Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cleverer Spam

Spam seems to be getting cleverer these days. No, silly, I'm not talking about mystery-meat-in-a-can. I'm talking about the unsolicited junk emails that appear daily in one's mailbox. Luckily I have a Spam mailbox, so I can easily dispose of it without having to sift real emails out. But lately, the purveyors of Spam, whoever they may be - and may a flatulent yak raise the temperature of their jacuzzi - have gotten sharper at the game.

One isn't likely to be fooled, nowadays, by messages offering atrociously misspelled remedies for erectile disfunction. Or asking one to take deposit of a large sum of Nigerian money. But one may well look twice at an email that appears to be a "bounce message" from someone's internet service provider, indicating that a message you don't recall sending to someone you've never heard of could not be delivered.

Even that's gotten old, though. The newest twist: invitations from someone you don't know, to join a Yahoo! Group whose name is mostly random characters. Even if you're not fooled into opening the message (because, by golly, you've gotten six of them this week), you wish you could just decline the invitation rather than have to put up with persistent reminders that the group is waiting for your answer.

Yesterday I got a fake email from something calling itself the United Postal Service, with a subject line containing two tracking numbers. I didn't open it because I spotted the fact that the Postal Service is USPS, not UPS; UPS is the United Parcel Service. There is, in short, no such thing as the United Postal Service; and there isn't a reason in the world USPS or UPS should be emailing me about a tracking number. How many people stopped to apply cool reason when they got this probably spyware-infected piece of spam?

Today's new gimmick is an email from Continental Airlines, whose subject line had to do with my ticket reservation. Which is funny, because I don't recall having a reservation with Continental Airlines. I could not possibly be fooled by this, yet it's also spooky because it's exactly the type of email I would expect if I had reserved an airline ticket. And there's also the "Hold up! What's this about an airline ticket?" factor that could trigger a thoughtless click of the mouse.

Bottom line, Spam is getting trickier. I wish Continental and Yahoo! Groups would do more to police their brand name and prevent, for example, invitations to join chat groups from being used as a cover for spam. It wouldn't be awfully hard. My blog's comments frequently got spammed until I slapped Word Verification on it. Wouldn't hurt if Yahoo! did the same.

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