Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Spam: Survival of the fittest

After reading about the recent lawsuit in which Facebook won a $873 MILLION verdict against Canadian spammer Adam Guerbuez (read about it here) it made me think about what a Malthusian challenge spam has created for our society. To date I have received dozens, if not hundreds of spam messages telling me that my Amazon account is blocked, or my credit card was used in a foreign country, or a friendly member of the Nigerian royal family wants to cut me in on a good business deal and never have any of these resulted in me divulging any information that would allow an online account to be hijacked, my money stolen, or my identity assumed by the spammers. And why have I been so fortunate as to survive these assaults that claim millions of people every year? I think the two best explanations are that I am not "click happy" and I have am sufficiently proficient in English grammar and spelling.

My best guess is that over 95% of the spam/phishing/scam emails I receive are filled with terrible spelling and grammar that looks like someone threw a Chinese sentence into babblefish (does anyone still use that?) and translated it into 4-5 other languages before finally translating the last results into English. Those emails are also dreadfully inpersonal, typically addressed to "user" or "customer." From working in IT I know that businesses and organizations spend a shit-ton (that's a lot) of money to make their mass emails seem personalized. They also spend a good deal of money to hide user information in their mailings so if you receive something that's addressing something as serious as credit card or bank accounts, and you can see 30-40 email addresses in the CC: box, then you know that's fake too.

Ultimately, those who are not suceptible to these kinds of fraudulent attempts will continue to hold onto their identities and accounts while those who aren't will continue to be fleeced. I guess in a way that's the natural order of things and I imagine the same people who are being conned and hoodwinked today are probably similar to those that were tricked by the snake-oil salesmen of the past.

So while this Facebook lawsuit might deter some from scamming, it's going to keep happening so long as the "n00bs" out there keep clicking on links and giving away their account passwords, or opening the emails that say "Dude...you gotta sea this!!!!***!!!!"

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