What to Check

If you are not receiving messages that have been sent to your email forwarding address, or messages sent to your email forwarding address are bouncing back, first check the following:

  • Make sure that the message was sent to the correct address, with no spelling mistakes.
  • Make sure that your email forwarding address is forwarding to a valid email address. If forwarding has not been activated, any messages sent to your forwarding address will bounce back as undeliverable. You can view and change your forwarding settings on the alumni.harvard Email Forwarding page.
  • Make sure that it has been at least 24 hours since you set up email forwarding. It takes 24 hours for changes to your forwarding settings to take effect, so any messages sent within 24 hours of setting up your address may bounce back.

See below for more details if this does not resolve the problem.

Types of Problems

Below are several common problems with email forwarding.

Messages not received (no bounce-back message)

Possible Causes

  • The messages have been flagged by a spam filter on the destination account and delivered into a "spam" or "trash" folder instead of the inbox.
  • The messages are deleted by the destination account without generating a bounce-back message, possibly because of being flagged by spam software.
  • The messages have been delayed by either the email forwarding servers or the destination account and will be delivered eventually.
  • Your email forwarding address is not forwarding to the email account where you are checking your mail.
  • If you are sending test messages from the account where your email forwarding address is forwarding, your email program may recognize that the message you sent is the same as the message you received, and only display the message as "sent mail," not in your inbox. This is particularly common with Gmail accounts.
  • It’s important to know that forwarded emails are often perceived as spam or phishing attacks by email providers like Gmail or Yahoo. Your email provider may reject emails sent to your forwarding address, resulting in you not receiving them.

For the reason above, you should not use your email forwarding address for any critical communications or functions such as business transactions, job searches, financial transactions, or password recovery.

Recommended Action

  • Check all folders of your email account for the message, including the trash and any designated spam folders.
  • Check your forwarding settings on the alumni.harvard Email Forwarding page to make sure that mail is being forwarded to the account you expect. If it is being forwarded to a different account, check that account for any missing messages.
  • If the message that you did not receive was sent from the account to which your email forwarding address is forwarding, try sending a test message from a different email account.

Messages bouncing: "Host or domain name not found"

Messages bouncing back with an error like the following:

<name@alumni.havard.edu>: Host or domain name not found. Name service error for name=alumni.havard.edu type=A: Host not found

Cause

This message means that the email address's domain (the part of the address to the right of the @ sign) does not exist, generally because it is misspelled or otherwise incorrect.

Recommended Action

Make sure that messages are sent to the correct email address.

Messages bouncing: "User unknown in local recipient table"

Messages bouncing back with an error like the following:

<name@alumni.harvard.edu>: host storm.cadm.harvard.edu[128.103.149.97] said:
550 <name@alumni.harvard.edu>: Recipient address rejected:  User unknown in local recipient table (in reply to RCPT TO command)

Possible Causes

This error means that the message was sent to an address which is not present in the email forwarding servers. There are a few reasons why this might be the case.

  • The message was sent to the wrong address, or the address is misspelled.
  • You have not activated forwarding for your email forwarding address.
  • You set up your email forwarding address within the last 24 hours, and it has not yet been transferred to the mail server.
  • Your email forwarding was deactivated, either intentionally or accidentally.

Recommended Action

  • Check to make sure that the message was sent to the correct address, with no spelling mistakes.
  • Check your forwarding settings on the alumni.harvard Email Forwarding page to make sure that forwarding is active and mail is being forwarded to a valid email address.
  • If it has been less than 24 hours since you set up your email forwarding address, wait until the following day, then test again.

Messages bouncing: "Helo command rejected"

Messages bouncing back with an error like the following:

Helo command rejected: need fully-qualified hostname

Cause

The email forwarding servers reject any messages that are received with a missing or incomplete HELO command, as a spam-control technique. The HELO command is the first part of the mail exchange where the sending mail server identifies itself to the receiving mail server. The sending mail server is supposed to include a Domain Name in the HELO command (e.g. server.domain.com) – in general, only spam messages fail to include a fully-qualified hostname in the HELO command.

If legitimate senders are receiving this message, it means that their outgoing mail serves are not configured properly. Including a full hostname in the HELO command is part of the universal standard for email messages, so this problem will most likely cause messages sent to other domains to fail as well.

Recommended Action

The sender of the message will need to contact their system administrator or IT department, and the outgoing (SMTP) mail server will need to be modified to include a fully qualified hostname in the HELO command.

Messages bouncing: SPF

Messages bouncing back with an error like the following:

SPF Policy Error or Sender Policy Framework or SPF Verification Failed

Cause

This error means that the message has been forwarded through the email forwarding servers but is being rejected by the destination email account because that account uses Sender Policy Framework (SPF) verification.

An email account which uses SPF verification requires that any messages which have a "from" address which correspond to certain domains be relayed through known servers corresponding to those domains. This system is designed to combat spam messages which used forged "from" addresses, but also causes problems with forwarding services.

For example, the mail servers for domain.com accounts might require that any messages that say they are from a domain.com address be sent from certain known mail servers in the domain.com domain. When a message is sent from a domain.com address to an email forwarding address that is forwarding to a domain.com address, the domain.com mail server checks the last server that the message last passed through against the "from" address in the message. The domain.com mail server sees a "from" address in the domain.com domain, but with a server that is not recognized as one of domain.com's servers, because the message was relayed through the email forwarding servers between being sent and being received at the destination address (SPF verification only checks the last server that the message passed through). According to domain.com's SPF rules, the message is considered to have a forged "from" address and is rejected.

Recommended Action

If possible, disable SPF verification on the account where your email forwarding address is forwarding (you may need to consult with your mail provider to find out how to do this).

If SPF can't be disabled, the only reliable solution is to set your email forwarding address to forward to a different email address which does not use SPF verification.

Other Problems

There are many reasons why mail is sometimes not received, including server configuration problems, temporary delivery delays, and spam filtering issues. The ultimate cause of the problem could be the sender's email account, the email forwarding mail servers, or the account where mail is being forwarded.