America Online Announces 2nd Annual ‘Top 10 Spam Terms’

America Online Announces 2nd Annual ‘Top 10 Spam Terms’

DULLES, Va. — Topping the 2004 List: Phishing/ID Theft Scams, Online Medications & Vioxx, Mortgage Deals, Stock Tips, and – Yes – ‘Adult’ Themes

On the ‘outs’ are old spam terms such as “Oprah”, “Teens”, and “Viagra”. The new ‘in’ spam terms for 2004 relate to ‘phishing’ scams, dubious mortgage deals, online pharmacy items such as Vioxx, and stock offers.

This is according to America Online’s newly released list of most widely sent junk email subject lines for 2004, as based on the assessments and analysis of AOL’s Antispam and Postmaster teams. This is the second year AOL has released such a list.

The Top 10 list is based on spam reports forwarded to these teams by AOL members during the 2004 calendar year – much of it collected in the aggregate via use of the popular “Report Spam” button on AOL.

“AOL members and all online consumers should make one of their New Year’s resolutions a cleaner, less cluttered email inbox,” said Charles Stiles, Manager of the Postmaster team within AOL’s Antispam Operations group. “We’re already working hard behind the scenes to can the spam and hammer the spammers. But online users can help too – by taking these spam terms and updating the spam-blocking tools on their internet software. This will help them block even more spam in 2005.”

Spam – how did it change from 2003 to 2004?: AOL noted that the “flavor” of spam changed noticeably in the Top 10 list from 2003 to 2004.

First and foremost was the rise in spam emails carrying “phishing”, or identity theft scams, which included information/data theft schemes, those citing ‘inheritances’ to be collected, and the infamous “Nigerian” scam. Second, there was a switch by spammers to more text-based spam instead of image-based spam, especially as it pertains to adult-themed junk emails. Third, there was much less so-called “porn spam” in 2004 as compared to 2003. Fourth, much more spam in 2004 contained simply a URL address or hyperlink, and nothing else.

Lastly, AOL noted that the type of spam isn’t the only thing that’s changed in 2004: the kind of spammer sending has also undergone a ‘virtual makeover’. The Company stated that spammers have become more “sophisticated, nefarious, shadowy, devious, deceitful, sneaky, malicious, and – unfortunately – dedicated” in the manner in which they send spam. Gone are most ‘small-time’ spammers, and what is left are the ‘hardcore, kingpin spammers’ that AOL says it will continue to vigorously target in 2005.

Consumer Tips for Fighting Spam in 2005: AOL’s Stiles also offered the following consumer tips for fighting spam in 2005: first, report as much spam as possible to your ISP…the more consumers report spam, the more it will help ISPs block it; second, review and ‘fine-tune’ your Spam Folder regularly, as this will help customize and personalize consumers’ email experience, and will help increase the amount of good email consumers get in their main email inbox and divert bad email to the Spam Folder; third, use the ‘unsubscribe’ link in emails you get from known, trusted marketers if you don’t want to be on their email list anymore…abiding by consumers’ requests to unsubscribe is now Federal law under the “CAN-SPAM” act.

AOL’s ‘Top 10 Spam Email Subject Lines’ of 2004(2):

1. “We carry the most popular medications” (Vioxx appeared often(1))

2. “You’ve been sent an Insta-Kiss!” (phishing/ID theft scam(1))

3. “You Have 17 New Pictures” (phishing/ID theft scam(1))


5. “All orders are shipped from authorized locations” (re: online


6. “2005 Digital Cable Filters”

7. “F R E E* 30 Second Pre-Qualification MORTGAGE Application”

8. “HURRY HURRY Hot Stock on the RISE”


10. “Breaking news on the Top Pick stock”

(1) Notes in parentheses above are AOL’s own notations.

(2) Source: AOL. This list is unscientific, and is not in any specific order. The cited email subject headers are not ranked by volume within the Top 10 list.

–Last year’s Top 10 list is available at

About America Online, Inc.

America Online, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. Based in Dulles, Virginia, America Online is the world’s leader in interactive services, Web brands, Internet technologies and e-commerce services

COPYRIGHT 2004 Business Wire

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group