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Billion Dollar Bracket Spam

By now you’ve probably heard about Warren Buffet’s Billion Dollar Bracket contest, an NCAA March Madness bracket challenge that rewards the creator(s) of a perfect bracket with $1 billion. 9.2 quintillion-to-1 odds surely have not dissuaded hundreds of thousands of people from entering, myself included.

Because this challenge is sponsored by QuickenLoans and participation required a valid email address (they actually made me double opt-in!) and a physical address, the sign-up process required my undivided attention, lest my inbox get bombarded with marketing emails from QuickenLoans and their partners.

Being the savvier-than-average Internet user that I am, I made doubly sure to leave unchecked any opt-in for emails from QuickenLoans and their partners. I was positive the only way they were going to contact me was if I’d actually one. Perhaps updates on bracket standings, which I’d forgive since it’s related to the contest.

The last thing I expected to receive was information from QuickenLoans about refinancing my mortgage.

Because, y’know, I didn’t opt in.


“I thought I told them not to email me about mortgage information.”

So I opened the unsolicited email and was pleasantly surprised with its contents:


So QuickenLoans clearly didn’t care about opt-ins because if they did, they wouldn’t have said I enrolled into receiving “information-packed email updates” about saving money on my mortgage. Customers are much more likely to mark these as spam, adhering to email security tips to avoid being phished.  It is kind of funny that Yahoo is the platform they chose for the contest — nothing like an ISP co-sponsoring a spam effort — but that’s not really relevant.

What surprised me was QuickenLoans putting an unsubscribe link front and center in the first paragraph. I mean, that’s best practice for the Spamhaus set, not the Spammer contingent.

But think about it for a second: QuickenLoans probably figured the likelihood of people dinging them for spam was far lower than the likelihood recipients would simply delete the email or, better yet, learn more about QuickenLoans. It’s not exactly a win-win for QuickenLoans, but it’s close. You could call it low-risk spam.

All I wanted was $1 billion of Warren Buffett’s $62 billion net worth. What I got was spammed.

When you put it like that, I was probably asking for it.

Harry Kaplowitz
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