The Creeping Spam

Scribble by Jennwith2ns 2012

I had to draw this guy–the public domain images of Spam on the internets just didn’t have the right flair.

I remember when I first opened an account on an online dating site. This was a considerable number of years ago, and I had never profiled myself online before, and one did hear horror stories. After a couple of those, there was a blog (not this one)–the setting up of which was also initially terrifying–and then a MySpace account (no longer in existence) which creation nearly gave me anaphylaxis. Even webmail was intimidating at first. Like most things, though, the more you do it, the less alarming it seems, even if maybe it shouldn’t. Now, though the dating websites are gone, I am a member, if not a frequenter, of a multiplicity of social networking sites. You and I may even be linked via one or two.

Sidebar ads that are eerily related to things I’m interested in? Just don’t seem all that eerie anymore. And I have a pretty decent email spam-filter. The only ones that usually get through are from friends’ emails that have, unfortunately (like this blog a month or so ago) been hacked. But I can always tell which ones those are. They usually tell me about some way to make money online and have some attachment I don’t open or some link I don’t click.

Yesterday was “Christian Education Sunday” at Now Church. Miss Fran picked out a bunch of songs and Mr Patrice directed, and I wrote the script to tie all the songs together as a musical, and “acted” in it. (I use the term acted loosely, as pertains to myself.) The children acted and sang wonderfully and even though it was a lot of work (and a bit of metaphorical drama, too) to put it together, the end result was quite satisfying. My parents were even in attendance. At the end, my mother said, “You wrote that?”

“The script,” I clarified, in case I needed to. I do not write songs. But I’m pretty sure she knew most of the songs, so clarification was probably superfluous.

“Yeah,” she said. “I was thinking, you should really do that kind of thing for people on the side. You’re creative and you’re good at it.” I think I muttered something non-committal, mostly because I wasn’t entirely sure what to say, partly because I wasn’t entirely sure what “that kind of thing” meant, specifically, nor how to get into it, in spite of a little freelancing experience.

Whenever the next time I checked my email was, there was a message in there from a William Edwards. I do not know William Edwards. Any William Edwards. The subject-line said, “Free Work from Home Employment.” It’s the kind of email to which I usually say, “Yeah, right,” and then I delete it forthwith. Therefore, I can’t quite figure out how I got “into” the message–maybe I could read the whole thing from my phone without clicking on it, or maybe my phone automatically opened it after I deleted the preceding message. I don’t know. Either way, I somehow ended up opening it, and this is what it said:

Jenn,
I thought with Jay’s help you could earn money from home on the internet with your writing background. Writing about your love the kids and products they use.
Bill

http://www.organic-pet-digest.com/free-work-from-home-employment.html

At first glance, apart from the coincidental timing with my mother’s comment, there’s nothing much more creepy about this than about your average spam-mail. Unknown sender. Weird/awkward/puzzling grammar and syntax. A random link that appears unrelated to the body of the email. Even the use of my first name–it’s not too hard to get that off an email address.

The things that are creeping me out about this e-missive are the seemingly non-spam elements. The guy sending the message has a gmail address. With a photo attached. And a Google+ account. (I couldn’t find out much about him from Google+, however. Evidently he’s a pilot? We don’t have any mutual connexions. Who the heck is Jay?) I did not click on the link in the email (though if you do, and you get a job with them, I want a kickback), but I did google “Organic Pet Digest” and arrived at an apparently legitimate website about “Natural Dog Care Guidance,” with a hyperlink at the bottom of the page for “Work at home employment: how to create a site like this one.”

How does this guy know I have a “writing background”? More to the point, how did he get my email? The email address he used is not the one linked to this blog or other writing websites. That one is public, but not the one he used. How does he know about “kids”? And if he means “fur-kids,” well, how does he know about them?

If Mr. Edwards found out about any of those details because he reads this blog or “follows me on Twitter” (a phrase which, I fear, I will always need to put in quotation marks because it does sound so ludicrous)–and he doesn’t “follow me on Twitter,” by the way–it’s no surprise he knows about the dogs, say, or the writing. Fine. I’m always happy for people to read my blog. But if he wants to suggest a freelance opportunity, in that case, he might find a less invasive way of presenting it. Direct-messaging me on Twitter, for example. Using the provided email address on this blog. Introducing himself and the context for his offer would be another really fantastic idea. Minus all of those elements, I don’t care how great the opportunity is: I’m still marking that email as spam. And backing away slowly.

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7 thoughts on “The Creeping Spam

  1. The reason people spam is because it is sometimes effective. The reason it is sometimes effective is because our brains make connections, even with random things. Send enough spam, and you’re bound to get through a filter and get it right some of the time.

  2. We’re in a warzone.

    On one side there are normal (well, mostly) folk who just want to get on with their lives; on the other there are slimy leeches who will stop at nothing to Make Money Fast (the ‘dream’ that is The American Way(tm)). We risk much when we interact on ‘social media’, because each little personal nugget about us released into the wild can be tagged and flagged and categorised by the Marketeers so that their ‘legitimate marketing message’ — something that the rest of us would label ‘spam’ — can be ‘targeted to the consumer’. The predators are getting better, more canny, at developing shiny lures; why go out hunting when you can have the prey come willingly to you, and bringing their friends, to boot?

    Spam sucks. Identifying it is becoming more problematic as time goes by. The worst enemy may well be ourselves; the only way to resist is by curbing our desires for shiny things.

    • I agree we’re in a warzone. My analysis of the forces arrayed against us is bound to be somewhat different from yours, although I’m sure you’re right that those forces have both spam and The American Dream ™ firmly in their grip.

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