Tempted by Spam

Everybody receives spam. Well, not everybody, I guess. Just people (and probably pets, too) who have email accounts. Of course I don’t mean the salty, canned meat poseur my grandparents always had on hand—I mean junk email. Spammers’ techniques are broadly known among techies. Even as I type these very words, bots are right now scouring the web for email addresses that people sillily typed into their web pages or linked to. (“Hey, they put their email address on a web page! Clearly, they would like to know about our miraculous weight loss pill—about which the FDA not only said ‘No,’ but ‘God Almighty! Nooooo!’”)

What Brannon says: “A common spammer trick to validate genuine emails is to hide a zero-byte transparent graphic in the message that refers back to a web server they control.” What you hear: “Spammer blah-blah emails blah-blah message blah-blah-blah-blah.” Translation: They put a tiny graphic file that’s invisible to you into the email they sent you. If you open their message, even though you never actually “see” it, the simple act of you opening it tells the spammers that their message reached a valid email address. Congratulations! Your email address will now be trapped on spam lists forever. Your valid email address is actually worth money. Believe it or not, other horrible “people” will gladly pay for your address from these particular horrible “people.”

My email services filter for spam, so these messages rarely make it to my Inbox. Even so, I just can’t help myself, clicking on that delightful “Spam” tab in my mail client. Reading their subject lines and hilarious made-up names is a cheap, guilty pleasure, like scanning the headlines of all the gossip mags at the grocery store check-out. With so much entertainment value packed into just their teasers, I’m dying to open them and read their actual pitches. And I know some of you actually must do that, whether you’ll fess up or not. And how do I know? Because if it didn’t work—if they didn’t sell, if they didn’t yield valid email addresses for the spammers—then it would stop. (I like to believe it would, anyway.) I guess what I’m saying in a semi-nice way is: I blame you for our spam problems.

For a while I collected some of the more humorous subject lines. I intended to mock them online, but upon reflection I thought better of it. I figured spammers could easily Google their subject lines and see where they were turning up. And if my name was anywhere nearby, I imagined it making me like a magnet—more like a black hole with a huge gravitational force, really—and they would know that they got through to me and harass me mercilessly.

(Well, more mercilessly than they already do. Is it possible to be “more merciless”? Merciless means “without mercy,” so would it be possible to have less mercy than zero? Because then, you’re really just spilling over into pure, evil malice. But I digress…)

Their teasers almost sucker me in so many times, although not for the reasons you might think. I’m actually reasonably satisfied with the size of “the man in my pants.” However, honestly, who wouldn’t accept two more inches? (Just being real here.) I don’t need to purchase “an elegant, classy timepiece” online from an Eastern Bloc country to prove how truly “classy and sophisticated” I am. (Just so you know, purchasing a watch in this manner proves precisely how classy you are.) Although I’m intrigued at the prospect of acquiring my meds from what I’m certain is a “reputable Canadian pharmacy,” there’s a CVS less than a mile from my house in one direction, and a 24-hour Walgreens less than a mile in the opposite direction. Not only will either of these establishments allow me to use my insurance co-pay, but I could literally crawl to either one on my hands and knees and still receive my medicine much faster than your “best guaranteed rush delivery.” What’s more, each has a pharmacist (with a college degree! from an actual college!) on schedule around the clock to answer any questions I may have. You know what? It just occurred to me—I’ve had the offer before: “Need a diploma? Just call us.” Come to think of it, that last antibiotic I had tasted suspiciously like delicious Tic-Tacs. Hm.

Thanks though, guys, really. Very sweet of you to think of me.

Do you have any spam horror stories? Or love affairs? Or success with growth products you’d like to share?

2 Responses to “Tempted by Spam”

  1. Mary August 25, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    I just typed in my email to subscribe to your feed. Does that mean I am going to be getting spam in my inbox?

    • Brannon August 25, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

      Well, at least not for awhile yet. I’ll have to accumulate a LOT of addresses before I have enough to sell. And I’ve only had that up for a couple of days.

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