I’m going to presume those reading this post has had their fair share of spam experiences, or perhaps you’ve heard the media talk about it from time to time. I am a retired IT professional who worked as a Network Security Officer while serving in the Navy from the mid-nineties to early two thousands. One thing I do know is that electronic data is NEVER secure and that it is up to each of us to protect our own data. Nobody can fully do that for us, even though there are services and applications to help with that; it IS on US to protect our own stuff. Current backups are essential for our machines. Passwords need to be challenging, changed often and protected. We all live in the digital age! Most of us are connected nearly every hour of every day by cell phones, iPads, and other portable devices. Most of us have at least ONE email account; some have several. I know that for a while, I had my personal email account at home, one at work and one for school. I currently have two personal email accounts now. I have one for most of my day to day business and the other for my photo work. I do not, however, have a cell phone, but my husband does ~ only because one of his daughters bought one for him. That little device is only a “pay as you go” device for him. I’m still holding out. The only thing I really like about it is its cute alarm for waking you up. I like that, but I’m not going to dwell on cell phones, although they access email, too.
What I’m finding so interesting, these days, is the silly spam I’ve been getting. I don’t get A LOT but I get enough. It’s similar to receiving junk mail in the mailbox out on the street; it’s all unsolicited. The big difference is that junk mail cannot be malicious like spam can. Junk mail is just unwanted advertisements and offers, whereas a lot of spam is after getting money, personal data and/or embedding viruses on your machine! Malicious and unwanted. Their mere existence takes up precious digital space in your Spam and/or Inbox. The typical way we get spam is by visiting various websites. I know I get a lot while doing research for my blogs or other projects I’m working on. You don’t even have to fill out any forms! All you have to do is simply visit a site, no matter how briefly, and a cookie is sent to your computer.
Spammers know and LOVE cookies! They also seem to think that most of us either have “gullible” written across our foreheads or we’re just very dumb — or both. I used to get really peeved at receiving them, just like I did when I received junk mail. These days, I have a new attitude about both….
Every Tuesday is junk mail day in my neighborhood. It’s almost a joke how that happens. With the junk mail, I throw the advertisements about grocery sales and store fliers in the trash, thereby needlessly filling my local landfill. I guess it keeps the mail carriers in business, so…I put up with it. Now, with the other mailings for refinancing my mortgage, credit card and insurance offers, I can have fun! Now that my mortgage is paid off, I don’t get many of those refinance mailings and the ones that I do get really make me laugh! “According to our records your mortgage balance is ______ at ____% mortgage rate. We can offer you a much lower one and you don’t have to pay on your mortgage for six months!” Well, most of the time, their records are completely wrong and now, there is no mortgage to refinance! The credit card offers have gotten entertaining, too! The most recent one I got in the mail was for a “TITANIUM” card. Yes, folks! Titanium! Really! The card would arrive made of TITANIUM! The Black Card! Wow! Of course, as I read through the fancy enclosed pamphlet, I discover that for them to have the privilege of me using their card, I would have to pay a — get this — $500 yearly membership fee! THEY WANT ME TO PAY THEM TO USE THEIR CREDIT CARD! The latest funny insurance offer I got was from Mutual of Omaha for CANCER INSURANCE! What???!!!! Really??? I thought that was what health insurance was for! How all of these offers is written is certainly compelling to the naive person. So, I thought I would have a little fun with them. Most of these mailings come with a pre-paid postage envelope. So, I just write in Sharpie marker (yes, the fattest one I can find) that I am not interested and to take me off their mailing, phone, email and any other list they may use to contact me. The letters, forms AND even the envelope they came in ALL goes back in the pre-paid envelope and is sealed. Then, it all goes back in the mail box with the flag up. See? I contribute to keeping my mail carriers employed. Yes, I do!
