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April 18, 2004

Spam or Not? How Can You Be Sure?

Posted 6 years, 6 months ago on April 18, 2004 Today I received email with the subject line:

"urgent query"

The opening lines were:

"Dear Madam,

I am writing to you out of great desparation."

So, here's the test: Do you think that this email was spam, or not?

Perhaps I should have asked this instead: Is there a one among you who would not have instantly thought
that this was one of our beloved deposed Nigerians, once again wanting to bestow on us millions of dollars if only we will
help them to smuggle out millions more from their homeland? Is there anyone here who would not have deleted it on the spot?

Well, that's certainly what I thought, and almost did, and frankly I don't know what caused me to first peep inside this email, let alone to give it the slightest, most cursory of glances, after the "great desparation". But I'm glad I did. Because it turned out to be a legitimate email, from a genuine person, who was indeed desparate, and wanting a legal referral.

Which brings me to the point, if only I can figure out what it is.

Is it that while we have all come to expect spam disguised as legitimate email, we rarely expect legitimate email to look like spam?

Is it that when writing email, one should be very careful to avoid any similarity to spam? Interestingly, and perhaps importantly, the author, while not Nigerian, was from a country much closer to Nigeria than to here (the United States). Should we tell the emailers of the world to write more like Americans? (Gawd, I hope not, Americans don't rank terribly well on the "well-spoken" scale - talk about letting language go south - but that's another post, for another blog.)

Or maybe the point is simply that spam has so completely polluted the email stream that it is no longer possible, short of reading every close case, to know for certain whether any given email is spam or legitimate email.

So where does that leave us?

The trackback url for this post is

Re: Spam or Not? How Can You Be Sure?

Posted 6 years, 6 months ago by Pariah Burke • • wwwReply

Where does that leave us, you asked. Suspicious of our neighbors, with high fences between; fences that not only protect us, but block out the light as well. The all important quest of internet marketeers to get their porn URLs, stock tips, and male potency claims into our mailboxes, and all the tricks employed in that pursuit are designed to disarm us. They disguise themselves as legitimate e-mail, thus placing us on guard against innocuity as well as insidiousness. Thus we are robbed, in a way, of our freedom to communicate.

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