Self-Destructing e-mail?

I received an email from a corporation I work with. The email was from their corporate domain to my personal email (an AOL address). It included about 10 attachments. I opened it up on my computer (web aol, not local client), read it, then closed it and “marked new” for later. One day later, I went to find it, and it was gone. I checked spam, Recently Deleted, Old Mail, everything. It wasn’t there. Weird.

I asked them to send it again. Same thing… I opened it up (not the attachments), “marked new”, one day later, gone.

I asked them to send it again (this was yesterday). This time I got smart. When it arrived, I forwarded it to myself. I also opened up all the attachments I needed, printed them, and marked the email as new. So far so good.

This morning I checked and the original email is once again gone, although the Forward to myself is of course still there.

It’s not super critical in this case, but it does freak me out a little bit. Is there such a thing as a self-destructing email, a la Mission Impossible?

I have a friend who’s involved in a MLM company who’s base is an email service. One of the selling points is self-destructing email. I tried it (send an email from their account to mine) and it worked just fine. Sorry I don’t remember the email service name.

I wonder how such a thing is possible, particularly if you use an email client like Outlook and download your messages to a local store.

Outlook does have a “recall message” function, designed for when you click send and then go, “Oh, oops! Typo!”

Yes but I think that only works if you’re both on the same Exchange server. And even then, if I’ve open the message before the recall, it does nothing.

There is downloading and then there is downloading. I leave most of my folders on the server so that I can easily read an delete my mail from both my phone and my work computer. When I delete mail that I have read on my computer via my phone it is gone from my computer. However I can copy mail to local folders on my work computer and the phone can do anything to them.

It also works if you’re on different exchange servers but the receiving one is set up to allow recall.

If it’s happening on a web AOL account, then either your account is compromised or AOL facilitates people making self-deleting e-mail. I wouldn’t doubt they’re doing some weird stuff to try and survive.

As a programmer, this whole thing mystifies me. The only way I can imagine it working is (in the OP’s case) with the cooperation of AOL.

We don’t know the software used for sending the email or for destroying it, so let’s just call it IMFmail for convenience. IMFmail can send whatever electrons they want into the cloud, but once AOL receives them, AOL owns them. What can IMFmail possibly do to destroy the email, unless they’ve literally hacked into AOL’s system? That is tough for me to imagine, especially if IMFmail’s customers rely on this feature to operate dependably.

So the only thing I can imagine, is that IMFmail has some sort of agreement with AOL, according to which AOL agrees to delete such email whenever IMFmail asks them to.

But it still sounds pretty unrealistic. There’s got to be a better answer.

The schemes I’ve seen so far for self-destructing messages involved the viewer having to visit a particular Web site to view the message. It doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Alternative explanation: AOL’s mail server deletes the message in question because it detects it (belatedly) as being infected with a virus.

Well, I’m relieved to know that based on the speculation here I’m not losing my mind in thinking it’s weird.

I really don’t know much about the local vs. web distinctions and how that works when messages are opened, saved, etc.; my SO and I do use an iPod Touch once in awhile when we’re out of the house and it will download mail when we open up the wifi, but: (a) we haven’t done this in the period of time in question; (2) we did check the Touch here at home today just to see if by chance the missing message would appear and of course it didn’t show up there at all.

Who knows? Maybe there is indeed a gremlin that compromised the account and chose that particular message to fuck with. (Possible, I’m sure; but seems unlikely).