Most Common Spam Emails You Can Encounter in 2022

Spam email example

In this article, we’ll talk about junk mail and list the most common spam email examples. We’ll provide answers as to why you receive junk mail in the first place, how to recognize it, and what are the most common spam emails.

Why am I getting spam emails?

Let’s take a look at some common methods that spammers use to obtain email addresses — and how to protect yourself from junk mail.

Data breaches

Many web services and mobile apps require an email address for signing up. When you create an account, your email goes into a list. Companies know how to send mass emails — and they use this list for notifications and marketing materials. But the problem is that even large corporations suffer from security breaches. For example, in June 2021 personal data for 700 million LinkedIn users was put on sale on the dark web. This database included email addresses, full names, geolocation records, social media accounts, and other personal information.

The problem is that you can’t 100% prevent large data breaches like this one. But, if you suddenly started receiving dozens of spam emails, chances are, your address has been exposed. Websites like Have I Been Pwned? check if your personal data was compromised. These services work like search engines — just enter your email address and they will look through exposed data. If your address was found in a breach, you’ll get a message like this one.

A screenshot from the Have I Been Pwned? website

Accidental self-exposure

Data breaches are not the only source for spam mail. Spammers use publicly available information — users expose it themselves on forums and social media. For example, you wrote something like “Contact me at address@gmail.com” or made your address available for other users on a job search website — online activities like these put you at risk.

It’s a less common technique now — spammers use leaked data more often. But you still can prevent self-exposure. To do this, change your privacy settings on social media and give your email address in private messages instead of comments.

Links in spam emails

Sometimes spam emails have the unsubscribe link — like this one:

Spam email with the unsubscribe link

It doesn’t have to be a button — in this case it’s a barely noticeable link. But spammers use such links to verify that your email account is active. This information will go further — and you’ll get spam bombed. Even worse, such links may lead to compromised websites that can be used for phishing or installing dangerous software on your device.

Clicking on unsubscribe links in spam emails or responding to them is dangerous. That’s why if you come across a suspicious email, just delete it from your inbox. You can also flag such emails as spam if the filter didn’t catch them — this will protect you from receiving more emails from the same address.

Most popular phishing and spam examples of 2022

In March 2021, spam emails accounted for 45% of total email traffic — and most of it is malicious like phishing, malware or ransomware. Junk mail is not only annoying — interacting with these emails results in financial losses and identity theft.

We’ve picked 10 most popular email fraud schemes you can find in your inbox. Some of them are old, others are relatively recent.

Verify your Apple iCloud ID

These fake emails from Apple ask you to verify your account because it was put on hold for various reasons. But it’s a phishing attempt. If you click the link, you will be redirected to a fake Apple website that will steal your account information.

Verify your Apple ID spam email
Source:Sensors Tech Forum

In this case, the generic greeting is what gives the scam away. Legit emails from businesses always start with your name or the moniker you used for the account.

You’ve won!

It’s a type of “too good to be true” spam email. They tell you that you won a lottery or sweepstakes — and encourage you to share personal data to receive the prize. It’s an old scam but there’s a modern variation to it — notifications about winning the COVID-19 vaccine lottery. Take a look at this example:

COVID-19 vaccine lottery spam email
Source: WECT

These emails can be very convincing — COVID-19 vaccine lotteries actually exist. What gives the scammer away in this example is the public email domain — government officials have their own. If you received an email like that, look for public domains and spoofed addresses.

Missing information

It’s another type of phishing scam. These spam emails claim that your account information should be updated or completed to avoid suspension. But once you click the link in the email, you’ll be redirected to a phishing website.

Take a look at this fake Netflix email. That’s a classic example of the “missing information” scam. The email asks you to update your credit card information — but the link leads to a fake website. To avoid financial losses, look for weird email domains like “netflix.corn”.

Netflix missing information spam email
Source: Newsweek

Your online account has been locked

In this phishing scheme, spammers convince you that your account was suspended or limited for security-related reasons. To reactivate your account, you need to log in again using the link from the email. Then, like in other similar scams, spammers will steal your money or identity.

One of the examples is fake emails from PayPal — like this one:

PayPal fake email scam
Source: Secplicity

You can tell it’s not a legitimate email because of the generic greeting, spelling errors, and odd capitalization.

