The dangers of Spam.

This is not about the high fat content in processed meat. I actually don’t mind real Spam. It can make a tasty sandwich, and years ago, we had it battered and fried, as a main meal. This once cheap alternative to ‘real’ meat has now had its name hijacked by some nasty kinds of internet scammers, as well as countless thousands of others trying to sell unwanted goods and services.

Over the last few months, my Yahoo e mail account has been literally bombarded with Spam. Luckily, it is obvious to Yahoo what is going on, and they place it directly into the appropriate file, most of the time. We have all had the bogus Facebook messages, meaningless when you don’t have a Facebook account. Voluptuous young women, seeking to renew an acquaintance that we never had in the first place, pop up from time to time. Replies to e mails we know that we never sent, enquiries about goods and products we have never ordered, all of these are regular Spam folder arrivals.

More recently, I have noticed a more worrying type of e mail, which doesn’t always get plonked into the Spam folder. They have worrying headers, like ‘Your forthcoming Court Appearance’, or ‘Last chance to settle unpaid account’. One even claimed to be from the (non-existent) National Police Force, and offered the chance to escape prosecution, by paying an immediate fine. My apparent ‘crime’ had been to look at ‘unsuitable Internet sites’, though none were mentioned specifically. This e mail contained an official-looking web page, complete with impressive badge and logo. It offered me the opportunity to pay a substantial fine, by inputting my card details onto a pro-forma, and sending it to the imaginary ‘National Police Force’. I would receive a warning, instead of prosecution, as long as I paid immediately. Obviously, I had no intention of doing anything of the sort. Not only had I not looked at ‘unsuitable’ Internet sites, even if I had, I would expect an official at my door, at the very least. But how many people are fooled by such scams? How many pay without question, believing them to be real? I put this into the Spam folder, hoping that Yahoo would notice. They still keep coming up though, albeit as Spam. So why are they not rooted out and banned by the ISP and Web Mail provider too? I am sure someone out there knows.

Parcel deliveries. In this day and age, many of us buy from the Internet, and receive notification of failed delivery, or perhaps of despatch, pending delivery. I keep track of things I order, and tend to mainly use reputable companies like Amazon. However, my e mail inbox is daily peppered with e mails telling me that I have to make a call about a delivery, or pay an additional charge due to failed delivery. This can be in the form of calling an unrecognisable number, which immediately connects to some far-off land like the Cayman Islands, and charges £40 a minute to play a recorded message about a non-existent delivery. Until I get a phone bill running into hundreds of pounds, I am none the wiser. Others tell me that I have not been in to receive my goods, so must pay a small additional fee, and I can e mail my card details for this. Should I be foolish enough to fall for this, I will be handing over my card details and authorisation code to who knows where, to be charged an exorbitant fee for a parcel that doesn’t exist. But how many are fooled by this? In a busy life, expecting parcels, used to e mail updates, it is very easy to just do this without thinking. Yes, some of these e mails get put in the Spam folder, but many escape, and slip through into the main mail.

Then there are the threatening e mails that concern supposedly unpaid accounts and bills. They will offer the chance to make an immediate payment, again by card, to save the bailiffs knocking on your door later. They will be vague, and claim to be representing others, rarely going into detail about why the money is owed. Most of us will happily ignore them, or just delete them. We know that we have no bills or accounts overdue, and even if we had, we would be contacted by the companies themselves. But what of those confused by these communications, or the elderly? They may have bills that they are not sure they have paid, or be fooled into believing that they owe someone for goods or services. They will give up their card details, unaware that the accounts will be milked of all  that they contain.

I believe that it is up to all the Internet Service Providers, Web Mail providers, and any associated companies to do more to stop this. They all earn a fortune from our use of their sites and services, and could easily plough back some profits into self-policing of these scammers.  In the meantime, keep an eye on those e mail folders, and never open anything you are unsure of.

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15 thoughts on “The dangers of Spam.

  1. I hate it! My peeve is more the promotional stuff or the ones from ages ago that still send me stuff no matter how often I mark as spam.
    My inbox is overwhelmed with notifications from wordpress, eBay and other sites I actually use but can’t figure out the settings for… But now and then I’ll get one from Mark Robins with a header like “response to your query…” And after the last month of emailing every tom dick and Harry I have no idea it’s crap until I open it.

