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Seemingly Pointless Spam with No Links or Payload

by Brett M. Christensen

From time to time, users may receive rather bizarre spam emails with no links, attachments or any sort of payload at all. The messages do not contain any hidden scripts, images or web beacons that could be of use to the spammers. 

As a means of avoiding spam filters, the emails generally contain random snippets of text. The text is generally copied from various literary works, scientific and technical articles, or news reports.  Or it may be just strings of words with no particular meaning. This random text tactic is commonly used in spam campaigns.  The idea is to confuse spam filters by submerging words or phrases that may trigger spam filters among many other words that will not be flagged.

But, in the case of the strange spam emails discussed here, there ARE no trigger words. The messages do not attempt to sell or promote anything at all.

The motivation for sending these spam emails is not always clear-cut. In fact, there are several possible motives for these seemingly pointless spam campaigns.
The messages may be attempts to identify email addresses that are no longer active so that they can be removed from the spammer database. Email addresses that bounce back the sent messages can be automatically flagged and removed.

The messages may be sent with the expectation that at least a few recipients will reply to ask what the emails are about. Such “validated” email addresses, especially those with an apparently guileless owner who has shown his or her willingness to respond to an unsolicited message, are a valuable resource for spammers and scammers and may be elevated to a primary list.

The messages may be test runs sent as a prelude to more serious phishing or malware attacks. A way for the spammer to test his systems and evaluate responses.

The messages may be the result of mistakes or misconfigurations by the spammer. The spammer may have simply forgotten to add the spam link or the link or another payload may have been stripped out by the software system the spammer is using. 
It is also possible that a spam filtering system automatically removed the payload, although such systems would generally include some sort of notification that a removal had taken place.

Of course, some spam emails sent in HTML format may contain images or web-beacons that can tell the sender when the email is opened. Or, they may even contain hidden scripts designed to phone home or connect to malicious websites. But, again, the spam messages discussed here do not include any of these elements.

Bottom line? As with other types of spam, the best policy is the ever-trusty delete key. Do not reply to the messages. Just bin them and be done with it.

Examples

Subject: For many years radiators were made from brass or copper cores soldered to brass headers.

In 2003, Johnston retired from the CPS as a patrol sergeant. SAM believes sporting events which pit different nations against each other lead to racism.

 

Subject: The Slaton Bakery, Slaton, TX IMG 4660

National Association of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. In singles he has won five ITF Futures tournaments.

 

Subject: Gonzalo Guerrero that have survived until today.

The entire Los Alamos laboratory was reorganized in 1944 to focus on designing a workable implosion bomb. The west of the municipality is largely mountainous, with much of the western coastline rising steeply a little way inland.



Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer