Over the years, a scary new form of junk email has evolved. What makes this type so alarming is there is no anti-spam protection to stop it.
This is a newer form of email spoofing, in which spammers disguise their emails to make it look like they are innocuous, valid messages from trusted sources. The primary concern, and the reason there is no anti-spam software to filter them, is that they are coming from the most trusted sources of all — our close family and friends. It is what I have deemed “friend spoofing.”
My inbox is chock full of messages from advertisers pretending to be friends and acquaintances. They disguise their ads behind colloquial, friendly subject headings to make us think it’s from someone we may know. When you open up the email, it is nothing but an advertisement for a mobile phone plan, hair growth cream, or stimulus pill. It is unfortunate, but it has become very common. Some have referred to this seedy form of advertisement as “brand spoofing.”
Some time ago, folks decided to take a page out of this deceitful book and engage in a reverse form of email campaign. For whatever reason, they started to use their trusted friendly name and email address to disguise advertisements, chain letters, and, most notably, very biased “anecdotes” that try to sway our political way of thinking.
For me, it all started sometime in the summer of 2004, as John Kerry and George W. Bush were vying for the White House. The email came from my father-in-law and it was addressed to most everyone in the family. I believe the subject heading was “Purple Hearted Liar.”
I opened it like every other email since it was from someone I knew and believed it to be something of interest. Little did I know I would be opening up Pandora’s Email Box. It was a series of photos and claims by a right wing veterans' group claiming Kerry had illegitimately earned his Bronze Star and Purple Heart while serving as a swift boat commander in the Vietnam War.
Since it was such an outlandish claim that did not pertain to Kerry's qualifications for commander-in-chief, I laughed it off. But that one email opened the flood gates. Since that point, I have been bombarded with spam stating this and that about certain candidates for public office. They all share the same theme – a completely blown out of proportion, outlandish claim in the hopes that we’ll be so amazed we’ll forward the information right away to make sure everyone we know is fully aware of this astonishing, "truthful" news.
What makes it all so irritating – and on a whole other tangent comical — is that most of these political chain emails are so ridiculous and false that anyone with half a brain knows how absurd they are. (Since I keep getting them, I guess that says something about me.) Do the senders honestly think that we'll change our left-leaning stances simply because a conservative veterans' group questions whether or not a candidate truly deserved his war medals? (By the way, doesn't every soldier who served admirably in war deserve all the kudos we can give him or her?)
I would like to say that first email was the worst of it. But it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. During the Obama/McCain election last year, I received the most ludicrous. It was also from a family member and had the heading: “Do You Really Want This Man Leading The Country?”
In a nutshell, it explained how all of us should be scared to death of Obama if elected because of his deep Muslim roots. Not only was it an immature attempt to scare us all through the mere mention of “Muslim,” as if that in itself was synonymous with evil and terror, but the email went even further. It hinted at the strong possibility that Mr. Obama was actually some sort of Manchurian candidate trained and brainwashed by extremists to lead a jihad against America right from the west wing.
While the whole thing has grown quite tiresome, the last straw was when I was “friend spoofed” just last week by a really good buddy. Considering I didn't even know he cared about politics, and any email from him outside the topic of golf or hanging out at the 19th hole is extremely abnormal, receiving this one was the tipping point.
The heading read “Economics Teacher,” and to be honest, knowing the source, I opened it thinking it might be a Maxim-style picture of a scantily clad woman at the chalk board or something in that realm. I wasn't so lucky. This teacher was a bald, older man standing in front of his class. In big bold letters just beneath the photo it said: “Big Mid-Term Elections Coming Up, Please Forward To All You Know.”
The email was about an economics teacher who decided to treat his classroom like Obama’s “socialistic” tax policy. Apparently, he opted to give the entire class the same grade depending on how well the class did as a whole. If they all worked together and averaged poorly, he’d fail them all. If they all did well, they’d all get an A.
This was to mirror Obama’s economic plan of taxing the rich to give to the less fortunate, which set everyone on the same wealth/poor scale. So to prove that this “socialistic” policy was unfair, the teacher put all his students on the same scale – and as the story goes, he failed the entire class after they didn’t do so well on a project.
If true, which I doubt, the teacher jumped the Grand Canyon in his point to compare a simple higher tax on the wealthy (ultra-wealthy, I might add) to everyone being on the same opulence/poverty level. The metaphor was weak, to say the least, and I was "friend spoofed" yet again.
In the end, what motivates friends and family to send these illogical, asinine statements in the first place? They are all very intelligent people, which makes it even more baffling. Are they so truly full of hate and discontent, or so polarized, that they feel the need to do whatever it takes to make sure their party-backed candidate wins the next election?
I guess if something out there helps your cause, why not spend a mere few seconds of your time by adding some contacts and hitting “forward,” right? Maybe they doubt the contents as well, but after deeper thought, feel it could actually scare, convince, or push a few of us into thinking (and voting) the way they do. So, why not just do it?
I think, though, it does just the opposite. It not only makes them look ultra-biased, it makes us doubt their common sense. And nobody wants to do that, especially not with our own personal close friends or family members.
Which is why I am desperately in search for anti-“friend spoofing” spam software. If anybody knows of a good product, let me know. Oh, and make sure it is a real, legitimate brand — no spoofs, please!