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[Living with Spam]

   Nidhi Taparia Rathi


They arrive on my doorstep unbidden and hawk everything from gadgets and tonics to pills and get-rich-quick schemes. They try to convince me that everything that I ever wanted is mine for the taking: Great wealth, university degrees, bigger breasts, sexual endowment, a soul mate and even freedom from taxes.

Isn't that enough to make you click on to your spam everyday?

The origins of spam came from a Monty Python Skit in which a restaurant serves nothing but Hormel Food's meat. In the skit, a restaurant serves all its food with lots of spam and the waitress repeats the word several times in describing how much spam is in the items. When she does this, a group of Vikings in the corner start a song: 'Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam! Wonderful spam!'

I have collected 100 odd spam emails alone this week. Unlike most others who get two or three a day, mine is the result of giving my email address to message groups, registering for and downloading every kind of software. Here is what flooded my email box in the last seven days. I spent a few days trying to locate the people behind the spams but didn't get replies for any except in the form of more junk email.

Here's how it all shook out.

Sex

Think of spam and your mind probably goes straight to those porn solicitations: Those tantalising tidbits from 'Candy' and 'Debbi,' so rudely personal that it's almost a shock to open them. 'Here is that site you asked for, it's the hottest FREE hardcore you will ever see!!' they say and it takes me a second every time to register that I didn't, in fact, ask for any free hardcore at all.

The other variety of this spam was of Nancy, a college student who said that she wanted to holiday with me. She was in college, bored out of her mind and wanted to go for a holiday with me. Other versions of similar college students like Tera went a step ahead wanting to sell nude videos of them to use that money to stay on in college. 'I am only doing this to raise a specific amount of money and then I will quit.'

Then there are those that sell Viagra and phentermine and other kinds of my 'favourite drugs at a special price'. Only that clicking the link led nowhere. The links in the pictures were broken. Emails asking for more information also went unreplied.

Mortgage, loans and financial help

So what if I am not in the US and don't have any tax dues… That doesn't distinguish me from getting all kinds of financial spam offers. One promised me a slash of 50 per cent of debt instantaneously. The email read, 'This free non-profit company can and WILL help you accomplish this goal and get you back on your feet to financial freedom without bankruptcy or a loan.' It even gives me two options of sites to click on to: 'This Is An Extremely High Traffic Site IF Busy Go To A Site Below!'

There were others too, which helped me get the best 'free quote for a home loan', another which asked me to fill a simple but lengthy form to lower my loan payments. I did fill it in. But I have not had any enquiries so far. Maybe they didn't like my fake credit card number!

Income opportunities

After Bill Gates gave up on helping me make some money, I've received many more quick-rich schemes. But none with the kind of spelling errors that existed in the friendly mail sent by Balaji Marketing:

'here is the best offfer for the people from all the catagary of society who want to work 1 or 2 hours daily & want to earn minimum 40000rs/mouth($900) (from home or any palace of your convenient. the offer includes just mailing the letters from home, it requires no previous experence or skills, person from any field of life, any age or any country can do it if you are intrested please contact me back for details at
laxmi-balaji@indiatimes.com
best regards
balaji marketing'


I replied showing my interest. The email eventually bounced back. The account had been terminated.

Yet another spam from Tony Williams, a family lawyer to a multimillionaire and politician in Nigeria wants my money and my presence to claim a few boxes of gold left behind by the erstwhile prime minister worth '$29,500,000.00'. He even promises me 30 per cent in return.

There are many me-2 versions. These emails are filled with political vendetta and melodrama. What would you prefer: Glorja Stojiljkovic, the wife of a political leader from Prague or Sankoh Brown, a Sierra Leonean, the son of late Dr Fondah Sankoh, former chairman of Sierra Leone Gold & Diamond Cooperation.

I found out earlier in the day: It was a scam.

Software

'Is your PC free of Pornography? Take a free check.'

The link worked and Content Cleanup promised me a free cleanup. Strangely it needed my email address to clean my PC. It claimed to clean my PC, even offered me a free CD if I bought Content Cleanup for only $19.95. Unfortunately, like most software links sent, the software was no longer working or out of date. Content Cleanup like the others only managed to freeze my machine.

However, others were legitimate offers. Studio 2000 Pvt Ltd in Colaba asked me to fill a form and send a cheque for an Indian database of 'Ten Lakh email addresses'. The email said, 'This is a fresh list of genuine emails.' The address and the telephone existed and Shubada, the customer care girl, even explained the details of the product when I called. "The cost of the product: Rs 5,000." There were no apologies for spamming me though!

Find a soul mate

Finding a match for Nidhi.

That was the subject of this email from a matrimonial site. If only my parents had read this… Might have made them breathe easier!

The email read: 'Looking for that perfect match? Searching for a life partner? Then, eRishtaa is the place for you! Search through more than 50,000 registered users! This is the largest database of SINGLE INDIANS worldwide! ...like you, they are also looking for a match. Click below to meet other singles and friends, who are interested in meeting you!'

If such a touching concern for my spinsterhood were not enough, this spam even included cheerful emoticon drawings! Like the vast majority of spam I had sifted through, this too had a URL that was broken. Only a handful of the URLs in the spams I received actually led to active sites.

Well, as for me, I am still not rich. I still haven't become sexier. My credit card and loan balances still reflect their sorry condition… and yes, I still work here.

Also Read:
-- Stress, Spam, Virus, Rumours!
-- 30 years of email
-- How to beat spam
-- Avoiding junk mail
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