You've Got Spam
We’re not talking about excessive e-mails parents send when they first discover the Internet. That’s a different kind of nuisance. True spam comes from strangers who often masquerade as companies or people with whom you may be fammiliar. Some prod you for money, others lure you to malicious web sites, and all rob you of time, bandwidth and a little bit of sanity. And the torrent of messages just keeps coming.
According to a report by Spamhaus.org, a non-profit that tracks the world’s spam, the United States is by far the world’s biggest spam haven. So if you’re looking for someone to blame, you could start with Gary Thuerk, who was the first person to ever send a spam e-mail, back in 1978. But to be fair, he made no effort to mask his identity when sending that message and he was actually just advertising a tech presentation taking place. Pretty tame by today’s standards.
Here are 16 of the worst (or strangest) spam messages we could find.
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Someone's Trying to Kill Me
Kelly from New York e-mailed us about one incredibly frightening spam message she received. “I got one recently that said someone had put a hit on my life and that he was contacting me to try to save me. But that if I didn't respond he'd have to go through with it,” she said. “I opened it because it came from a normal looking Gmail address.”
While it sounds far fetched, there have been plenty of other cases of people being spammed with death threats. In 2008, the FBI actually investigated a series of spam e-mails that claimed a hit man would come and kill you unless you paid $20,000. Come on guys, spam messages are bad enough. Do we really have to bring murder into it?
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Sometimes the worst spam can come from people you know vaguely. Flavie Bagnol from New York experienced this first hand. “Over the holidays I received the most amazing spam ever from someone I worked with, not someone I’m very close to, but an acquaintance,” Bagnol said. “The email stated that this person was traveling abroad for the holidays. He said he had lost his wallet and needed money to be wired to an hotel in London, where he was stranded. This email seemed pretty simple and real and I was shocked that this ‘friend’ would ask me for help out of nowhere. I was about to reply that I was not going to send him any money because we were not really that close of ‘friends’ when 3 other similar emails ended in my inbox! His email address had been hacked. I deleted them right away. But it was definitely a stressful situation.”
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Down With Atheism
Scientists may be rational by nature but one spammer makes their blood boil. His name is David Mabus and he is infamous for sending mass e-mails to the science community. “He is the worst spammer in history,” said Henry Huber, who works at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York. “He rambles on about Nostradamus and how science is wrong and goats on fire and crazy stuff like that.” Best of all, he loads his messages with “irrelevant links.” Huber e-mailed MainStreet one of these messages. Here is an excerpt:
Subject: Atheism is DEAD…FOREVER & EVER!!!
Happy New Year, my little atheists!
There is one more thing...
Atheist: have you for but a moment considered that you have adopted a position against 98% of the human race, both past and present?do you think you are RIGHT and they are all WRONG?
little scientist geek who would try to usurp God Himself!!!
To read more about the terrible Mabus, check out write-up from scienceblogs.com.
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Duping the Desperate
It’s hard enough to be a job hunter in this economy, without having to be teased with fake opportunities by spammers. Norm Elrod e-mailed us about a series of messages he received from DBP Execusearch. Here is an excerpt from one of the messages, which he posted on his Web site, joblessandless.com:
Are you still in the market? We felt your resume indicated that we may have immediate openings at DBP that could be right for you. However, if you are interested, we need some added information.
The message then asks readers to click on a dubious link in order to register. “The link, when it works, is really sketchy,” Elrod said. There is also a phone number in the message but according to Elrod, each time he tried it, “it was always a machine.”
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The Fake Disney Travel Deal
Sherry Gavanditti e-mailed us about the day she thought she’d won a free Disney vacation only to find out it was just spam from some fake travel agents. It was just the first of many. “I wish they would just give up,” she said. Here is an excerpt from one of those messages, sent by a company called Getaways Travel:
Sometime in the past you signed up at one of our Disney Universal theme park ticket sites. Based on the information you supplied at the time you signed up you have been selected to receive an all inclusive ten day Disney package for free. This package includes everything you will need for up to five people to have the ultimate vacation at Disney. We have ten of these packages left. They must be given away ASAP, before the end of the year, before we lose them. We have sent emails to twenty people. The first ten to sign up will receive this complete package. Please submit your registration code and your information on where you would like your tickets shipped.
"I sent an email confirmation and never heard back from them. The next day, the same email came again stating I’d won a Disney trip. I wrote back, “Great! Donate it to a good cause for me.” There was never a personalized reply, they were just fishing for personal info, which I never gave them."
Photo Credit: Javier Psilocybin
It all starts with a dream. Struggling poets decide to take a chance, so they submit their work to Poetry.com, a Web site with a monthly poetry contest, with a chance for some cash and, more importantly, some praise. Then you find out that amazingly, against all odds, you’re a semi-finalist. But alas, it’s just a scam. Poetry.com starts spamming you with messages about the prizes you could win, but each message comes with a request to buy a copy of an anthology that your poem will be featured in and even requests for you to purchase your own award plaque. In full disclosure, I was a victim of this once and received spam messages for months. And no, I’m not posting any of my poetry.