    Any ACTUAL mail gets lost, I have daily messages from vista print thanks to just visiting their site. It’s all a big con and annoying as hell.

    As for scammers… A friend of mine (military) got into trouble because his aunt had received an email saying he had been arrested (in whatever state) and needed bail money… They couldn’t get hold of him and I don’t know whether money was handed over but regardless it worried a lot of people – he wasn’t anywhere NEAR that state at the time lol.

    Oh and don’t get me started on viruses! Xx

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  2. Pete, I get very little spam using gmail. I used to have a lot of trouble with Outlook Express, but gave that program the boot. Perhaps you should change e-mail accounts? I’m sure the spammer’s credo is “there’s a sucker born every minute,” but I believe some people who know better are simply caught off guard. I appreciate blog posts of this nature, and hope you find a way to “can the spam.”

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    1. I do have a G mail account, also a Hotmail Outlook. Yahoo is my main e mail account for most things, and seems to have the same percentage of Spam as others, perhaps a little more, I am not certain.
      I just worry about those people who are easily fooled by these scams, which in the UK, are predominantly the elderly.
      Best wishes as always, Pete.

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  3. Living with a security expert (IT malware) I am well trained not to even open any of this sort of mail to see what they are offering, it goes directly into the trash folder. Malicious software is easily downloaded and can cause a heck of a mess. We had a recent discussion about who falls for this sort of rubbish, and the conclusion was that there will always be someone who does. Same with the phone calls insisting you have been in a recent car accident and can claim compensation. Who falls for that one? Even if you have been in an accident and a percentage of the calls will reach someone who has, surely you go through your insurance company not a cold caller? But there always will be people who think they can get something for nothing, like the 149 scams. And yes, I have had a ton of those “court appearance” emails recently.
    I’ll get back to you on what the ‘expert’ thinks about what ISPs should or are doing.

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    1. Thanks Jude, I will be interested in what he has to say. I do use the Bitdefender Scan, (that you recommended) and never usually open the e mails, though I did a couple to research this. I am worried about the people who are not savvy enough to realise these scams, and there are lots of them about, if ‘Watchdog’ is to be believed!
      Regards as always, Pete. x

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      1. Oops! I meant 419s of course! OH says that ISP are much more efficient than they used to be and if they get too paranoid about filtering this stuff there is a danger of real email being caught. The big problem is that as ISPs use cleverer techniques to trap spam, the spammers use cleverer techniques too, changing the text etc.

        As for what I call junk mail, unwanted newsletters, shopping sites etc. the only thing to do is unsubscribe. In the EU individuals shouldn’t get that sort of mail unless they have signed up to it, but apparently companies can be targeted. In the USA however they regard spam more liberally. I know I was targeted by the NRA for some time and I have never been on their site, it took a while to get rid of the mail as it came from several sources.

        What can we do? If you are getting a lot that slips through then change email providers. Gmail is supposed to be good at trapping spam. I don’t have much problem with BT as most spam does end up in my spam folder. As for unwanted junk mail – unsubscribe and be careful on websites to check the correct box – sometimes you check to allow mail, sometimes you check to disallow mail so beware!

        And I’m afraid spam is here to stay.

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        1. Thanks for the information and advice Jude, much appreciated. I don’t get too much junk mail, it just seems to be these ‘warning’ e mails lately. I think that they tend to go in cycles, and eventually give up, if you keep deleting. No doubt the next cycle of fraud will soon be on me!
          Regards as always, Pete. x

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  4. Hi, Pete. Thank you for this very timely post. The one you received from the so-called National Police Force is very similar to one from the “FBI” that I recently got here in the U.S. that crashed my computer outright, and costing me a tidy sum to repair. You were “lucky” that in your case it was only Spam. I would suggest to your readers to immediately delete any such mail and keep the pressure on Yahoo and other Providers to do a better job to keep these from ever reaching their customer’s computers. Rick

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    1. Thanks Rick. Sorry to hear that it crashed your computer. Those FBI/National Police e mails are particularly worrying, as they appeal to the basic fear of ‘discovery’, even when you have nothing to hide!
      Very best wishes to you. Pete.

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