Random word in email before you open it?
August 29, 2022 8:34 AM   Subscribe

I receive tons of junk email. Lots gets filtered out, but still a lot gets through. When I preview my email on my iPhone before opening it, instead of the first few lines of the email, I get random words.

Example today: an email from Valvoline seems to have this as the first few words -- "contrive pass chances Asteropaues take court elevator"
One from Andersen windows says -- "Scolus Alybe instantly poor beauty ended Forward power"
Then when you open them they have just normal ads.
What could be the reason for this? Like am I more likely to open an email with gibberish? No. So what's the game here?
posted by mmf to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
Without getting into too much detail: proper construction of an HTML formatted email (the kind with the fonts and the pictures) is supposed to include a plain text alternative (just the text with no formatting, as if it came from a typewriter). The preview you see is pulled from the plain text alternative. In this case the spammers haven't constructed the plain text alternative the same way they constructed the formatted version so the content doesn't match.

As for the word salad: it's an attempt to beat spam filters that do something called Bayesian analysis. If the text of the email just had the marketing message without all that salad, a Bayesian spam filter would learn to recognize the text of the marketing as spam. Surround the marketing message with enough word salad and the Bayesian filter will see it as a unique message and let it through.
posted by fedward at 8:47 AM on August 29, 2022 [6 favorites]

Spam filters look for repeated text across many emails. Inserting random words defeats that.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:10 AM on August 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

Many emailers (MailChimp, etc) allow you to insert your own preview text. If you don't add it, they'll take language from the code and/or plain text version. If I had to guess, those were internal keywords that were in the code for some reason. Were these image emails? If so, it might have been alt text for the image(s).
posted by lunasol at 11:30 AM on August 29, 2022

What fedward and Tell Me No Lies said. It's random text in the plain text part of the email, attempting to fool your spam filter.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:35 PM on August 29, 2022

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