Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




word-of-mouth.org

I don't know if any of you have seen this.  I just got an email from them on Sunday and it was disturbing enough to make me check it out.

http://security.ziffdavis.com/print_article/0,4281,a=42549,00.asp

shiggins
Monday, June 09, 2003

Dude, it's a scam.  Ignore it.

I got one, and I was disturbed, too.  There have been some other posts elsewhere on line that debunk this company.

To me, it's just a shade away from blackmail.

James
Monday, June 09, 2003

Yeah.  You know what's interesting.  I don't know how they got my email.  The email address they sent to was my work address that I never use except for work correspondence.  Weird.

shiggins
Monday, June 09, 2003

This is a scam intended for end "L"users. The sort of people who believe that Microsoft can track every email and that they will receive a stipend of $200 for forwarding the spam to everyone they know. The same kind of people who also forward in all sincerity the "panic" notices about hypo needles infected with AIDS virus attached to self serve gas pump handles. And oh, yes, let us not forget the grass roots campaign that is opposed to the US Mail system imposing a tax on every piece of email sent in the US. And the many invitations to transfer funds from deposed South African generals and dictators. I have received each of these pieces of utter bullshit from well-meaning acquaintances in the last 6 months.

I kind of like scams like this. They are so stupidly transparent that the only people cheated are so dim that they shouldn't be allowed to own a computer....

Bored Bystander
Monday, June 09, 2003

>>> I don't know how they got my email. <<<

They didn't have to get it, they could have generated it.

There are some commonly used formats for email addresses.  First initial, last name is common.  So if you use shiggins@your-employer.com it would be easy to generate from a list of words and common names.

z
Monday, June 09, 2003

Bored,

I completely disagree with your last statement.  There are many people who use computers but are not "dim".  For example, my in-laws are in their 70's.  They just got a computer a few years ago.  I can see them falling for this, or at least being extremely alarmed by it.  Just because they didn't grow up with technology doesn't make them dim.

For the record,  I didn't post this because I thought it was ligit.  I posted it because I hadn't seen it before and I wanted to make sure nobody fell for it.  Although, this is definately not the forum where I have to worry about novice users.  We're all smarter than we think....or is that we all think we are smarter than we are :)

shiggins
Monday, June 09, 2003

shiggins, why is it you think your in-laws might be taken in by this?

I can understand teenagers and maybe people in their 20's being taken in by this because they just haven't been exposed to enough scams to recognize them quickly.  But anyone in their 70's should have been around enough to be suspicious of something like this.  Unless they are kind of dim.

z
Monday, June 09, 2003

Yet all those life insurance commercials still make it on air.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 09, 2003

Z, it's the whole fear of technology thing. Otherwise-intelligent people freeze up and/or do very stupid things when faced with a computer. People who didn't grow up with technology often find it impossible to learn how to use computers; they just learn to perform a sequence of steps as if they were doing a magic spell. If the computer reacts differently from what they expect, they have no clue how to fix it. (They'll come up with the most outrageous theories about why the spell failed, good for hours of entertainment--if you don't mind laughing at your parents.)

I had the hardest time convincing my dad not to fall for the list removal instructions in spam emails. My mom still doesn't understand why people send her Viagra ads; the concept of a computer program randomly generating email addresses is just too far out of her experience. We once had a houseguest using our computer who would come to us excitedly whenever she got a popup ad saying "You've won $xxxxxx".

Martha
Monday, June 09, 2003

Well said Martha.

Z,

You argument makes no sense.  Just because someone's "been around" does not mean they are impervious to everything in the world.  You may be tech savvy but if you were put in a situation you've never been in before (say flying the space shuttle), I'm sure you would do things that others with more experience would call "dim-witted".  Does that make you dim?  My point to Bored was that he/she was making a very broad and not necessarily always true statement.

shiggins
Monday, June 09, 2003

Shiggins,


Ack, no, I was not implying that senior citizens should have their bank accounts drained because they're "silly lusers."


I guess to me, it seems natural to look at the heavily quoted text like this >>>>>>>>> in an email and say to myself "stupid 'tards forwarded this garbage 15 times in a row." Or, to read some outrageous imitation ponzi scheme about getting $200 for sending email as a joke.


I guess I just can't for the life of me put myself in the shoes of someone who is able to operate a computer yet who cannot see the absurdity in being solicited by a deposed Gambian monarch who has selected me, of all people, as the transfer agent of choice for a tidy $7.5 million sum.


And I am NOT being sarcastic. I simply cannot imagine a time when I was that naive later than the 3rd grade, if then.


So, what is it, exactly, that is so gol-darned authoritative seeming about really stupid and ludicrous shit that it becomes credible when conveyed to a some people on a CRT? I do know what you mean, but the phenomenon mystifies me.


(PS: the people that sent me the "$200 from Paul Allen" hoax and the email tax hoax consisted of a retired wealthy businessman in his 50's, and his wife, whom we know; the person that sent me the "AIDS hoax" message was in his early 20's.)


