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The worst spam emails ever

Spam emails suck.


While the current public perception of email marketing may intrinsically link it to the shadowy spam industry, it is, and always has been, our sincere hope that this perception will soon change.

No one likes unwanted messages filling up their inbox, especially when some of those unwanted emails can cause serious problems for those who fall for them.

Which makes sense.

The big question is, in this age of spam filters, double opt-ins, Gmail tabs, and (presumably) increasingly aware email users, how is making spam emails even worth anyone’s time anymore?

It must be.

Because those pesky spammers are still at it, and many of them are still using the same tired methods that they have been for years.

Take a peek in your spam folder, do any of these look familiar?

The worst spam emails ever

1) The Nigerian Prince scam


One of the most recognisable spam emails is sent by scammers posing as a member of a wealthy Nigerian family. Variations of this email also come from Zimbabwean, Libyan and even German families, but they all have one thing in common: a person with a prestigious sounding name promises a large cut of their wealth or inheritance. Millions! Billions! If you help pay the legal fees required to release their money.

The eloquence of such emails knows no bounds. Doesn’t this sound like it came directly from a royal pen?

Why you were the chosen one to help this regal prince (and not one of their other royal family members), we’ll never know, but there was never any money to begin with. If you fall for this, you’ll lose any ‘fees’ you agreed to send and won’t receive anything in return. Shocking! We know.

2) The “Make millions at home!” promise


These spam emails target people who daydream about making money at home while hardly lifting a finger. Some catchy email titles are “This mom makes $23,000 per month! Learn how!” or “Make $50k in 50 days!” Spammers try to convince people that all they have to do is sit back and relax (with no obligation to shave or shower daily) and collect paycheck after paycheck.

We’d love for this to actually be a possibility, however, in the world of spammy, scammy emails, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

After you’ve agreed to download a special programme onto your computer (you know, the one that will turn it into a money-making machine), you’ll be plagued by pop-ups and advertisements that generate per-click revenue for spammers but bog down your computer’s performance. It’ll be so bad that you’ll have to shamefully find your nearest computer technician and shell out some dough to clean the malware off your hard drive.

3) Male enhancement or breast enlargement spam

Image credit: Warner Bros


The public’s obsession with big penises and even bigger boobs has gotten out of control. Scammers prey on people’s lack of confidence and secret desires to justify peppering millions of inboxes with promises of special gadgets, pills or minimally invasive surgeries that will give you a larger rack or, um, package.

It doesn’t matter what your gender, age, browsing history, cookie settings, or location is – no email box is left unscathed. While these emails are generally funny and boast outrageous claims, they can be embarrassing if your boss or mom get a glimpse of your inbox before you’ve had the chance to delete them.

4) The pyramid scheme

Image credit: Universal Pictures


The pyramid scheme has been around for ages.

It predates the internet by a wide margin, but the idea remains the same: The basic premise is that you receive a message and are encouraged to forward it to X number of friends in the hopes of receiving a surprise in return.

What’s tricky is that the pyramid scheme is no longer limited to email and has weaselled its way into other avenues such as social media. Some sound innocent, like tagging friends in a ‘Jesus Loves You’ image that will bring about a miracle later that day or forwarding an email to your co-workers to stop an evil spell from happening. Some pyramid schemes are downright bold and tell you to send a few dollars to the person on the top of the email list in hopes to later receive upwards of millions yourself.

The bottom line is the spammer now has a rapidly growing list of emails or Facebook accounts that are eventually used for more malicious attacks.

5) The free holiday scheme


Who doesn’t like getting things for free? Whether it’s an all expenses paid trip to the Bahamas, the newest iPad or a winning lottery ticket, all that’s required of you is a few minutes of your time filling out a short survey and confirming your email. Sounds easy enough, right?

However, you’ve not only handed over your email and personally identifiable information (which can later be used to steal your identity), but you may have even fallen for a trap to pay a processing or shipping fee to claim your non-existent winnings.

6) The guaranteed loan trick


In an attempt to keep up with the Joneses, many people have fallen into the downward spiral of spending more than they make.

Cue the entrance of the guaranteed loan spam email. These enticing emails promise a pre-approved loan or credit card, but there’s a catch: they charge an upfront one-time fee.

Although many major credit card companies do charge an annual fee, it is only ever charged to the card itself and never as an independent fee during signup. Individuals who are feeling pressured by financial problems are the ones most likely to fall for this gimmick.

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: email marketing and spam are two completely different things.

Why is this distinction so important to us? Because we are tired of unethical hacks giving our amazing industry a bad name.

Here at Phrasee we share a singular vision with those driving email marketing’s renaissance.

That vision? A brighter future for email as a marketing channel. A future where we can offer well-crafted email campaigns to people who have given us consent to do so.

Eliminating this kind of email spam pap is a great step toward that future.


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