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Fun with Spam Subject Lines

I've been checking my spam filter, just for the fun of it, as the spammmers are writing more timely and entertaining subject lines as an enticement to get people to open their missives.

Take the following spam headlines, for example, that appeared in the last 48 hours. All capitalize on public attention to current events, such as the U.S. presidential election, or the 2008 Olympics.

Hillary Clinton Sues Barack Obama
Obama Is Anorexic Over-Exerciser
President Bush Legalizes Gay Marriages
U.S. Olympians Stopped at China Customs
Terrorist Threats on Beijing Olympics Discovered

Spammers and scam artists are notoriously lazy, and spelling and grammatical errors have long been a telltale sign of a scam Web site or e-mail come-ons. But what's particularly remarkable about these subject lines is that they are all grammatically correct.

Take this subject line, which purports to bring news about the untimely demise of the CEO of Apple (actually, The Washington Post's stylebook differs with that of many other newspapers and would add an extra "s" on the end of Jobs').

Apple Nosedives on Jobs' Death

Spammers are con men at heart, and they will do or say anything just to get you to open their junk mail. They know that flashy headlines like "Paris Hilton Tosses Dwarf on Street" or "iPhone Battery Explodes During Charging" will pique curiosity. But resist the urge to click.

Nobody likes spam, but we all have to delete it from time to time. Seen a particularly funny or surprising spam subject line lately? Pop it in the comments below (please keep it clean, folks).

By Brian Krebs  |  July 31, 2008; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  From the Bunker  
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I almost despise people dumb enough to open spam as much as the spammers themselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 31, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I've categorized these recent outrageous malware lures as "Supermarket Tabloid Spam" here:

Posted by: Danny Goodman | July 31, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

This is weird. We just started collecting these things! This is what we have so far.

Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are lovers. Video proof.
citibank files for bankruptcy protection
Cute video of ducks
Fast food caught using expired meat
Flush up to 15lbs out of your body!
Gateway to stop selling PCs
Join European Idol auditions now
McDonalds Value Customer Card
Rice slips up during opening address
Roswell victims spill beans
See this fastest beer drinker
Shia LaBeouf arrested for child prostitution
Snake caught with cow in stomach - pictures
Truckload of dead puppies

And - drum roll - our personal favourite (think about it):

Girl gang rapes fellow male classmate

Posted by: Rick | July 31, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

My favorites of the past few days are:

> Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are lovers. Video proof.
> Hey is it you in this video??
> John Mccain Sex Video Yanked From Youtube.Com
> ;) Look video with a naked celebrity Interesting!!!
> Britney caught nude again. Watch.
> Hillary Clinton naked video

Seriously, who is stupid enough to open these? Especially that last one!? ;-)

Posted by: King | July 31, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I just received:

"Horses [sic] breaks riders skull in freak attack"

Posted by: Stuart | July 31, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I regularly open spam, in "View Source" mode, and report it on Spammers love the "just hit delete" mindset. They can keep spamming from the same accounts and keep using the same zombie computers.

Viewing spam in a mail viewer which displays HTML and executes JavaScript is stupid. To put it more generally, using that kind of mail viewer is stupid.

Posted by: gmcgath | July 31, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

seen recently

Elton John shot dead on London Street

(not that I wish Sir E. ill)

Posted by: k | July 31, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

'FBI watches Hezbollah in Facebook'
'Man Offers $1 bilion reward for breast cancer cure'
'IBM to file for bankruptcy'
'Merril Lynch files for bankruptcy'
'Give freedom to the wishes'

Posted by: awk | July 31, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Obama latest fashion disaster
IBM to file for bankruptcy
Fatal medication errors at home causes 1 million deaths
China has more internet users than US
A-Rod to wed Madonna in September
Cambodia attacks Thailand in Asia war
Mad woman screams at man

These are in my Gmail spam folder from this afternoon. The last one sums up my marriage.

Posted by: Beck Childs | July 31, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I just got "FBI bypasses Facebook to nail you." Back in the day, so did J. Edgar.

Posted by: Hoofpick | July 31, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

"Three children jailed for armed holdup"
"Hillary falls from horse, hurts arm "

Posted by: GlynnB | July 31, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"FBI has a new way of tracking Facebook"
"US Athletes banned from Beijing Olympics"
"Clinton named to top post by Obama"
"Afghanistan to be 51st US State"

Posted by: Amanda | July 31, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

My personal favorite these days is "Ken Krause you have a stupid face."

That may be true, but why would I want to be reminded of it in an e-mail?

Posted by: Ken Krause | July 31, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

My personal favorite over the last few weeks ... "you sure look stupid here" They're trying to make it sound like they have some incriminating video or picture of you, yet they don't go to the trouble of actually using your name instead of your e-mail address. Classic.

Posted by: RoadRage | July 31, 2008 3:44 PM | Report abuse

These emails and not just funny subjects, they are part of a malicious campaign. See here:

Posted by: HateSpam | July 31, 2008 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Seems like everyone's at it, and I wrote about this new wave spam yesterday too. It's not just the subject lines that make them funny, it's the juxtaposition of headline with content, they're so bizarre.

Two of the funniest involved Elton John and Barack Obama, for the explanation:

Posted by: David Bradley | August 1, 2008 6:15 AM | Report abuse

"Boy eats rats daily"
"Killer dogs tear intruder apart"
"Breaking news: Aliens landed in Ohio."

And then there's this feeble attempt to trick UPS and FedEx customers hoping to get a special deal on parcel services:

"Maximise your package today."

Posted by: t_joe | August 1, 2008 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Those titles always crack me up. I am waiting for one of them to cause an international incident. Even though spammers try to get more creative my filter, SpamBully is still great at flagging these. Gmail also still seems decent.

Posted by: Stephanie | August 1, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I've seen a lot of the ones already mentioned -- I got DOZENS of variants of the "You look really stupid here ..." one, but maybe I'm just specially, um, gifted. My favorite, though, is one I got a few days ago, which I wished I had saved about 2 seconds after I hit delete. It said something like: "Scientists show Martian soil best for growing pot!" But what made it really good was that there was a link you could click to order some of that out-of-this-world dirt ... to be delivered by little green men in a flying dump truck I suppose.

Posted by: Rich Gibbs | August 2, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

@King: Bill of course.

Posted by: Rick | August 3, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Boy you guys get all the fun ones. All of my spam is basically penny stock tips and male enhancement pills.

Posted by: Jim | August 4, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

GPS equipped turtle stumbles upon field of marijuana in a DC park

Posted by: Rick | August 5, 2008 7:19 AM | Report abuse

@gmcgath: that was a revelation. Ten years ago.

@HateSpam: if you hate spam that much then get off Window. Or are you a sucker for punishment? But your headlines are the funniest.

@Jim: nothing like spamming yourself on an anti-spam blog and article. Cya.

Posted by: Rick | August 5, 2008 7:33 AM | Report abuse

LOL, I just totally love stealing cookies. Especially the chocolate chip kind! LOL


Posted by: Jim McDosh | August 11, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

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