They're a cyberspace scourge, technology's version of a pestilence. And there's no real cure. The sad fact is spammers are here to stay. Yet just as diseases have varying degrees of menace from, say, the common cold to the plague, the same is true of spammers. The common cold are the idiots who fill our e-mail boxes with offers for ED cures or drugs. Near the other end of the spectrum are those whose sole purpose is to try to fleece people, most often the gullible or the elderly, out of thousands of dollars.
The latter are the targets of Delete This at Your Peril: One Man's Hilarious Exchanges with Internet Spammers. Written by "Bob Servant," with assistance from Neil Forsyth, this slim volume contains the e-mails Servant, of Broughty Ferry, Scotland, exchanges with a variety of e-mail spammers as he strings them along with daffy questions, requests, information and demands. The premise is akin to that of so-called "scam-baiters," who seek to force scammers to actually go somewhere or take stupid actions. While scam-baiters are in search of barnyard justice, Servant's take is aimed at fun and perhaps showing the spammers are as gullible as the prey upon which they feed.
To a North American or European of average intelligence, it's plain that Servant's responses were as over the top as they were eager. For example, when he receives an e-mail and picture from "Alexandra," purportedly an attractive 25-year-old Russian woman looking for a husband, his reply exclaims "what a pair of bazookas" she has and he gives it the subject line, "By Christ You Could Take Someone's Eyes Out With Them.". As the e-mail exchanges continue, he sends a picture of an elderly man, later mentioning that although he is 62, he has "a hell of a lot of cash at my disposal." Alexandra desperately wants to meet him. All she needs is 1,000 Euros to get a visa. As Bob continues to string her along, he even gets her to apply for a job as a waitress at the local pub.
In the book's opening foray, Servant responds to "the only son of late King Arawi of tribal land" in Togo. It seems the king has died and his son needs help to get his $75 million inheritance. Servant can get 20 percent if he helps. Servant first demands and negotiates a higher percentage. Once he's done that, he tells the prince he doesn't want the money in cash because the quantity would be difficult to conceal. Instead, he wants to be paid in diamonds, gold and lions. As the prince continues to try to get bank account numbers or some $2,000 sent to him by Western Union to start the inheritance process, Servant begins insisting that the lions, or at least one, can talk. And even when Servant tells the prince he has no money, the prince offers to send him talking lions if Servant can just send him $500 or $700 to cover the cost of shipping them to Scotland.
Much of the humor is simply the audacity with which Servant yanks the scammers' chains. Yet evidently on legal advice, Delete This at Your Peril contains plenty of footnote disclaimers that, for example, no bowling club in Broughty Ferry has a Saucy Cartoon Competition. Yet there is another common thread beside humor. The persistence of the scammers shows they will stop at little or nothing if they believe they have a fish on the line. All that matters is getting the mark to send a bank account number or make a Western Union money transfer. It would have been interesting if Servant had retained the dates and times on the e-mails to see how long it was taking the spammers to respond to his bizarre questions and requests.
Overall, this is an enjoyable trip as Servant leads spammers down the garden path. The biggest problem is the path doesn't end in a spike-filled pit.