reply (in Arabian, translated it online) that I was removed from the group. Don't know yet what's gonna happen now or if I will keep getting reply message. We'll see.

    So check all the info coming in with the email and at the bottom of it, it should have something about unsubscribing. Hope this helps!

    • avatar
    • Aaron Hardin
    • Thu 24 May 2012 08:04 AM

    Thanks brother, I haven't started receiving anything yet but I too needed to be checked.

  3. Thanks for the heads up. I went to the link and discovered that I was subscribed to five groups, only one which I had actually subscribed to. I made the settings change and unsubscribed from all the groups.

    • avatar
    • Shelley
    • Thu 24 May 2012 09:13 AM

    How do you remove yourself from the google group. My email spam messages don't say anything at the bottom about unsubscribing and I can't find anything about unsubscribing ont he groups page.

    • avatar
    • Shelley
    • Thu 24 May 2012 09:16 AM

    I just figured out how to unsubscribe. Click on individual group and on the next page, there is an unsubscribe button. Thank you!

    • avatar
    • andy
    • Thu 24 May 2012 10:17 AM

    Good work fella.


    • avatar
    • Aaron
    • Thu 24 May 2012 11:00 AM


    Thank you for taking the time to create this walk through. Turns out i was subscribed to some group called "Default text styling" WTF is that? I don't ever remember signing up for that.

    "I'm a member of the group to which the reply-to of the spam was sent. As are lots of other people. Hence all the round-robin emails from all the idiots to the other idiots."

    This literally had me laughing. Its true, people are idiots if they thing replying to spam messages is going to make things any better, let alone "replying to all" Get a clue people!


    1. With Google groups, just replying to the email replies to everyone in the group. So an attacker can make themselves or a drop box email address a member of the group and every person that replies is then validated as a legitimate spam target for the attacker to sell to other spammers. Slick... as in slimy.

    • avatar
    • corinne
    • Thu 24 May 2012 04:04 PM

    thanks jake, what a strange thing.......

    awesome for taking the time to help us all......

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Fri 25 May 2012 03:41 AM

      No worries Corinne. Glad I could help.

      My regular readers may be wondering who all these new names belong to.

      Yesterday I too replied to the spam message (thus sending an email to the whole group) explaining why they were getting the emails and with a link to this page to help them fix it.

      Give me that nice feeling to know I've helped people out. Also that some take time to thank me ;)

    • avatar
    • Djilali
    • Fri 25 May 2012 10:37 AM

    Thank you! I've never found the time to investigate this issue....

    Once again Jake came to our rescue :)

    • avatar
    • Pat in Georgia
    • Fri 25 May 2012 04:40 PM

    Jake, I was one of the "victims" of the latest mail-outs, and appreciated your suggestions. Google seems to know every move I make on the Internet, but, like you, I never subscribed to any Google Group. I think I've successfully unsubscribed and changed my settings, but this seems to have been a chronic problem for Google for several years. It certainly operates differently from my Yahoo Groups, in allowing group owners to subscribe members without their permission. That's not the case with Yahoo Groups, nor do I have to moderate every message to control spam. That would be a full time job!

  4. Good article, Jake. Very useful. If this ever happens to me I'll point them right here.

    First let me say I love Google Groups and Yahoo Groups. I'm a member of 32 Google Groups and 10 Yahoo Groups. I manage 5 of them. I've created many of them over the years.

    The longest running one I started September 1st, 1999, is the Austin Screenwriters Group: http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/austinscreenwriters/ It has 392 members at the moment and we get five or six membership requests each month.

    Another group had five people and we used it for twelve years to coordinate our monthly meetings. They were mostly computer illiterate so I added their email address myself. I was the only one who had a Google account. The others didn't need one.

    I'm sorry to hear that spammers have found yet another way to abuse a great free service. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Maybe there are other ways to manage this kind of communications, but I haven't seen them. Of course I'm not looking either, because I've found what I need.

    Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn ... I use them all for different things. None of them do the same thing as these two group services.

    Just like other sources of email SPAM or viruses or phishing or a guy at the door selling the Brooklyn Bridge, it's up to me and you to maintain our vigilantes and keep current with what's happening to stay safe.

    Wow, never knew I was so passionate about mailing list group software.



    • avatar
    • Zen
    • Tue 29 May 2012 09:19 PM

    Thanks have changed - reminded me of this:

    Working once at large international accounting firm using Notes someone sent out a legit email event invite to about 500 people in a group with 2 simple buttons titled "Yes I can come" , "No I cant come" and nice big embedded 1MB image to make it look pretty – the buttons were a good idea I guess to streamline responses than relying users to compose a response.

    Problem was they got the simple actions (or whatever it was Notes called it) wrong - instead of sending a simple Yes/No response as planned - clicking on either of the buttons sent out the original invite email with the incorrect buttons and big image back to everyone in the group again. Those who had already "responded" got frustrated and clicked the buttons a couple times to really drive home the point sending out to everyone in the group again (several times), etc etc, went on for about a week clogging up email boxes, then the next week people came back from leave and it all started again…

    Always loved how IT did a great job of protecting from external threats but this internal social DDoS virus caught them off guard – slowed the entire email system down to a crawl

      • avatar
      • Chris C
      • Wed 30 May 2012 10:27 AM

      I remember the almost exact same thing happening at a place where I worked years ago. I ended up writing a agent to delete these emails and putting it in the mail template to put an end to it.

Your Comments


About This Page

Written by Jake Howlett on Thu 24 May 2012

Share This Page

# ( ) '


The most recent comments added:

Skip to the comments or add your own.

You can subscribe to an individual RSS feed of comments on this entry.

Let's Get Social

About This Website

CodeStore is all about web development. Concentrating on Lotus Domino, ASP.NET, Flex, SharePoint and all things internet.

Your host is Jake Howlett who runs his own web development company called Rockall Design and is always on the lookout for new and interesting work to do.

You can find me on Twitter and on Linked In.

Read more about this site »

More Content