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Why Does Unrelated Text Appear in Some Spam Emails?

by Brett M. Christensen

Question From Reader:

I sometimes get spam emails that have phrases or paragraphs about topics that do not seem to have any connection to what the spammer is trying to sell. A spam message I received recently included several paragraphs from one of the Harry Potter novels. Why do spammers do this? 

Answer

Yes, this is a common spammer ruse.  Often, the added text is simply random strings of letters or words that have no intrinsic meaning. In other cases, the text is lifted from novels, news articles, scientific publications, or a range of other textual sources.

Spammers include this random text in their email campaigns as a means of tricking spam filters. Spam filters are often configured – or ‘trained’ over time – to detect messages that contain certain words and phrases that are commonly used in spam messages.

If enough of these indicators are detected, the filter will treat the message as spam and deal with it accordingly.

However, the inclusion of random text on unrelated topics can fool spam filters into treating the message as legitimate and not flagging it as spam.  Thus, rather than being blocked and sent to a spam folder, the spam message may make it to the user’s inbox where it is more likely to be noticed and acted upon.
This spamming technique is sometimes referred to as Bayesian poisoning.

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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