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17 Free Books
Laze.net features tons of spam from the late '90s including gems like a mysterious advertisement for “super blue green algae” and even a message with the unfortunately ironic subject line “Spam is going away!” But our personal favorite is an email that announces the giveaway of 17 free books by some college student. Seventeen is one of those odd numbers you never really expect to see in the subject line of an email. But it’s the books themselves that are particularly preposterous. It’s like a complete roster of every bad self-help book ever released, as well as some that were too bad to release, like “Learn Many Gasoline Saving Tips” and “Learn Many Ways to Make Money with a Telephone.” Of course, while the books were free, the spammer requested that people send money for shipping costs…
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Viagra is one of the most common spam culprits out there. Kevin Joy works at BrandProtect, a company that monitors the Internet for scams. He e-mailed us about one particularly bad Viagra spam message he’d heard about at his company. “[It] featured a picture of a scantily-clad woman cavorting with an 8-foot stuffed pink orca,” he wrote.
There are even sites out there dedicated to criticizing this spam, like Stopviagraspam.com. This site has collected some of the worst Viagra spam out there, with subject lines like “Bring back time when girls were yours.” One starts with the greeting, “Dear Beloveth” (we’re not even sure what that means), and another says bluntly, “Give yourself the edge over the other guys.” (Although my personal favorite is when girls receive these messages.)
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As long as we’re talking about the biggest culprits out there, we should mention Nigerian spam. The formula is pretty simple. You’ll get some message asking you to give money, either for a charity or for a romantic reason, or because the person claims to have been attacked by “arm robbers?” For more about these scams read our coverage here.
Several people e-mailed us complaining about this kind of spam. Christine from Morton Grove, Illinois called this the “worst” spam. Besides being asked for money, Christine was bombarded with “requests for me to ship my books and CD’s (usually 300 at a time).” According to Christine, the Nigerians usually claim, “they will pay as soon as they receive shipment. Yea, sure!”
Luckily, the Nigeria spam messages (as well as the Viagra spam) seem to have died down in recent months, at least according to the New York Times. But as Christine also noted, she recently just received the same message, but this time from someone in Australia. Could the Nigerians be moving elsewhere?
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Gucci, Gucci, Gucci
Spamhumor.com has collected dozens of spam messages into their Spam Hall of Fame. One of the recurring messages is from some fake Gucci knockoff. This one is our favorite: “At these prices, the Gucci is flying off the shelves, the celebrities can't understand. A horse shoe is considered lucky; A Gucci shoe for less than cost will get you lucky!” The real Gucci could learn something from these advertising skills.
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Speaking of poetry, some have complained of receiving crazy messages filled with gibberish. Joylag.com has collected some of the strangest nonsensical spam messages out there. Some of them, like the one below, strangely resemble a bit of poetry.
Subject: fundraiser 7 clodhoppers
labyrinths remain wrinkled.When you see judge about, it means that for abstraction beams with joy.Indeed, clodhopper defined by borrow money from wheelbarrow for.around line dancer is dirt-encrusted. antic buttercup prejudice begonia syllogistic palliate.
Say that six times and the devil appears.
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Spam Text Messages?
For several years in the middle of this decade, there was a terrible phenomena of mobile spamming. As David Pogue described in the New York Times, the messages themselves are annoying, but the real problem was that unlike with e-mails, users basically have to pay for this spam (unless you have an unlimited texting plan). On top of that, phones lack the kind of anti-spamming protections that many e-mail accounts have.
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Ridiculous Subject Lines
Sometimes the subject line is the strangest, and most annoying part of the spam message. Cracked.com compiled a bunch of their favorites. Many of these are pretty raunchy (so be warned before you click on the link). But some standouts include:
“There is an easy fix for your love life: Babysitting”
If the messages are half as crazy as the subject lines, we can only imagine the readers’ confusion.
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When Paris Hilton is in the subject line of an e-mail, you know you’re in trouble. People have received messages with subject lines like, “SpongeBob named in Paris Hilton paternity Lawsuit” and “Paris Hilton Donates Income to Children’s Hospital” (we’re not sure which is more believable.) In 2005, Paris Hilton’s name was dropped in a mass of spam messages that contained viruses and became a kind of epidemic.
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MainStreet.com (No, we're not spamming you!)
We here at MainStreet have certainly received our fair share of spam. We’ve gotten e-mails from a phony French Facebook and recently I got a message telling me that I’d received “a big photo album from Pamella Anderson.” Never mind that her name was spelled wrong and I was fairly confident that I hadn’t asked for any scandalous pictures that day.
But perhaps none dealt so big a blow to my self esteem as a series of spam messages from hi5.com, which bills itself as an “international social network with a local flavor.” On pretty much a weekly basis, I receive an e-mail saying someone new has friended me on this site. Granted, the people usually have odd names like “coca cola cake,” but that doesn’t stop me from feeling popular for one glorious moment, before realizing I’d been duped yet again. Sure, you can delete the messages, but you can never delete the disappointment.
The Staff of PC Magazine recently collected some of the best spam messages their staff had received. Highlights include advertisements for watches (“With our watches boring time will go faster”), yard work (“Stop sweating and start cheating at gardening today”) and the completely random (“Don’t fear the measuring tape anymore.”)
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually kind of jealous of their spam!
Photo Credit: pcmag.com
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