Does Spam Still Work?

nigeria_419_shirt.gifI got a 419 email today in my work inbox. This is pretty rare, since I guess Global IT does a great job catching spam, especially compared to my webmail accounts.

Normally, in my webmail, I’d just delete an move on, but since this is so rare in my work inbox, I read the mail, titled “GOOD DAY TO YOU!!

Wow, screaming and overemphasizing all in one title, this should be good.

Have read, if you like. The first paragraph is priceless:

I got your contact address after my extensive search via your country white pages for a God-fearing and trust-worthy person to bestow this transaction which is the only hope of survival . When i got your address, I prayed and meditated fervently over it and i committed it into the hands of God that you should be the rightful person to help me.

Dude, what is my @oracle.com email address doing in the white pages? I haven’t picked up a phone book since the ’90s, so maybe I should. I like the religious hedge here: God-fearing, check, prayed and meditated, check, just in case it’s not God, but gods.

Anyway, it goes on to say there’s $18 million that he can’t get access to because he needs “to present a foreign person or company to stand as the beneficiary.” After he gets his $18 million, I get 30%. He wants me to contact him via his “private secured email” which is a mail.vu address.

Turns out .vu is the domain for Vanuatu, a small South Pacific island. I found a .vu registrant and ran a whois on the mail.vu domain for giggles. The registrant is listed as residing in Belize. Wow, international intrigue, but somehow I doubt the good people of Vanuatu and Belize are behind this Russia oil man’s plot.

Anyway, this 419 variant appeals directly to greed, i.e. help me out and score $5.4 million, which I assume is tax-free. Heh, imagine your surprise in January 2009 when you got a 1099-MISC for $5.4 million. I really dislike the strong-arm 419 emails that threaten violence or take advantage of kindness, and I cringe when I hear the stories of people who have been bilked by 419 scams. Makes you want to volunteer for scambaiting.

My assumption is that most people are savvy to spam by now and just ignore it. If you’re reading this, you’re probably nodding; so, in your experience with non-technical friends and family who use email, does spam work anymore? I feel like phishing is a bigger threat now than spam, and I wonder why spam even exists anymore. Someone must be clicking through or responding to Steven Theede’s pleas because spam ain’t free. As a business, there must be some return on the investment.

And by the way, why is webmail so bad at trapping spam when compared to corporate IT? Somehow I think that’s a problem related to free service; it doesn’t really bother me, just an observation.

Let me know in comments.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

15 comments

  1. Well well well…

    Just in response to your last point about webmail not catching spam, Gmail does a great job and has let through about two spam messages over the entire duration of my use, which is about two years. So it’s not a “free service” problem, it’s a “lazy free service” problem. Read: Microsoft Hotmail.

  2. Well well well…

    Just in response to your last point about webmail not catching spam, Gmail does a great job and has let through about two spam messages over the entire duration of my use, which is about two years. So it’s not a “free service” problem, it’s a “lazy free service” problem. Read: Microsoft Hotmail.

  3. @Voyagerfan5761: Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ve been using GMail for nearly 4 years, and the spam rate is pretty low. I’m thinking of Yahoo I guess.

    @Carl: That’s the one I’ve seen. I like the pictures they get spammers to take, esp. the one with the loaf of bread on his head.

  4. @Voyagerfan5761: Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ve been using GMail for nearly 4 years, and the spam rate is pretty low. I’m thinking of Yahoo I guess.

    @Carl: That’s the one I’ve seen. I like the pictures they get spammers to take, esp. the one with the loaf of bread on his head.

  5. As for non-techies responding to spam, I think they do (clearly someone must). My parents (read: non-techies) simply call me if they receive something they were not expecting and can’t figure it out. They are pretty sceptical though.

    And as for spam, my Hotmail account was set up as my spam account (you know, I have to give an email address on a website but I really don’t want to kind of thing). Recently, the amount of spam I receive went from something like 30 spams a day to 0.5. Not sure what happened, but that was a huge improvement. Now only my Yahoo! account gives me major spam.

    The other thing I haven’t figured out is how do I get spam IMs? (only happens on my Yahoo)

  6. As for non-techies responding to spam, I think they do (clearly someone must). My parents (read: non-techies) simply call me if they receive something they were not expecting and can’t figure it out. They are pretty sceptical though.

    And as for spam, my Hotmail account was set up as my spam account (you know, I have to give an email address on a website but I really don’t want to kind of thing). Recently, the amount of spam I receive went from something like 30 spams a day to 0.5. Not sure what happened, but that was a huge improvement. Now only my Yahoo! account gives me major spam.

    The other thing I haven’t figured out is how do I get spam IMs? (only happens on my Yahoo)

  7. @Jake: Yahoo! Mail is pretty bad (I get spam there even though I have never even told anyone I have an account there). Hotmail is really annoying because Microsoft spams you with their own junk and makes it a requirement for service. (I don’t use my Yahoo! or Hotmail addresses anyway; They’re just there for identity preservation.)

    @ChrisRowell: I can’t speak for my dad, but my mom is pretty suspicious of anything she gets that doesn’t have a name she knows attached to it. She even catches stuff that purports to be from herself. Phishing and spam are both lost on the two of us. My dad has a spam filter in Outlook, but I don’t know if he ever reads the messages or if any make it to his Inbox. (The rest of us use webmail services; he’s the holdout for desktop applications.)

  8. @Jake: Yahoo! Mail is pretty bad (I get spam there even though I have never even told anyone I have an account there). Hotmail is really annoying because Microsoft spams you with their own junk and makes it a requirement for service. (I don’t use my Yahoo! or Hotmail addresses anyway; They’re just there for identity preservation.)

    @ChrisRowell: I can’t speak for my dad, but my mom is pretty suspicious of anything she gets that doesn’t have a name she knows attached to it. She even catches stuff that purports to be from herself. Phishing and spam are both lost on the two of us. My dad has a spam filter in Outlook, but I don’t know if he ever reads the messages or if any make it to his Inbox. (The rest of us use webmail services; he’s the holdout for desktop applications.)

  9. @ChrisRowell/Voyagerfan5761: I’d forgotten spam IMs. I switched to Gaim/Pidgin years ago, and those stopped entirely. I’m not sure the two are related, but maybe.

    GMail does a good job trapping spam, but as you say, somehow spam finds that account. I didn’t give it to services before 2006, but I still got spam. It’s just nicely hidden away in the spam folder.

    Yahoo got better, but has backslid recently. No idea why. It’s impossible to compare to my work account b/c the policies are different, i.e. the trapped emails rarely make it to me for review.

  10. @ChrisRowell/Voyagerfan5761: I’d forgotten spam IMs. I switched to Gaim/Pidgin years ago, and those stopped entirely. I’m not sure the two are related, but maybe.

    GMail does a good job trapping spam, but as you say, somehow spam finds that account. I didn’t give it to services before 2006, but I still got spam. It’s just nicely hidden away in the spam folder.

    Yahoo got better, but has backslid recently. No idea why. It’s impossible to compare to my work account b/c the policies are different, i.e. the trapped emails rarely make it to me for review.

  11. Like others here, I use hotmail & yahoo just for registering etc. and not for friends or genuine email conversations. Both are very bad for letting spam through and are really pretty useless. I use Inbox.com for all my 'proper' email activities. Its also a free service and hardly ever do it let spam through into my inbox. I would recommend it.

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