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Spam is the transmission of unsolicited messages to e-mail accounts, Internet forums, cell phones, instant messaging systems, and video sharing sites. These ubiquitous messages bombard us daily and can bring mild amusement or major annoyance.

They entice with promises of wealth, employment, romance, or sexual enhancement but rarely deliver the intended results. While some are harmless, many are scams meant to trick readers into sending money or financial information. Still others contain worms that allow a spammer access to a user’s personal computer. It’s no surprise that bloggers turn to the Web to seek or offer advice and to vent their frustration over the constant threat spam poses to their computers and cell phones.

Though spam filters exist and a few spammers have been identified and held accountable for their mass mailings, legislation to ban or monitor spam varies from state to state and is often difficult to enforce. Spammers have also become increasingly savvy to the techniques used to block or suss them out. Spam levels are on the rise, and such messages will likely continue their assault on electronic forms of communication for some time to come.


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About Ellie Sinclair


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I never cease to be amazed at the level of stupidity displayed in spam – the unsolicited email, not the tasty food product made from animal intestines and brains.

Here’s one I recieved recently with the subject heading, “Failing FDA Trials Is Not The End”.

Shouldn’t it be, though? We can bemoan the inefficiency of the federal bureaucracy until we’re blue in the face, but when it comes to drug testing, I want them to be thorough and the tests rigorous. I don’t care if they have to inject those drugs into the testicles of a hundred lab monkeys or spray it into the eyes of cute little bunny rabbits, I want it thoroughly tested before I swallow it!

As far as I’m concerned, yes, failing FDA trials is the end.

I got another email last fall asking for my support to ban cockfighting in Oklahoma.

Jesus, where to start with that… ?

Well, first of all, I don’t live in Oklahoma. I couldn’t care less, if it’s perfectly legal to put two chickens in the ring and let them gouge each others eye out. As far as I’m concerned, they could be jamming icecubes and strawberries down the gullet of a chicken and shake the hell out of it until it shits strawberry snowcones.

I don’t live there. I don’t care.

The good news is that the ban was passed on November 5th of last year. The Oklahoma Coalition Agianst Cockfighting has a website which states, “[T]he voters of Oklahoma overwhelming approved State Question 687 to outlaw cockfighting, with 56.2 percent voting ‘yes’ and 43.8 percent voting ‘no.’

I dunno that I’d call a 12.4% margin “overwhelming”. Apparently there are still quite a few sodbusters out there who think cockfighting is an acceptable family pasttime.

And if that was State Question 687, what was Question 686?

“Should gunfights in Tulsa be held at high noon on Main Street or in the nearest saloon?”

Oklahoma! Leading the way in bringing a world-wide moratorium on cockfighting. Next on the agenda is to put a stop to the reprehensible sports of Lebanese mouse racing and German cockroach sword fighting.

Lately, however, most of my email has been in regards to penis enlargement drugs. A couple of days ago, I had one in my mailbox which stated, “MEN! 67% of women want a larger penis!”

When I first read it, I thought, “Christ, we gave them the right to vote, they can own property, and now they want a bigger dick. Nag nag nag! It’s like they’re never satisfied.”

Which is probably why they want a bigger pecker to play with. Or maybe the problem isn’t that men have tiny dicks, but that women have wide vaginas? Why can’t they make a drug to fix that?

Later I was thinking, hmm, did they mean these women want their men to have a larger dork or they, the women, wouldn’t mind having a big dick of their own? You sometimes have to wonder about the lead levels in the bloodstreams of the people who compose these ridiculous emails.

Then there’s all that email I get from Africa.

“Greetings & Strict Confidence Required!”

That’s how they start out. I don’t know anyone in Africa.

They always have some hard luck story about how they’re the wife/son/daughter of some crooked politician in some shithole country over there and they’re trying to embezzle a couple hundred million dollars out of the country before a noose is put around their neck. That’s why they need your help.

Do they even have paper money over there? I thought I saw a show on PBS about how they’re still using clam shells and leopard pelts as currency.

Well, these folks always want me to set up a bank account here for them so they can electronically transfer the “money” to this country. And, for my effort, they’ll give me a 25% cut in the deal.

I always write back saying I’d be happy to help them drain their country’s bankroll, but it’s much safer to do it via Western Union, seeing as how my bank would be a bit suspicious if one day I’m depositing $358 and the next I dump $18,200,000 into savings. How the hell do you explain that?

“Oh uh… yeah, my wife’s garden had more tomatoes and zucchini than we could eat, so we set up a vegetable stand.”

How about when you go to remove yourself from some company’s spam list and they say, “Thank you and sorry for any inconvenience. You will be recieving a confirmation email stating that you have been removed.”

Great. In order to eliminate their spam, I have to let them take a parting shot. It’s their way of saying, “Screw you, pal!” as you walk out the door of their shop.

And you can enter your email address all you like on their removal page, but that “Click Here To Be Permanently Removed” button is no different than the light button at a crosswalk: it’s strictly for cosmetic purposes.

“Thank you” – as if I did them a big favor. And “Sorry for any inconvenience” – as if they thought for sure I was the kind of person who would be interested in refinancing my home with some fly-by-night company via the Internet, or was big into online gambling, or had a real strong need to see naked college girls on their webcams.

Well, ok… the college girls.

Other idiot-oriented email I get are all those get-rich-quick schemes.

“Make $25,000 in 90 days from HOME!”

