Email Marketing’s Underbelly: Phishing at a New Depth

I wish there was a way to prevent spammers from going to business school. Actually, they have always been savvier marketers than many in the industry. The problem is, they’re trying to sucker consumers rather than engage them in a dialogue. In fact, one piece of fraudulent email, recently received by a colleague of mine went as far as posing as a friendly customer service representative. Great, now phishers know more about relevance and communicating “person-to-person” than many legitimate companies! This is the latest in what is becoming a major threat to consumers and financial companies everywhere.

The phishing email began:

Hi, my name is Corrine Montaguesizin* and I am with the Fraud Dept of Huge Bank* in New York. We ask you to check your online account status and announce any change of the data or any other unusual problem and contact the bank in regards to recent activity on your accounts. As soon as possible, please access your online account following the link below:

Check your online account

* names changed to protect the innocent

Marketers have known for some time that connecting on a personal basis with your subscribers can often drive a higher response. As Chris Baggott puts it in his book, Email Marketing by the Numbers, this is utilizing the ultimate email marketing tactic, personalized one-to-one email communication—moving “from enterprise-to-many to true individual-to-individual marketing.” Well, spammers have now learned direct marketing, too.

If you’re a marketer working for a bank or any company that possesses private information about your customers, be extremely careful about the type of data you ask for via email. If it has to go via email, by all means authenticate using Domain Keys, Sender ID and SPF. Ultimately, this is both about company-reputation preservation as well as consumer protection. Help your customers NOT get suckered.

—Chip House