It’s not that easy with spam though. Since my primary email is a Yahoo account, Lord know what kinds of stuff I’ll see. Fortunately, most of it goes right into the Spam box. Occasionally, I’ll get one or two in my Inbox but I just toggle those over to the Spam box. It flags subsequent emails from that sender as spam from then on, hopefully. Usually. The Spam box comes with a nifty little trash can to the right of it on the list of mail ‘boxes.’ Those of you who have Yahoo mail as your email account will understand what I’m conveying there. All you have to do is click on the trash can and a popup box displays, asking you if you want to delete those messages. However, BEFORE I click the “yes” button, I can still see the originator and the subject lines in a grayed-out form. So, before clicking the “yes” button, I will read through those subject lines. Some are boring, selling stuff I really don’t care about. Others are, uh, adult and ASSUMES (does anyone know the definition of ASSUME? I do.) I’m a male seeking a clandestine rendezvous with someone (“Hey, Hot Stud! Can I call you? My name is……”), or the overseas wannabee bride writing what she would do with me if I were to “mary her” and bring her to the states. There are the “check out this simple, little weight loss secret” from another site. Now really, if there really was a great way for people to lose weight, don’t you think that we’d all mostly be svelte? Okay, so those merely amuse and then ANNOY me. I put up with them. I delete them.
The ones that really get me, cause me to doubt the intelligence of the sender and wonder how folks really fall for them is the spam emails that purport to be legit from banks, government, court and similar institutions. They are the ones that the news media has reported on. The malicious scams that target older folks; only now, they target everyone. I have to wonder and I’m almost sure of it, that they come from third world countries. Why do I say that? Because of the absurdity of them. The sender seems unaware of the press coverage that has been present about it. They assume! I have received spam that has tried to LOOK like an official email from my bank, only I know my bank doesn’t send email out like that. No bank does! As a concerned citizen I have contacted my bank when I receive emails like that. They always ask me to forward the email to them. I do. Let them handle that. I take those very seriously. Anything to do with my personal business with banks and other services, is serious.
A couple of months ago, I saw on the news about a guy who received an email claiming to be from the FBI and how they caught him looking at child porn on his computer. Well, he had been and was surprised, felt guilty and responded to that email. It asked for all kinds of information on him and read that he could clear the charges by paying some ungodly amount of money to them. So, he did, but the originator kept asking for more. Frustrated, he contacted the FBI and told them the whole story, INCLUDING admitting his guilt about the child porn. Not only was his bank accounts depleted by the scammers but he was also arrested after some investigation. There goes that guy’s life! So now, I’ve been getting them, but – and here’s the difference – I DON’T look at child porn, let alone any other porn. For most of us females, online porn just does nothing for us. So, I delete the spam.
The next really weird spam I’ve been getting lately says that I have a summons for court pending. It reads that I am to open the attachment to complete the form and read the charges. Yeah, right. I haven’t even gotten a traffic ticket~ EVER! I don’t owe anyone money and nobody is suing me. My guess is that these crooks are fishing for guilty folks who do have pending charges or suits. Delete goes that spam. Interesting….
Today, the spammers have kicked it up a notch. They’ve decided that since I don’t look at porn and I’m not guilty or have a pending court case that – HEY! – I live in the state of Washington (and perhaps the state of stupidity, too) so I MUST have to drive around Seattle! It is true that I live in Washington state, but on an island that is two and a half hours from Seattle. So, no, I don’t have to drive around Seattle much at all. In fact, I hardly EVER go down there. I’m not a city person. Cities are just too busy for me. I’m an Island Girl, plain and simple. So what does driving around Seattle and spam having to do with anything? Well, Seattle, like a lot of big cities, relies on tolls over various roads and bridges to help pay for road maintenance. They have the Good2Go system up and running over their main bridges. So, today, I get a spam that says I owe the Good2Go folks money for driving over their tolled bridges. Cute. It is a current one with the times! Somebody has been paying attention to the news because there have been reports of problems with that system and how it has billed the wrong people because of license plate mix-ups and such. What the spammer doesn’t seem to understand is that SOME of us are smart enough to check with the real folks about how they bill people. It isn’t via email, that’s for sure. I knew that anyway but checked JUST to do this piece. So, I found the GoodToGo folks’ contact information, and just like I did with my bank, notified them that there are scammers sending spam out pretending to be them.
I figure it this way, I can either just get annoyed at the spam and do nothing, OR I can be proactive try to be a part of the solution or fight against these criminals. Another purpose for this post is to pass along my experience and to educate. Official businesses and organizations at that level DO NOT rely on email to conduct any sort of business other than to INFORM you. I know that most of you know that but doesn’t putting “black and white” to it sort of validate your knowledge? Besides, there may be one or two folks out there who might read this and, well, be further enlightened and therefore, a little more aware.
After all, as the FOOLOSOPHER of this site, it is my duty to impart SAGE advice, too!