Claim your gift card

There are several variations of the gift card scam. Some emails ask you to send personal data to receive a gift card. Other messages have a link to a phishing website that will harvest your account information. But there are more complex schemes.

For example, this fake letter from Amazon has a “gift card” document attached to it. This file doesn’t open but clicking on it installs Dridex — a trojan used for stealing bank account information.

Amazon gift card spam email
Source: The Sun

Take a look at the email domain — Amazon sends legit notifications from @amazon.com email addresses.

Suspicious activity with your bank account

It’s another phishing scheme that is used to steal credit card information. You receive a fake fraud alert email where they ask you  to verify your account on a fake website.

One of the examples is this email from Chase:

Chase suspicious activity spam email
Source: USA Today

It looks legitimate but the public email domain gives the scam away.

You have a refund coming

This phishing scheme is basically sending fake government emails that promise you a tax return. The link in the email redirects you to a website that seems to be legitimate but steals your personal and financial information.

Fake tax refund emails can look like this:

Fake tax refund spam email
Source: GOV.UK

The official UK government website warns users that HRMC never sends email notifications about tax refunds. But if you live in a country with a different system, look for spoofed addresses and bad spelling to recognize a scam.

Get your COVID vaccination appointment

We already mentioned the COVID vaccine lottery scam — but that’s not the only pandemic-related fraud scheme. For example, many people in the UK received fake emails from the NHS about paid vaccination appointments. The links lead to websites that collect personal and financial data. Government officials warn that the NHS distributes the vaccine for free and legitimate emails have different contents.

A scam email from the NHS looks like this:

NHS vaccine appointment spam email
Source: Newsroom

Bitcoin scams

There are many scams involving cryptocurrency — phishing, fake money giveaways, malware, fake exchange, and other schemes. Some of these scams involve emails, some don’t. But one of the most widespread bitcoin-related spam emails is blackmail.

Bitcoin sextortion spam email
Source: Businessinsider

The sender claims that they hacked your computer, specifically, recorded a webcam video of you doing inappropriate things — and asks you to send them bitcoin or your relatives will see the video. And, although these threats might sound frightening, senders mention old passwords compromised by a data breach — so you probably weren’t hacked. But, to ensure your security, use more complex passwords, enable two-factor authentication, and regularly check if your account was compromised.

You have a package delivery

It’s a new phishing scheme that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spammers send fake emails from delivery services like FedEx or UPS — like this one:

Fake delivery scam email
Source: Bleeping Computer

They claim that your package has arrived at a warehouse but they can’t send it to your house because of the outbreak. But if you open the attachment for details, you will catch a trojan virus that will have full access to your computer.

We didn’t cover all the possible email fraud schemes —  we listed 10 most common spam and phishing emails. But what if you received an email that doesn’t fall under any of these categories?

How to identify a junk message quickly

Modern email apps have spam filters. For example, Gmail uses a neural net system that learns to separate junk mail from regular emails. But even AI is not infallible. Sometimes Gmail mistakes social media notifications or just emails with links and attachments for spam — and vice versa. That’s why we give you 6 key features of junk mail to look for.

Suspicious email addresses

Pay attention to any unfamiliar addresses in your inbox. But just because you don’t know it doesn’t mean it’s a spam email. Here’s the list of red flags in email addresses:

  • Random numbers and letters like ngoctrinh1403@gmail.com.
  • Public email domain, especially if it’s a message from an organization — gmail.com, yahoo.com, etc. Keep in mind that businesses use their own domains.
  • Typos or extra symbols in a company domain like @amazonhelp.art instead of @amazon.com.
  • “Donotreply” or other variations instead of the standard “no-reply” address for automated notifications.

But some spammers learned how to plausibly imitate corporate emails. If the address doesn’t seem suspicious, take a look at the contents.

Personal data requests

Many businesses deal with personal data such as credit card information. For example, this is an email from Benchmark about cybersecurity concerns:

Benchmark email about credit card information
Source: Really Good Emails

An important detail here is that Benchmark doesn’t ask the client to reply with personal data. Instead, the sender asks them to fill in the necessary information on the company’s website — unlike spammers:

A spam email that asks for personal information
Source: The Daily WTF

This example is an obvious scam and “Douglas” asks for relatively harmless data. But some spammers will ask you for credit card information or passwords. Keep in mind that, for example, bank employees will never ask you for the CVV code. That’s why any personal data request, even as innocent as the one above, is a major red flag.

