7 Stupid Mistakes in a Spam Email

Mistakes spammers makeIf you search the web for how to recognize spam you will be presented with over 10,000,000 results. Most of these articles cover the basics of how to identify SPAM that has snuck past your mail filters and infiltrated your inbox. So I thought that instead of looking at another list of how you can separate SPAM from legitimate emails or something else that made users feel dumb, it would be more interesting to dissect a recent email I received and label every stupid mistake made by this particular spammer. If I miss any, I would be happy to see them posted in the comments section below.

The Email

This email was received just recently and immediately caught my eye for the sole purposes of this article. Just for clarification purposes, the email originated from someone claiming to be Thomas Allen, a sergeant in the US Army who is currently stationed in the Middle East. I do not know anyone by that name nor do I have any friends or family currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan who would have told anyone to contact me because I am trustworthy.

Example of a spam message

1. The subject line

So after reading this, let’s look at the first thing that anyone should notice is the subject line. Can I trust you? Of course you can’t trust me Mr. Allen, you don’t know me. For all you know I could be some sort of con-artist waiting to deplete some trusting soul of their money. That subject line just screams, “This message is junk!”

2. The email address(es)

Now let’s take a brief look at the origin of the message. Using Gmail I did have to click on the show details link to expand the information about the sender and the message. Two different email addresses are shown, one for the sender and another for the reply-to. This should strike most people as odd, but knowing that most people won’t bother to check this we can let this one slide.

3. His rank

It is quite possible that there is a Sergeant Thomas Allen but there is definitely no Sergent Thomas Allen because sergent is not the proper spelling of the rank. I find it hard to believe that someone who is trained to aim for perfection in everything he does would misspell his own rank that he worked so hard to earn.

4. Squadron battalion

I am not a military expert but from simply watching movies I know that a squadron is a small part of a larger group, the battalion. I have never heard of a battalion named Squadron in the US Armed Forces nor have any veterans I recently asked.

5. The grammatical errors

Like most spammers, there are some glaring grammatical errors. It is interesting that whoever wrote this email did do a decent job but the former English teacher in me can find enough basic errors in word usage that makes this email stand out as not being quite legit.

6. Authorised

Guess what? American English spells authorized with a z. The Queen’s English spells it authorised. I find it hard to believe that an American soldier who has been stationed in a war zone for roughly eight years has suddenly developed a flair for British usage of the English language.

7. The email scanner

Like the header information, this one may not be picked up on by too many people but why would an email that originated in Afghanistan and created, assumedly, in the United States have a message about the MailScanner in Spanish? Out of curiosity I searched for this and found that in addition to Sgt. Thomas Allen’s plea for help, a Captain Brian Chontosh of the United States Marine Corps also needs help getting ten million dollars out of Iraq and his email was run through MailScanner as well. Likewise, lottery winners have also been running emails that inform winners of their prize through MailScanner as well and the disclaimer is also in Spanish.

Please note that the use of MailScanner is not the issue. MailScanner is a legitimate product in use by many commercial, governmental and educational organizations. It’s the fact that in no way shape or form should the footer be in Spanish that makes it a stupid mistake.

Now in defense of the sender, I will give him, or her, one positive mark. Whoever sent this was right that the Third Infantry Division was in Iraq since 2003. However I would hesitate to think that getting this one thing right makes up for all of the previous stupid mistakes.

Again, if I missed anything I would encourage you to include it in the comments section.

Written by Jeff


  1. John Gottlieb · April 19, 2011

    I for one am always thankful for the spelling and grammatical errors in spam. Even if I were looking for no other alarm bells, that always lets me know that whoever is contacting me is not on the up and up. These clandestine scams lack the professionalism of corporate emails, and ultimately the end user benefits from these scammers shooting themselves in the foot.

  2. Fahiem · August 15, 2011

    My all time favourite it addition to checking the sender & reply addresses is hovering over the hyperlinks.

    I just wonder when my bank moved their security division, verifying usernames to Russia?

    Sorry for the suckers, but I get my laughs out of it and occasionally reply to these emails with a short, but sweet.

    “Do you think I’m an idiot?”

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