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TWSD: Lying and Hiding

Another installment in my ongoing series: That’s What Spammers Do. In today’s installment we take a look at a company deceiving recipients and hiding their real identity.
One of my disposable addresses has been getting heavily spammed from mylife.com. The subject lines are not just deceptive, they are provably lies. The mail is coming from random domains like urlprotect.com or choosefrequency.com or winnernotice.com advertising links at safetyurl.com or childsafeblogging.com or usakidprotect.com.
The spam all claims someone is “searching for…” at their website. The only thing is, the email address is associated with a fake name I gave while testing a website on behalf of a client. I know what website received the data and I know what other data was provided during the signup process. I also know that the privacy policy at the time said that my data would not be shared and that only the company I gave the information to would be sending me email.
Just more proof that privacy policies aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. But that’s not my real issue here.
The real issue is that I am receiving mail that is clearly deceptive. The subject lines of the emails up until yesterday were “(1) New Message – Someone Searching for You, Find Out…” Yesterday, I actually clicked through one of the messages to confirm that the emails were ending up at mylife.com. After that, the subject lines of the emails changed to “(1) New Person is Searching for You.”  I don’t know for sure that my click has caused the change in subject lines, but the timing seems a bit coincidental.
It’s not that someone, somewhere gave mylife.com bad data, or that someone typed a name into the mylife.com search engine and the mylife.com database showed that name and my email address were the same. Neither this name or this email address show up in a google search and I can say with certainty that this is a unique address and name combination given to a specific website. Therefore, the subject lines are clearly and demonstrably lies.
The spams are also coming from different domains and advertising links in different domains. The content is identical, the CAN SPAM addresses are identical. While the court may not rule this is deceptive under the rules of CAN SPAM, it certainly is an attempt to avoid domain level spam filters.
Who are mylife.com? Well, their website and the CAN SPAM address on their spam claims they are the company formerly known as reunion.com. I’ve talked about reunion.com here before. They have a history of harvesting addresses from users address books. They were sued for deceptive email practices under California law, but won the case just recently. They seem to think that the court case was permission to send deceptive email and have thus ramped up their deceptive practices.
If you are a legitimate email marketer, there are a couple take home messages here.
1) Spammers send mail with different domains, from different IP addresses, that contain identical content, landing pages and CAN SPAM addresses. Legitimate marketers should not rotate content and sends through different domains or different IP addresses. Pick your domain, pick your IP and stick with it.
1a) Spammers use randomly chosen domain names and cycle through domains frequently. Legitimate marketers must not use unrelated domains in marketing. Use a domain name that relates to your product, your industry or you.
2) Spammers send mail with deceptive subject lines. Legitimate marketers should make sure their subject lines are clear and truthful.
3) Spammers send mail in violation of the privacy policy under which information was collected. Legitimate marketers should be very careful to handle data in accordance with their privacy policies.
That’s what spammers do. Is that what you do?

2 comments

  1. Ricardas Montvila says

    I do sympathise with legitimate marketers that chose to use made up domain names for their email campaigns. Times are tough and it might be extremely tempting to rent or buy an email list (Yes I know, I know.. buying email lists is evil, but that’s a different topic). The risk of the domain being listed is too high and can affect any other email activities. Don’t feel like calling up clients and asking them to search for my email reply in their junk box.
    Absolutely agree regards the fake subject lines. They mess up the campaign reporting, do no good to the campaign, and make your recipients angry. Obviously there are different types of deception. At least in the mylife.com example, the subject line is consistent with the content of the email and then it is up to the recipient to decide whether it is true. I think it is worse when the subject line is absolutely irrelevant to the email content. “Congratulations on winning the Euromillions!” and the email promotes some limb enhancement pills. Always fall for that one! 🙂

  2. gr8white says

    I’ve been the victim of spammers who have used random addresses from my domain to send their spam. Then I end up getting thousands of “message not deliverable” responses. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has resulted in my domain being on a number of blacklists. Nobody I’ve contacted (ISP, AG, etc.) has shown any inclination to go after these scumbags. It hasn’t happened for a while but I’m not holding my breath.

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