You know what? If that shit worked, everyone would be doing it. But, just like Amway, there’s always some hitch they don’t tell you about. Like how you’ll have to embarrass and humilate yourself and your family by suckering your friends to come over for dinner and coffee.

Out comes the dry erase board with the circles, squares, and pyramids on it and a half dozen of your closest friends instantly become your bitter enemies.

No thanks. I’ll do like Ben Franklin said – if you want to double your money, fold it in half.

I’ll be honest, the only spam I take time to look at these days are the ones saying, “Lonely housewives are HOT and HORNY and waiting for YOU!”

Ok, now you have my undivided attention.

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About Tom Norris

  • Oh, don”t worry, cockfighting is still legal in the great states of Louisiana and New Mexico.


  • uao

    I was thinking about writing a post on this, but for several reasons, I didn’t. But I’d like to share with you guys a story of how I brought some spammers down, personally.

    Yes, people: it is possible to catch a spammer sometimes, with a little social engineering.

    All of this happened over the last two weeks:

    I was getting spammail from the same source repeatedly, sometimes 3 times a day. Here is one of their spammails (copy and pasted, misspellings are theirs, phone number deleted):

    How have you been,
    Would a degree produce a prosperous future,
    m ore earning oppertunities,
    more money and the respect of all…
    Dial 1 209 396 XXXX (7 days a week)
    Earn Accredited & Verifiable Degree from home. No study, no exams.
    See you later,
    Hancock Summer

    The headers were spoofed, you can’t reply to it.

    After getting about 20 of these, I finally had enough. So, I posed as a customer, and called the number on 11/05/2005, leaving my cellphone #.

    On 11/07/2005 I was called by a “rep” named “Paula”. After giving me her speil (to make a long story short, they’ll give you a diploma for ‘life experience’. You have to write a few reports -paying tuition of course- and then they’ll send you your PhD. or whatevr you’re looking for.)

    She said the name of the “school” was Anderson University.

    I then asked if I could speak to one of her supervisors. She immediately started getting snotty, and said her supervisor “Dr. McKenzie” was in a meeting. I noted she was calling me from a 415 number.

    Are you in “San Francisco?” I asked her.

    “We are in Northern California” she told me.

    “Where?” I asked.

    “Why does that matter?” she asked ratcheting up the sass in her voice.

    “Well, if I’m going to send you money, I need to know where to send it” I told her.

    She gave me an address in Sacramento that sounded like a mailbox-drop place.

    After I got off the phone, I called information. No Anderson University or College in Sacramento, or California. I checked the internet, ditto.

    So I called her back. Again I asked for her supervisor. This time, she said her supervisor was “Dr. Gray” and he was in a meeting.

    I told her I’d just keep calling back until he came to the phone, even if I had to call her a hundred times.

    On my third call, she made it clear she didn’t like my questions. I told her “Listen; you’ve got a rough job, dealing with these calls. It’s not fair I complain to you. Isn’t there another number I can call?”

    She finally gave me a number with a 916 area code.

    I called that and a british woman answered “Registration Office”

    I asked her if this was “Anderson University” She said it was. I asked to speak to a supervisor, and she refused.

    So I asked her what her name was, and she hung up abruptly. (At this point, it was obvious she knew she was up to no good)

    I called back immediately, she hung up immediately.

    An hour later I called her again. This time, a man answered. I asked his name.

    “Dr. Roberts” he told me gruffly.

    “Are you the boss?” I asked.

    “I’m the boss” he told me.

    So I asked him why he was spamming me. He said it wasn’t him, it was the “advertising department”. So I asked him for the name of the advertising department head.

    The guy became irate and went into a tirade “You call up here with a chip on your shoulder, well f*** you buddy. F*** you! F*** you! F*** you!”

    When I tried to reply, he held the phone up to the radio and blared loud music into it, and hung up.

    I called back. He again played loud music into the phone.

    So: first, I phoned the FTC (website is http://www.ftc.gov), where I filed a report for their violation of the CAN-SPAM act.

    The woman was very helpful. She told me spoofed headers, misleading subject boxes, and no “opt-out” link are all violations, with each case of spam having a fine of $11000 per email attached to it. She asked me to forward the mail.

    I then told her that I had identifying info: 2 phione numbers, an address, and the names they used. She said that this was a real boon; it would help law enforcement track them down quickly.

    Still, I wasn’t satisfied. On the internet, I found there is a real Anderson University, a small Christian college, in Ohio.

    I emailed the president with the above story, telling him these guys were xeroxing Anderson University diplomas for money, and passed on the phone numbers.

    The real Anderson University replied the next day with a thank you and blessing, telling me that they never hear of these scams unless a Good Samaratin (like me) contacts them. They were furious the spammers were using their name, and promised “swift legal action”. That was last week.

    I don’t know what has happened to the spammers, but they had the FTC and AU’s lawyers calling them last week.

    What I do know is this: after 3 spammails a day, all spam from this spammer ceased on 11/07/2005, the day I contacted them.

    I’ll do it again to the next spammer in a heartbeat. It didn’t really take much effort, just a little.

    So, good honest people of the world, you CAN fight back. Try it next time. And if anyone else got the same spammail above, email me, and I’ll give you their phone numbers.

  • Yeah, but it’s not just the subjects that bother me, it’s the sender name too. You won’t believe the amount of emails that have been sent to me from “Mom” with subjects about hot, horny college girls.

  • i admit that i sometimes enjoy the dada poetry aspect of the sorta-random words in the subject line…which of course are their to evade spam filters (all of them end up in my spam trap though)