Spam Disguised as News
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Spam Disguised as News

by Brett M. Christensen

Spammers use many tactics to try to get people to read their messages and click their links. One tactic that is being given a real workout right now is to disguise the spam messages as news reports.

The spam messages are designed so that they appear to come from high-profile news outlets such as CNN and US Today. And the messages themselves masquerade as news items, complete with clickable headlines, news style formatting and secondary links that supposedly allow users to unsubscribe or read a privacy policy. 
All links in the messages – including secondary links – open a decidedly dodgy “Science News” page hosted on a Russian server. As with the spam emails, the page is designed to look like a genuine news article.

The page attempts to sell a suspect weight-loss product. It even boasts a collection of – obviously fake – user comments that speak of the product in glowing terms. If you try to submit a comment on the page, you will be automatically redirected to another dodgy weight-loss product website. And, of course, your comment will never appear on the site.

The spammers apparently hope that at least a few people tricked into clicking links in what they thought was a real news article will actually hang around and buy products from the spam website. And, given the amount of such spam that hits inboxes on a daily basis, the tactic obviously works.

Of course, even if only a few people out of the many thousands that get the spam emails actually buy a product, then the campaign will be worthwhile for the spammers and they will continue spewing out their garbage.

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,