More About Spam.

Spam is still with us, unfortunately, and continues to invade new areas of the Internet wherever there seems to be the likelihood of profit being made. Blogs are no exception to this, and to-date well over 1,200 spam messages have been disguised as comments, and sent to this blog. Compared to the 95 comments that have been allowed, (and some of these started out as spam, but were modified to be acceptable if it made sense to do so, you can see that the ratio of spam to useful content is heavily negative.

Akismet is a very helpful program built into the WordPress system, and it traps most of the spam before it can become visible on the blog. A comment is simply checked for the number of links to other parts of the Internet. If there is only one link, it is most likely an email address for the person making the comment, and will be accepted. If there is a second link, it is usually linking to something that will make money for the spammer, and will cause an automatic rejection.

The blog owner is informed about the situation, and can decide what to do. If the comment is asking a question about the content of a post, for example, it can be “un-spammed” and edited. The usual edit will be to remove the second link, and leave the email address. The question can then be answered in a reply.

If, however, the situation is more complex, as in the case of one comment I am dealing with at the moment, I will try to contact the person making the comment at the email address given, to ask for any clarification that I need. In keeping with my usual policy of privacy protection, I use a dedicated email address for this purpose only. Consequently, I sent the following email to the address provided:-

“Hello,
you made a comment on my post at https://trythisoneforsize.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/identity-theft-does-that-bother-you/
Before I make this comment visible, I would like some additional clarification. Please reply at your earliest convenience.
Best regards”

Within seconds, I got the following response:-

“This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.
Delivery to the following recipients failed.
BenscoterReeser6057@hotmail.com”

So, what do we make of this? Well, the sender is not interested in feedback via email at all, and has published a fictitious address. This is very simple to do, in fact. The two points that are checked for when entering an address are a) the “@” symbol, which must be present, and b) what comes after the @ symbol must look like a valid Internet address, but may not be. Usually, anything with ‘.com’ and a name in front of it will do fine. Of course, the name of the address owner cannot be checked for anything but disallowed symbols, so virtually anything goes. You could end up with “scoobydoo@poop.com”, and it would be fine – it just doesn’t go anywhere.

The sender has therefore ensured that the only way to contact him/her is to follow the path to purchase the product on offer, and you can guarantee that there have been no other loopholes that will enable direct contact, unless they are intentional.

In fact, the article being offered was a book, and the book has an author whose name was given. A quick check on this name in Google revealed 2 listings, both of which referred to reviews purporting to determine whether the book was a scam or not. Both of these reviews were written more in the style of advertising than review material, and by persons with questionable skills in English language. Neither of them succeeded in persuading me that this was no scam.

I did, however, find an email address on their website for persons wishing to contact them directly, and consequently sent the same email as shown above to this new address. I waited for a reply, as my mail was not rejected out-of-hand. 2 days later, as there was no reply forthcoming, the comment was deleted.

I have no problem with supporting people that are doing something useful, at reasonable cost, or better still, free. But I absolutely refuse to help those who are trying to scam the public.

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