I, Spam Detective: 7 Obvious Spam Signs

Identifying spam isn’t exactly rocket science. Mainly because it involves neither rockets nor science. There are only a few categories of spam mails and virtually all of them revolve around penises.

An email sent to you by “Best Enlargement Pills” is typically a good tip off that it’s spam, because not many people have friends called Best Enlargement Pills. If you do have friends with such names then you deserve every bit of spam heading your way.

Because spam is so prevalent, spammers nowadays have to get creative. They must compose a message that is more than just “FREE NAKED GIRLS, CLICK HERE”. They have to try and make their email appear genuine and personal. This is the story of one such mail.

Knock Knock. "Who's there?". It's me, a totally legitimate email message.

A couple of days ago I’ve received a spam message, but it was a bit different than the generic ones I’ve been getting lately.

Firstly, it didn’t get caught by Yahoo’s junk mail filter. It showed up in my inbox, instead of joining the rest of its Viagra, penis enlargement and porn cousins in the junk folder.

Secondly, it was written as a personal message addressed specifically “to me”, rather than just a list of of links.

Thirdly, it was almost 1000 words long! I don’t always muster the energy to write a 1000-word post on my blog, not to mention a spam message.

Sadly for the spammer who went to such lengths to craft this truly wonderful piece of junk-mail art, the message was still easily identifiable as spam. What follows is a selective breakdown of the message and my commentary on the tell-tale spam signs. I do this to impart my vast spam-detection knowledge onto those less detail oriented. Also, I’m bored.

...now I'm also hungry!

Spam Sign 1: The subject line

It’s truly a shame that after investing so much time and effort into writing a 1000-word “personal” message the sender went with “Private Confidential” as the subject line. I’m not a secret agent (sadly), so receiving a message with that subject is an instant spam alert.

Also, if I ever did expect a “Confidential” message, I most certainly wouldn’t be looking for it in my damn Yahoo Mail inbox. Not to hate on Yahoo, but they’re not exactly the go-to choice for encrypted communications.

Spam Sign 2: The “from” field

Seriously, this one’s so easy to modify. You could go with “SexyChick173” or just a random girl’s name. You’re attempting to convince me you’re a real person. Why the hell do you keep “Postmaster” as your “from” field?

The only messages I’ve ever gotten from “Postmasters” were automated warnings that my mails were not reaching their recipients or that I broke the Internet (again). So unless you’re trying to have me believe that computers have finally gained sentience and are now sending personalised messages to people, this is a stupid strategy!

Also, if I actually believed that computers have become self-aware I’d be too busy barricading my apartment and stockpiling rocket launchers to pay attention to anything you had to say in your stupid email.

"All your mail are belong to us"

Spam Sign 3: The “to” and “CC” address(es)

There’s this advanced trick I’ve learned that allows me to instantly identify whether I’m the primary recipient of an email: if I don’t see my address in the “To” field, I can tell the email’s not addressed to me personally. I know, I’m a genius!

Also, when I see my address along with seven others in the “CC” field I usually assume that you’re not writing to me directly. Call me paranoid, but I prefer to call it “using common sense”.

Spam Sign 4: Mysterious number sequences

The message started with a one-line number sequence and closed with another, different one. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never met a single real person who started and ended their emails that way. Well, there was that autistic kid in high school, but he sent whole emails written exclusively in binary and hieroglyphics. We don’t hang out anymore. (CONTINUE TO PAGE 2)