This is what happens when you reply to spam e-mail

Today we’re going to watch an hilarious TED Talk by James Veitch, a British writer and comedian. In this talk, he narrates a very funny story about interacting with a man who sent him spam e-mail. Of course, this format is nothing like the IELTS Listening Exam, but it is always good to practice your general listening skills through various means – listening for comprehension, listening for detail, inference, and so on.


Spam (noun) – annoying, unsolicited e-mail

Inbox (noun) – the part of your e-mail account where received messages are stored

Hovering (verb) – hanging over something temporarily

Intrigues (verb) – to make someone feel very interested

Statisticians (noun) – people who analyze data and statistics

Cut (noun) – a portion of a larger whole; eg a 25% cut of a deal

Hummus (noun) – a kind of Middle Eastern food


True or False

Watch the video and answer these questions:

  1. James wanted to buy some gold.
  2. James was impressed by Solomon’s offer.
  3. Solomon will invest his money in property.
  4. Solomon suggested using a code for security.
  5. James has spent three years replying to spam e-mails.


Fill in the Blanks

Skip to 07:11 and listen again. Try to fill in the blanks.

Crazy stuff happens when you start _____1_____ to scam emails. It’s really difficult, and I highly ____2____ we do it. I don’t think what I’m doing is mean. There are a lot of people who do mean things to _____3_____. All I’m doing is wasting their time. And I think any time they’re spending with me is time they’re not spending scamming vulnerable adults out of their _____4______, right?

And if you’re going to do this — and I highly recommend you do — get yourself a pseudonymous _______5_______. Don’t use your own email address. That’s what I was doing at the start and it was a nightmare.



The topic of e-mails may come up in the IELTS Speaking Exam. You might be asked questions like the following:

Part One

How often do you check your e-mail?

Do you regularly check your e-mail?

Do you prefer writing by hand or typing on a computer?

Part Two

Describe an important e-mail you have received.

Describe a time when you had to send an important e-mail.

Part Three

Do you think writing emails has strengthened or weakened people’s writing skills?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of sending e-mails?

What are some problems that arise from using e-mail every day?



True or False

  1. F
  2. F
  3. T
  4. F
  5. T

Fill in the Blanks

  1. replying
  2. recommend
  3. scammers
  4. savings
  5. email address

Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel. He has worked as an IELTS tutor since 2010, has completed both TEFL and CELTA courses, and has a certificate from Cambridge for Teaching Writing. In 2018, he wrote the popular IELTS handbook, Grammar for IELTS Writing. His other IELTS website is called IELTS Teaching.

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