Sense of urgency

Creating a sense of urgency and appealing to FOMO is a common manipulation tactic in advertising. For example, take a look at this email from Barnes & Noble:

A limited offer email from Barnes & Noble
Source: Really Good Emails

In this email, Barnes & Noble offers a personalized book selection and a 15% discount that is active for a short time period. They use urgency since the offer is limited — but not like this:

Urgency in spam emails example

This spam email uses  an indefinite time period instead of the precise expiration date to create the sense of urgency, all caps, multiple exclamation marks, and too many words like “limited” and “offer”.. Such messages usually have clickbait email headers with the same words written in all caps and with excessive punctuation. Legit companies don’t introduce clients to limited offers using such blunt techniques.

But there’s one more sketchy detail — poor grammar at the end of the email. It brings us to the next junk mail feature — bad writing.

Typos and poor phrasing

When it comes to poor writing in spam emails, most people recall the infamous Nigerian scam. It started before the internet — people received letters from Nigerian royals or businessmen that asked for help with transferring money. Later it switched to digital and became more inventive with plots — for example, Nigerian princes turned into Russian entrepreneurs.

Take a look at this classic Nigerian scam email:

Nigerian prince scam email example
Source: ResearchGate

Nigerian scam emails were poorly written to look more convincing — their senders didn’t speak English as their first language. But other email scammers also write with typos, extra blank spaces, and odd phrasing — for different reasons:

  • Tricking spam filters. It doesn’t work with modern spam filters — but historically spammers deliberately misspelled words so they could slip into your inbox. Now poor writing triggers AI-based filters instead of fooling them.
  • Machine translation. Weird syntax and word choices might be the result of bad machine translation. If scammers appeal to a larger audience, they won’t spend time writing messages in different languages from scratch.
  • Filtering the audience. Cormac Herley, a researcher from Microsoft, suggested that bad grammar and comical stories in Nigerian scam emails are designed to filter their readers. Smarter people won’t sit through an email full of typos — but the most gullible audience will.

But the email above has another interesting detail. “Good Day Dear”, aside from weird phrasing and capitalization, is also impersonal — that’s another feature of spam emails.

Impersonal delivery

According to Campaign Monitor, personalized emails increase sales by 20%. And personalization is not only about data-driven customization of offers — it’s also about the language. Businesses include clients’ names even in formal notification emails — like this one from Amazon:

Amazon notification email
Source: Really Good Emails

Spammers can imitate such notification emails in a pretty convincing way — except for one small detail. Compare our previous example to this fake Amazon email:

Amazon order confirmation scam email
Source: Forbes

Even if fake emails imitate notifications from large companies, they have generic greetings like “Dear Customer/Client” or “Dear Sir/Madam”. But this, like the features we mentioned earlier, is a technical characteristic. What about the actual contents?

Too good to be true

Some spam emails will promise you a reward for clicking a link, downloading an attachment, or sending personal information. It can be a ridiculous amount of money or any other bonus from a company or even a celebrity. But the thing is, if it’s too good to be true, chances are it is. For example, this email is definitely not from Mark Zuckerberg.

A spam email from Mark Zuckerberg
Source: Essential IT Solutions

These are the most prominent features of junk mail. If you come across any of these in the new email, do the following:

  • don’t click on any links, download attachments, or respond;
  • mark this email as “Spam” so you wouldn’t receive more junk mail from the same sender — or delete it from your inbox

Wrapping up

Spam emails might seem funny and clumsy but they are dangerous — phishing leads to loss of money and possible identity theft. Scammers get more inventive with their schemes — that’s why it’s important to know the key features of junk mail and never interact with such emails for the sake of your safety.

Some of the common spam emails are:

  • Fake Apple ID account verification
  • “You’ve won a lottery”
  • Missing account information emails
  • Account suspension
  • Fake gift card claims
  • Fake tax refund notifications
  • Fake COVID vaccination appointments
  • Bitcoin-related scams including blackmail
  • Fake delivery notifications

And if a suspicious message doesn’t fall under any of these schemes, you can use our checklist to make sure it’s a spam email:

  • A spoofed email address
  • Requests for any personal data
  • Sense of urgency
  • Typos and poor grammar
  • An impersonal greeting
  • Too good to be true

What’s the funniest spam email you’ve ever found in your inbox?

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