Flight School Friday: How to outsmart the spammers

We give you the most common tactics of spammers and teach you how to beat them

God in mask spamming



Oh, you know them well. They've been around since the dawn of email-kind and yet the war rages on. Every day, Marketers and ISPs put up a hard fight against spammers to protect internet users around the world. However, despite our efforts, these spammers continue to evolve their practice and elude the law.

Last week, we dove into the history of spam and where it came from. This week, we'll arm you with some tricks to spot spam emails and outsmart the enemy.

Know their tactics

Spam comes in many forms, but they all work towards the same objective to capture your personal information.

The confidence trick: 419 fraud

Perhaps the most infamous type of spam is the 419 Fraud. An anonymous sender identifies himself as a rich individual in a desperate situation; he is restricted access to his resources and the only way out is if you, the recipient, lend him some money. In return, he'll generously reward you after being reunited with his riches (spoiler alert, he doesn't).

This type of scam banks on the following factors; urgency, confidentiality and a well-crafted, well-imitated message.

The email boom of the 90's (and the bad practices associated to this boom, like contact list reselling) helped this scam to spread around the world. The development of cash-to-cash companies online helped also the scammer to gain more money.

Phishing: not a day out at sea

More threatening than the 419 Fraud is **phishing**. We talked about this before during 2014 Safer Internet Day, and how Mailjet protects your business from these types of attacks.

Phishing is a simple scam: the attacker will email you under the guise of a person or company you trust and lead you to a fake website designed to capture your personal information (bank account number, usernames and passwords). The risk remains high — according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, 110,000 attacks were recorded worldwide just in the last 6 months of 2013.

Your shield and sword

As promised, we'll go over a variety of precautions you can take to avoid falling into the spammers trap.

Know the sender

Businesses most vulnerable to phishing attacks, usually financial institutions and  e-commerce, caution customers against sharing their account information online. Companies such as eBay, PayPal and Amazon state that they will never ask a user for their username, password or credit card information through email.

If you ever receive an email soliciting you for this type of information, don't engage any further and report it to the appropriate government bureau in your region. In the US, you would reach out to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. In the EU, contact the European Cybercrime Center.

Go on the offensive

Besides playing on the defensive and keeping a critical eye on incoming email, be smart about where and how you share your information. Be cautious of where you share your email address and regularly update your firewalls, spam filters and anti-spyware. Also, the simpler the better. Be sure to flag any spam you see in your inbox so that your ISP can take action and better protect you from future attacks.

If scammed, react

And sometimes, it happens to the best of us. If you do fall victim to a spam attack, don't be embarrassed or ashamed. Pass on the information to the proper authorities and give as much detail as you can. It'll help them work towards creating a safer internet experience.


Truth is, spam might never be truly eradicated. But what we can do is educate internet users about the risk of spam emails and arm them with proper knowledge and security tools to fight alongside us. Our mission is to fight for the name of fair emailing; so that phishers will not be able to send emails under your name and abuse your DNS. Will you join us?

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