Spam And The People Who Chuck It At You

My friend got a clever email the other day from someone who seemed very worried about his nonexistent girlfriend:

From: xxxxx [mailto:xxxx]
Sent: Monday, June 25, 2012 9:07 PM
To: Shared E-Mail
Subject: You can’t say I haven’t warned you now enjoy the consequences.
Importance: High

Hate to bother you
This is quite crazy but someone sent me a nude picture of your girlfriend. Is seems to be her in attachent right? We’ll have to track down the bastard who did it I can help you!

This is pretty spiffy spam. And it’s very well designed: the first thing that pops into a guy’s head is that his girlfriend’s naked image is floating around the internet, and he wants to keep others from seeing it; the second thing that pops into a guy’s head is that his girlfriend’s naked image is floating around on the internet, and he wants to see it for himself. The flourish at the end is perfect: ‘I empathize with you, and that’s why I’ll help you solve a problem that is absolutely none of my business!’ What’s up with the Subject line, though? A tad mean-spirited, you might say. It reads like something your mom or your jet-puffed high-school Geometry teacher might say, not someone who’s trying to help you track down that bastard!

Well, this got me thinking about other confidence tricks that people play on the gullible. From CBS San Francisco, a classic bait and switch:

According to police, elderly Asian women were approached on the street and convinced to put money and valuables in a bag for a ceremony. The women are told the ceremony will rid their families of bad spirits. The thieves then ran off with the bags, police said.

According to reports, Chinese “tourists” would approach elderly women in Chinatown and graciously let them know that their family was cursed by spirits. In order to rid them of the curse, the victims were encouraged to place valuables in a pouch that was supposed to be purified before being returned to the victims. The victims were asked to close their eyes while the ceremony was being performed. (You know where this is going.) When the victims opened their eyes, the thieves and the bag had completed their vanishing act.

Nothing much you can say about superstitious old people. They’re not the brightest group, but God, I still love them.

Finally, here’s a few sentences about the classiest of con tricks, courtesy of my smart, socially-awkward uncle:

The Spanish Prisoner is a confidence trick originating in the late 19th century. In its original form, the con-man tells his victim (the mark) that he is in correspondence with a wealthy person of high estate who has been imprisoned in Spain under a false identity. Supposedly the prisoner cannot reveal his identity without serious repercussions, and is relying on a friend (the confidence trickster) to raise money to secure his release. The confidence trickster offers to let the mark put up some of the funds, with a promise that he will be financially rewarded when the prisoner returns, and perhaps also by gaining the hand of a beautiful woman represented to be the prisoner’s daughter. After the mark has turned over the funds, he is informed that further difficulties have arisen and more money is needed. With such explanations, the trickster continues to press for more money until the victim is cleaned out or declines to put up more funds.

Neat. Of course, people are always trying to raise money for prisoners in Spain. I’m still waiting for the day when the Greek Archaeologist scam hits stores. Or the Irish Troubadour. Sounds about right.

Now, for those of you who lament the mournful indifference of the world and its iffy track record of dispensing justice, here’s a short story of retribution.


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