Junk e-mail is a nuisance, but it’s easy to spot, so just delete it. Right? Sure, we all know enough not to open messages titled “Make $8,000 to $30,000 a week from home” or “Better Sex!” But some spammers find ways to get around even the most hard-boiled e-mail-using skeptics.
Some subject heads are arresting not for their brazenness but for their subtlety. It’s harder to bypass the ambiguous “Hello” than “Win a Free Motorola Pager Today!” One editor here recounts a message he received recently that combined two sly techniques: vagueness and the use of “Re:” making the message look like a response to something he’d sent. When he opened “Re: Payment,” it said, “How to meet hot young girls.”
“Not what I expected at all,” he says.
In a totally nonscientific poll, CIO writers and editors reported that the following subject heads are the hardest to resist?at least the first time.
“The information you requested”
“My new e-mail address” (from a sender named Sarah?who doesn’t know a Sarah?)
A blank subject line
“Sorry it took me so long”
Standouts for the most discreditable message titles (besides offers to enhance body parts the recipients didn’t have) included:
“Investigate Anyone or Anything Now!”
“Make Money While You SLEEP!”
“I LOVE YOU AND I DON’T WANT YOU TO DIE!”
“GET RID OF YOUR DEBT TODAY!”
“Do you like Japanese Schoolgirls?”
“Stop snoring today”
“BE ORDAINED NOW!”
One editor offers a useful tip: Avoid all messages with exclamation points; however, he admits, “Last week I did open one that promised to ’Take 10-20 years off your age!’ As it turned out, they were merely offering to make me look 10 to 20 years younger! What a fraud!”
For more on e-mail management, see “How to Tame the E-Mail Beast”.