SPAM: Nearly had me!

Phew! Good job I had my eyes wide open on this one.


If I banked with Barclays, I might have been caught out by this email I received this morning. No word of a lie, this is the real deal!

Dera Barclsya Merebm,

Tsih emlia was setn by the Barclays serevr to veirfy yoru emial aerddss. You muts cpmolete tsih procsse by clikcing on the lkni bwole and entenirg in the slaml wdniow yruo Balcrays Membership number, passcode and memorable word. Thsi is dnoe for yoru ptorection - because soem of our mebmers no loegnr have access to thier emlia addsseres and we mtsu veirfy it. To virefy yuor eamil adsserd and acecss yruo bank atnuocc, bank atnuocc, cilck on the likn bwol.

Phew! Good job I had my eyes wide open on this one...


  1. #1 On March 26, 2005 10:48 AM Matthew Pennell said:

    ...and what an excellent choice of illustration you have made...

  2. #2 On March 26, 2005 10:50 AM Rob Mientjes said:

    By Gods. That bank sure needs some new copywriters. I keep getting the obvious stuff. eBay spoofs, WaMu and the likes. Even my mother can now filter my spam.

  3. #3 On March 26, 2005 11:32 AM Matt Wilcox said:


    On the other hand you do have to wonder why anyone would send such a blatently crap bit of spam.

  4. #4 On March 26, 2005 11:33 AM Kev said:

    Spam really is reaching a whole new level of sophistication. Those guys are jeenioosis!!

  5. #5 On March 26, 2005 01:00 PM Andy Saxton said:

    Probably the same people who send mail like this to Google:

    I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories..."

    And Googles advice:

    "Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for "burn fat at night" diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators."

    At least they give them the respect of using legible English ;)

  6. #6 On March 26, 2005 01:42 PM Keith Bell said:

    I got two copies of the same e-mail, each slightly different in the sequences of characters that had been reversed. It was an HTML e-mail, and the source showed that each of these reversed character sequences were surrounded by &#8236 and &#8238 entities, which in my mail client, Eudora, displayed as spaces -- making the message look even more bizarre.

    Looks to me as if the message is intended to rely on some embedded JS or VBScript to seek out the special characters and reverse the character sequences between them before displaying the message. As I've configured Eudora not to permit executable code in HTML content, the ruse fails and the unaltered text displays. I guess the same thing applies to you, Andy.

    Bugger me, I've clearly got too much time on my hands when I'm actually analysing spam!

  7. #7 On March 26, 2005 02:20 PM patrick h. lauke said:

    they're targetting dyslexic barclays members...;)

  8. #8 On March 26, 2005 02:33 PM Brian said:

    What is kind of cool however, is just how surprisingly easy the text is to read. Even with all the letters garbled up, it barely slows me down at all. "atnuocc" was the only word that I had to pause for.

  9. #9 On March 26, 2005 02:37 PM Eric Irvine said:

    .... this is hilarious, lol

  10. #10 On March 26, 2005 02:37 PM Rob McMichael said:

    Perhaps times are hard at Cambridge

    That or the last bout of phishing was so good they got extremely drunk to celebrate and tried again.

  11. #11 On March 26, 2005 02:43 PM Eric Irvine said:

    @brian, I beleive that there was some kind of study that showed that if you re-arrange the letters in any word in a given way then our brain can still decipher them without slowing down.

    I can't find anything on it now though :P, but it seems letters are only switched with their neighbors or next-to neighbors

  12. #12 On March 26, 2005 02:52 PM Malarkey said:

    @ Keith Bell: You're not the only sad sod to be looking at the SPAM message source. I found the same thing after cutting-and-pasting from Thunderbird into MT produced some weird results...

  13. #13 On March 26, 2005 03:07 PM Alex Giron said:

    Haha, this is too funny... Eric is right though, there was a study about this type of writing... and now spammers are using it!!!


  14. #14 On March 26, 2005 10:51 PM Gez said:

    So let's get this straight - should I not have replied to that message from Barclays?

    I've been on such a lucky run recently. I'm in the running for a free kitchen, free cruise, a shed load of money from some bloke who's father come to an unfortunate end and is having trouble getting the money out of the country. Everything's looking really good for me. If this is some kind of trick from Barclays, they're going to prevent me from claiming my other prizes.

    Seems like you can trust everyone except the bank these days.

  15. #15 On March 26, 2005 11:20 PM Neil said:

    Is that Jamie Oliver in the photograph?

    Christ, he dosn't look well at all. Or clean.

  16. #16 On March 27, 2005 12:07 AM Dennis said:

    @ Brian and Eric,

    There was indeed a study about this sort of writing, however it was only studied on capital letters/words, because then there is no difference in the height of the word. Weird stuff :)

  17. #17 On March 27, 2005 12:58 PM Fastly said:

    I bleeive taht ppoele are albe to dipheecr jueblmd wrods wrhee the fsrit and lsat ltreets are the smae besacue the biarn deosn't aatulcly raed erevy slgnie letetr aynawy!

  18. #18 On March 27, 2005 05:32 PM dotjay said:

    Agreed... Many primary schools have this concept up on their staffroom walls... If the first and last letters of words are in the right place, you should be able to read a word if the other letters are jumbled. Since we have so many cues for reading a word, we can cope with incorrectly spelt words.

    Heh - I got two of these Barclays e-mails this week, but many of the letters were character encoded.

  19. #19 On March 28, 2005 08:30 PM Rob McMichael said:

    @ all those talking about studies!!!!

    Read my previous post and click the Cambridge link, gerrrr :p

    @ Mr.M - My domain's email address is being blacklisted :'(

  20. #20 On March 28, 2005 11:17 PM Adrian Kostrubiak said:

    Wow, I would never have thought that someone would actually think that something like that could actually work.

  21. #21 On March 29, 2005 07:47 AM Richard@Home said:

    It looks like its an attempt to get round the spam-filters (and / or knacker the filters by training them with dodgy words).

    Dennis is right, there was a study done into this technique (about 6 months ago). Interesting to note that the spammers are right up there when it comes to using/abusing new ideas.

    Shame that skill couldn't be put to something more productive eh?