Monday, December 18

Email Lotteries And Little Girls Dying of Cancer

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Another one has arrived in my inbox, in the past year I’ve won this lottery 3 or 4 times, plus 550 thousand Euros and a Dell laptop in another Netherlands lottery.  I’m worth millions in US Dollars, I have won cars and laptops and so many millions in different currencies.  I’m the beneficiary of 10 different eccentric philanthropist’s wills, I’m the dear friend of a widow, a Colonel, a dishonest account manager, the Group Finance Director of Lloyds Banking Group and the Mother Abbess in some Central African country, who each and all need somewhere to hide millions of dollars for a 50/50 split.  I have somehow acquired a Paypal account that I didn’t set up, and it’s received $500 in recent weeks, but also had unusual and overseas activity on it, so I need to move fast before it’s closed.  McDonalds wants to give me a car, I just have to contact them with all my personal details including my driver’s licence number.  Inland Revenue are suddenly contacting me on a regular basis to let me know that they owe me money, and somewhere in there, I now bank with every bank in New Zealand and need to update my details.  Just click the link to go to the secure log in page.

Sound familiar?  I have a web-based business, so my email address is fair game for anyone trolling the interwebs for email addresses.  Perhaps I get more than the average person.  Fortunately, my spam filters get most of them, but I still like to have a look through them for a laugh, and to see what they’re trying this time.

I can’t decide if it’s my innate cynicism that protects me from these scammers, or if it’s just common sense.  The saying ‘you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket’ is usually meant as a message of “get out there and make things happen.”  Now it’s a warning of “don’t get sucked in to an identity theft scam.”  There can’t be anyone stupid enough to fall for this kind of thing, can there?

Thing is, if there wasn’t anyone stupid enough to fall for this, why would they still be trying it?  Apparently, there are people sending away their bank account details to some Nigerian Army Official who was left holding the bag with the stolen millions, but needs your help to keep only half of what he has now. 

Most scam and hoax advisory websites tell you not to respond in any way.  But there are those who do.  I found a website that has details of people who have gone out of their way to bait the scammers and mess with them.  There was one story of a job offer made to a scammer recording audio books, which then turned into another hoax drama but this time, it was the original scammer who was the victim.  I was starting to feel sorry for this poor guy, but the same person was also emailing the same scammer back, this time pretending to be a widow who was genuinely keen to help, but a little unsure about doing it.  This ‘widow’ was getting all kinds of death threats mixed in with heavy guilt trips, so I very quickly got over my sympathy. 

There was also a story that made television a few years back.  Someone did respond to the Nigerian money scam, and received the expected communications about how they needed to pay a sum of a few thousand in order to set up a bank account or to release the money.  They contacted their scammer and said they had a few issues, and needed an advance of $50,000 so that they could get things started at their end.  Apparently they scammed the scammer out of quite a few hundred thousand before the scammer stopped paying.

If all of this wasn’t enough, I also get my inbox filled by well-meaning friends and relatives forwarding on some heart-rending story about a little boy who feels responsible for his little sister’s death, a little girl dying of cancer, or the boy who happily gave a kidney to his brother, but thought he would die from it.  Pass this on to everyone you know and Microsoft will donate 2c per email to some charity.  Or only people with a heart will pass this on.

I’m such a bad person.  Totally heartless.  I delete these.  Occasionally I find one that I do like, and would forward except that it tells me I have to.  Contrary Aquarian that I am, this little bit on the end is the dealbreaker.  I won’t forward it after that.  Or I will forward it, but only after I have removed the “must forward” notice from the end of it.

I also see the facebook statuses about cancer patients having only one wish and how 97% of people won’t have the courage to make this their status.  Change your profile pic to a cartoon character to raise awareness of child abuse.  Turn facebook pink for a week for breast cancer awareness.  Please, anyone explain to me how random people doing random things on a social networking site do diddly squat for anything of value?  Maybe the eccentric philanthropist has stopped choosing random people from other side of the world to leave his millions to, and will instead troll through facebook looking for this kind of message and donate to those charities instead.  Oh wait, he’d have to be a friend first…

I just got a new one.  This has been sent to you for good luck from the Anthony Robbins Foundation and has already been around the world ten times.  You have SIX minutes to pass it on or you will get an unpleasant surprise.  This is true, even if you are not superstitious, agnostic or otherwise faith impaired!

Really?

I have always wondered what counts as “around the world” in an email.  I’ve also wondered who is sitting there with a stop watch on the hugely exponential number of mindless morons who actually do forward this on to 1-4 people so that their lives will improve slightly or 15 and above people to make their lives improve drastically and everything you ever dreamed of will begin to take shape. Why would you trust forwarding on a clichéd email full of the same old feel-good crap to provide you with everything you’ve ever dreamed of?  So far, I should have had a million years of bad luck, my lover leave me, my children die, my crops wither in the field and now I’m due for an unpleasant surprise. 

Sucks to be me.

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