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Getting Fooled By Spam

I’m sure all of you get spam like me, in fact email spam is so integrated into our daily lives that I think if I didn’t get a bunch of spam emails I’d think something was up. This entry isn’t about how spam lords get our email addresses, or viruses received (I’m a Mac guy anyway), or malware, it’s about getting fooled even though we know technology like the back of our hands. What spam emails cause you to read them and click rather than delete automatically? Have you been fooled? Who fools you?

Here’s what emails normally fool me:

Intelligent eBay Spams
Back a few weeks ago my puppy chewed up my girlfriend’s Movado watch box and she was pretty upset. I hopped on eBay and quickly bought a box that a nice woman in Texas was selling, but since I haven’t used eBay in awhile it slipped my mind that I had won the auction. A few days later, I received an “Unpaid Item Dispute” email from eBay alerting me to my wicked ways, so I clicked through on the link and bam, fake URL pretending to be eBay. I’d been fooled! Funny enough, after I sorted out all the payment details with the real seller, I received about 10-15 more Unpaid Item Dispute emails, with items like DSLR Cameras and Navy Blue Abercrombie Tee-Shirts, both of which seem like the type of stuff I might buy. Damn those spammers know me well.

Non-specific Subject Lines
Most spam emails I receive have subject lines like “Buy OEM Software” or “WINNING NOTIFICATION FOR CATEGORY…”, but some spam emails I get just have subject lines like “what’s up” or “hey you know what?” and they always burn me. Between friends I rarely use capitalization in my emails, so lowercase subject lines make me think they’re from somebody I know….. blast!

Sorry WAMU
Out of every bank-related spam email I get, I get spammed from fake Washington Mutual banks the most. I have spam filters setup in Apple Mail to automatically delete anything that has the phrase Washington Mutual in it, which takes care of the spam problem. Unfortunately for Washington Mutual bank, that also means that I will never be a customer because I’d have to un-set my WAMU deletion preferences and deal with every WAMU email as though it could be something real and important, which I don’t have time for.

So what fools you?

About Mike Rundle


  1. Mike D. says:

    All I have to say is that I feel sorry for the 99% of the world who doesn’t know about “View Message Source”.

  2. I’ve been getting one recently with a subject line of “” I first thought, “Another beta invite? Some Web TwoDotOh* company trying to get the word out?”

    Nope. The usual enlarge this, reduce that, cure all your ills with pills email. Sadly, it got me twice.

    What bugs me is my laptop is smarter than my desktop when it comes to spam. I rarely see spam in my inbox on my iBook, but 50% of what I get makes it in on the iMac.

    *That’s me being compliant with tradmarking issues.

  3. Like you, I got fooled once by a eBay phishing scam. It was luck on the part of the phisher because of the time he sent it and what it was concerning.

    I was selling my old laptop on eBay. Apparently, from the last few auctions I had previously, I didn’t pay the auction fees.

    I received an email stating that my credit card was about to expire and I needed to update it so I could pay the fees. The thing was, my credit card was really about to expire. In fact, I think the first email I received concerning the expiring credit card was actually from eBay, the second email I received, was definitely not from eBay.

    I clicked on the link they provided me to update my credit card info. I was using my Paypal account that I had a debit card for, and soon after, I received the money from the highest bidder of the laptop. So I had a large sum of money in the account.

    About 5 days later, I tried to use the card and it got declined. I thought that was weird. I checked my PayPal account and my card had about 20 charges on it from (for domain names and web hosting) and some other unknown company.

    I stomach dropped to the floor. I immediately called Paypal and I had to fill out a dispute form. I thought I should also call the companies also to let them know.

    I called and the other company, all the transactions were flagged by the fraud department and my money was already refunded by both companies.

    I was so lucky, what made it even easier was the guy didn’t buy any tangible items. Just over $1000 in domain names and web hosting.

    Lesson of story, if you get an email from eBay claiming this or that, type into the address bar and log in. Don’t click on any links in the email they provide just to be safe.

  4. My family uses me as a spam filter. “Is this legit?”

    Some of those are very tricky. I tend to be suspicious of ANY email I get, even the legitimate ones. I’ve gotten in the practice, of going to the site myself to check on things rather than click links in the email. If PayPal or eBay have an issue, they’ll tell me when I log in.

    I have taught friends and family to pay attention to the URL to make sure they’re where they think they should be.

  5. Mike Rundle says:

    Chris, that’s tough man, I feel for ya. My roommate in college almost got sucked into an eBay fraud thing where they send you over too much money via money order, and then you send the difference back before realizing the first money order didn’t go through on real funds, so you’re basically out double the money you thought.

