We have all received spam at one point in our life – most of us receive it every day. Generated by bots and sent in bulk, spam and phishing email is actually not all that creative. Yes, it constantly adapts and changes in an attempt to outsmart email users, ISPs and ESPs to bypass their spam alarm, but not very fast (at least not fast enough to elude our very own phish-i-nator). This being said, patterns emerge and, here at Mailjet, we take time to systematically gather and analyze those patterns. This helps us always stay one step ahead of bad senders. We’ll be sharing some of the most commonly seen spammer lingo we’ve seen to help you protect yourself but to also help you avoid being mistaken for a spammer, or worse, a phisher.

While individual words won’t always get you in trouble as much as the subject line as a whole will, there are some that you should avoid using in your subject line, unless absolutely necessary.


The word “invoice” is a phisher’s favorite – if you see this word in a subject line, there’s a chance they’re trying to bait you in. Make sure to check the sender address to verify the email’s validity. billing@ex-ample.com is not the same as billing@example.com.  Scammers try to profit out of our carelessness.


PayPal, Visa/MasterCard or any bank name

Again a case where a legitimate name can be used for phishing. Scammers often try to impersonate financial institutions by sending emails with the same color scheme and layout, redirecting to a mirrored site made to look almost exactly like the one it is spoofing. As a consumer, follow the same steps above, verifying the sender address and domain name. As a marketer, use authentication tools DKIM and SPF to prevent spoofers from hurting your reputation.


Present/Lottery/Gift/Specially for you 

This is one you always see in your inbox – the “dear friend” scheme. Hundreds of thousands of emails are sent to people with a subject line claiming that you’ve won a big prize or that you’ve been selected for a sweepstakes you’ve never entered before. You have to be very gullible to fall for that one, yet scammers still send these by the millions since they are quick and easy to send.


Urgent/Desperate/Please Help

Variations of this “damsel in distress” scheme have made appearances over the years, where phishers pretend to be an affluent person from a far away country, who, being chased by wrongdoers, is forced to flee to a save haven. For some reason they have chosen you as the sole trustee of all their money and they promise great rewards for helping them open an account with a specific bank so that they can transfer their funds. To be honest, if I had a dollar for every African princess/prince and long lost lover that have spammed me, I would indeed have reaped great rewards by now!


Casino/Free Spins/Deposit Bonus

Gambling spammers often send out campaigns that promise high return, free entry or double deposits. If it’s not a website you recognize, then straight to the spam folder it goes.
Here are some examples of specific words you want to be cautious of using:

What are some other words you typically avoid using in your subject line? Or misleading subject lines you see used by spammers? Sound off in the comments below.