I honestly think that some university should do a study of the phenomenon of people that trust unverified, silly, and completely "obvious" (in my view) emailed bullshit too much.


It smacks to me of the birth of a new tribalism, as though soccar moms were into witchcraft on a mass scale.

Bored Bystander
Monday, June 09, 2003

But who DO you trust?

Remember the old 'good times virus can't happen' anti-chain mail? Well, things changed, and they can.

Ever refered people to newspapers? Well, they're often wrong. Always have been, but it's in the news again. And they do 'chain letter' style propogation of information from one to another.

Some random website... might be telling the supressed (or merely obscure) truth. Or making things up. And getting quoted in newspapers.

Anonymous people on web boards?

mb
Monday, June 09, 2003

Let's hit reset and try again.

shiggins, the only thing you tell us about your in-laws is they are "in their 70's" and got their computer "a few years ago".  From that limited information it is hard to tell why you might think they would fall for this.

The word-of-mouth scam does not sound particularly high tech.  I think it can be summarized as follows:
- Somebody told us something about you.
- If you pay us some money, we'll let you contact that person.
- Trust us.

Not much high tech about that.  Why would your in-laws have such a hard time figuring out that there might be something less than honest about these people?

Sure, most people use their computer as an applicance.  Plug it in, log on, read e-mail, surf the web.  My own father is like that.  He doesn't just use it for email, he also uses AutoCAD for his business, but he just has the computer store install what he needs.  Just like taking the car to the service station.  The last time I visited him we were talking about spam.  He gets the Nigerian 419 scam emails just like the rest of us.  At age 83 he didn't get email till after he was 70, but doesn't have any trouble recognizing a scam.  They've been around forever.

Note, I am not trying to say your in-laws are dim.  I am trying to say you may be underestimating them.  We are not talking about configuring your local network or flying the shuttle.  This is only about recognizing a scam.  Your explanation of why they might be taken in by it is inadequate.

z
Monday, June 09, 2003

Bored, I am not so sure it has anything to do with e-mail, except for the speed of propagation.

The last time I saw the "Blue Star Tattoo" scare it was being passed around on Xeroxed sheets.  The MMF chain letters have being going around for decades.  I have heard that the Nigerian scam started back in the 50's, but can't confirm that.

z
Monday, June 09, 2003

Bored,

I will certainly agree with you that some people who are normally reasonable become positively obtuse when it comes to internet scams.  While you and I may be able to recognize warning flags in email scams, some people may be so happy to be able to send email that they don't think any further than that.  Again, I argue that, that doesn't lend any insight into their intelligence.

I think this brings up a whole subject.  And mb brings up an interesting point, "Who do you trust"?  For all you know, I am 10 year old with good writing abilities.  We all post to this forum and we all make certain assumptions and take certain things to be true.  But we could be wrong.  So then is it such a stretch to believe that a novice computer user might actually believe someone is posting information about them?

I don't believe that's anything other than naivety.  OK, I kind of went on a tangent here, but I certainly appreciate the discussion and difference of opion.

shiggins
Monday, June 09, 2003

Z - I have gotten the impression (only anecdotally) that people who are new to email as a medium - those who have never used email before - seem to take spam much more seriously (as far as conveying a message meant just for them) than the majority of even casual users do. They also seem to have greatly diminished skepticism. They seem to take seriously some really stupid stuff that they would *never* fall for in the context of a printed or spoken communication. And they often take every chain letter seriously.

After they have passed on some scam messages and been corrected a few times, and they start to see the same sort of scams reappear continually in their in-boxes, they start to understand that spam is anonymously splattered all over creation and is not meant for them alone.

It's easy to associate stupidity with this kind of impressionability (heck, I did too.)  I'm just amazed how the medium contributes a sense of reliability of complete crap to newbs.

Bored Bystander
Monday, June 09, 2003

z,

I don't think the scare is in the email but what the email says.  That is, there is personal information about you floating around in the internet.  That's not so hard to believe (ever been to whitepages.com?). 

By saying my argument is inadequate, are you seriously saying that you cannot ever imagine someone other than an imbecile falling for a scam (online or otherwise)?  If that's the case, I think maybe you are the naive one.  Sorry.

shiggins
Monday, June 09, 2003

shiggins,  no, that is not what I am saying.  You presented your in-laws as examples of people who might be taken in by this scam.  Yet you tell us they are in their 70's and have been using their computer (and presumably using email) for a few years.  Well, they might be taken in by it.  But the newness of email should have worn off after a year or so and recognizing this particular scam doesn't require much technological insight.  Maybe there is some good reason for you to believe that they might fall for this, but you know them a lot better than we do.  I can only go by what you tell us.

z
Monday, June 09, 2003

z - all you need is 1% of the 10,000,000,000 e-mail addresses you've sent this to to fall for it and you'll be rich.

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, June 10, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home