  6. Richard says:

    Like you, it’s the ambiguous “hey what’s up” type subject lines that always get me.

    I’ve been getting a few “(no subject)” ones recently, that, despite the sender being unknown to me, often lead to my curiosity getting the better of me.

    On the subject, the subject line of a spam email I got yesterday made me laugh, “You inherited a small dick from your father and there’s no way to help it.” There’s a confidence booster for you! Ironically, it was a penis enlargement advertisement.

  7. Mark says:

    I think I’ve only been phished once in all the years I’ve been online. It was recently too, also from a group trying to pass themselves off as a major bank. It was convincing in it’s design (it was an HTML email) and content. I could see how so many people get fooled.

    I find that I get a ton of spam, more so than anywhere else, coming to my personal email address ar RoadRunner. My business address gets a little and I occassionally get some on my gmail account. This is with all addresses having pretty similiar filters.

    I had comment spam whipped for a while too, but I’m starting to see a rise in that again as well.

  8. I don’t get fooled by them, but I sometimes do open emails that have funny subject lines. I’ve gotten a number recently that have humorous rhetorical questions as the subject, and a completely unrelated body.

  9. Jack says:

    I signed up for an eBay and Paypal account about a year ago to help my brother buy some junk off some guy in the UK. Not long after that, I realised exactly how realistic these eBay and Paypal phishing emails look… if my spam filter tripped up on just one email, I’d end up clicking through.

    And even though I’d be smart enough not to submit my details to some dodgy URL, simply clicking the link would alert the spammers.

    I promptly cancelled my eBay and Paypal accounts. I didn’t have the time or money to have to deal with any misclicking I could do. And I didn’t really have a need in my life for eBay.

    Between my paranoia and using Spamsieve (which is so awesome, btw), I don’t think I’ll be getting phished any time soon. I’m also glad I don’t have an account with Washington Mutual or JPMorgan.

  10. Phoat says:

    In all my years of having an bank account and using online banking, I have not once recieved an email from my banking institution, so any email from a bank, be it Washington Mutual or not, should be considered spam.

  11. Sarah says:

    Having worked for Washington Mutual for over 5 years, I will tell you that a little bit of education goes a long way. Never ever EVER give out your pin # to ANYONE!!! Banks will never ask for this information (Other than asking you to enter you own pin # into a machine). Bank employees don’t even have access to your pin #. As Phoat stated, your bank would never send you an email asking you to verify your personal information-the bank already has it if they need it.

    I recently received an email (I think that it was a bank from Tenessee); When I clicked on the link, it took me to a sign on page. It was really quite clever, you could enter any user ID, and any password. Then, they asked you to verify your bank information. (Including your pin) The other type of phishing email that I have been receiving a lot lately, has been on behalf of phony people from other countries. These people will ask you to reply to their email with your contact info. Then, they will try to get you to cash a fake cashier’s check from them of some rediculously large amount. They will tell you that your cut is 30% or 40% in some cases. Don’t be fooled by these either.

    If you receive an email asking you for any sort of financial information/help know that it is probably a scam, you should delete it at once, or you can forward it to the Federal Trade Commission at, or contact them at* or 877.IDTHEFT (877.438.4338).

  12. Mike says:

    Well WaMu is a scam anyway…for example
    I was interested in opening a Washington Mutual Online Savings Account with a 4.75 APY after viewing the WaMu website around 11/05/07. To take advantage of their savings account I was first required to open a WaMu checking account at a local branch. After opening my checking account I was told that the Online Savings Account could only be opened online by me.

    Later I attempted to open a WaMu Online Savings Account and after several tries I was given this response “Your application has been canceled.” The response finished with “if you wish to apply at a WaMu branch, you can bring in two supporting documents from the list below to start a new application.”

    On 11/19/07, I entered the branch where I opened my original checking account with the proper documentation. I met with a WaMu Representative who said she could not help me with opening an account. I then referenced the information giving to me on their website. She took the information to her Supervisor, who said they are permitted from assisting customers with opening an Online Savings Account. The Representative then recommended a “Statement Savings Account” at 0.25 APY or if I wanted the Online Savings Account I would need to contact customer services.

    I contacted customer service that evening and was transferred three times. Each time I had to repeat my current situation. Finally I spoke with a representative who assisted me online to verify the information I submitted was correct. As a result we received a response on the final page of the application which stated. “We are unable to complete your application at this time. You may, however, return seven days from now to try again.”

    Based on my experience I feel WaMu is drawing many customers to their bank through online advertising of their Online Savings Account. In return customers who become a customer and want to open a WaMu Online Savings Account cannot do so. As a result they are swayed by WaMu Representatives to open a “Statement Savings Account”.

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