Manipulative tactics

We found six tactics that senders use to manipulate recipients into opening emails. The typical sender used at least one manipulative tactic in about 43% of their emails. Most senders — 99% — use them at least occasionally.

We found 200 entities that disclosed our email address with other entities but the majority (114/200) had no privacy policy and only about a quarter (48/200) disclosed their email sharing in the privacy policy.

An email example showing Changed ‘From’ Field

Changed ‘From’ Field

“From” field has been changed from the actual sender. Many email clients will only display the beginning of a long name before being cut off

An email example showing

Fake Deadlines

Deadline to make this email seem urgent and extremely pressing

An email example showing

Forged Reply

“Re:” placed to make this email look lie a reply, when it is not

An email example showing

Forged Counters

This number continuously ticks downwards from 549 at random increments once the email is opened

An email example showing

Fake Email Threads

“From” field changed to make it appear as if you have responded to this email before, and it is part of an ongoing thread.

An email example showing

Dishonest Subject Phrasing

Subject phrasing intended to make it appear as if reader’s money is being held up

Princeton University
Data Driven Initiative

This project is led by researchers at Princeton University, affiliated with its Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP).