Recently I have been finding a great many emails from preditory publishers in my spam box. While I know each of these are almost certainly preditory publications, I am confused as why there are so frequently strange unicode characters in the email body (alphas in place of a's etc). Does any one have any idea why these seemingly outlandish errors are so common in these emails?
The reason these "look-alike" characters are used in predatory journal spam is the same reason they are used in all types of spam: it is an attempt to bypass spam filters.
At least historically, spam filters worked by examining the words in the message. For example, if the word
bitcoin is associated with spam, if your spam email requests payment in bitcoin, your message is more likely to get blocked by the filter.
Imagine you replace the
𝒾 and now have
b𝒾tcoin. If the developer of the spam filter failed to take into account all of the i look-alikes in unicode, then your spam message doesn't contain the word bitcoin anymore. Therefore, it is more likely to make it into the recipient's inbox.
Major email providers' spam filters are, of course, much more sophisticated these days; after all, that email ended up in the spam box, right?
Adding to the IT answer "Why do so many spam emails lately contain a lot of unicode characters?" from Infomration Security SE site , there is a sociological answer: when you do a scam, you want to get the easy fish in your net, not the smart one.
Put some obvious errors/dubious things in your text, you can be quite sure that the smart ones will stay away, filtering "in" the gullible ones.
Apart from the initial mass email, most of the scams are then fine tuned on a 1-to-1 basis, so for the scammer it is of the uttermost importance of filtering out potential wasters of their time.