426 e-mails

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/10/10 03:31 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2005/10/10/478582.aspx


Apparently, my existing home mortgage is very impressive.

Because starting in June of this year I have been getting a lot of e-mail claiming that it makes me eligible for a decreased rate (as of midnight 4/26!).

What makes my mortgage most impressive is that I never had to sign any papers to get it. And I never have to pay any money back. On the other hand, I never received any money, either.

I don't even have a home; I live in an apartment.

I won't get into how annoying spam is, I think we all know about that. But I did find one interesting fact about all these mails -- they all follow the same pattern. Here is how they all start:

And so on (there are many more, but you probably get the point).

Every one is different, and it makes you feel like there is some script that runs and creates these random mails that follow the same basic structure but plug in words, presumably to confound email spam detectors.

Of course, the link that each one offers also seems to be different, and I have never followed any of them (even if it were genuine, they could never beat my current mortgage!).

But what was weird was how I looked at it, from a linguistic standpoint.

The first one ever sent, I dismissed as spam since it referred to a mortgage that did not exist and the English seemed off to me.

But as they started piling up, I still knew it was spam, but I started to realize that knowledge of English would probably be required to be able to have more variations than anything short of a thesaurus could offer. Perhaps that comes from some script writer, but clearly someone has to have some idea of how the language works.

So it struck me as both brilliant and idiotic:

BRILLIANT because sooner or later they might get the syntax right, and really they are not trying to; they just want to avoid spm detection.

IDIOTIC because on the first day four of them. Only a fellow idiot would actually jump up to take the offer.

It makes me wonder why they bother -- do people fall for this nonsense?

Imagine if they used their power for good?


# Serge Wautier on 10 Oct 2005 4:33 AM:

Michael,

I don't quite agree with you. You know, these people who sell blue pills to me are very serious. You know me, I wouldn't by a cat in a bag (OK, this is literal translation from french but since your blog is about i18n, I thought the bad translation wouldn't be a problem ;-) ), I mean... I'm not an idiot. And I'll tell you what, these pills are great. I'm very confident that they will soon have a very positive effect on my [...] life. Of course, it's serious stuff, not magic. It is therefore normal that the effect is not noticeable immediately or even within weeks.

> Imagine if they used their power for good?

They do, Michael. They just do.

:-D

# zzz on 10 Oct 2005 6:00 AM:

I think outlook should still mark those as spam, it does right? Anyhow before Outlook got the junk filters adequadately working, permanently auto-deleting any mail with mortgage worked pretty well among other words... It's a bit amusing they try use all those words but just having mortgage in it is usually enough to tell it spam.

# zzz on 10 Oct 2005 6:02 AM:

Oops! How silly the previous statement of mine now looks, since given you received m*rtg*ge in the message (through mail I assume), it would have been deleted by my filters ;)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 10 Oct 2005 10:26 AM:

Well, this is actually my ISP account that goes to Outlook Express, so I am reliant on my ISP's filters, which have seemed strangely resistant to this mortgage strand....

# Vorn on 10 Oct 2005 10:55 AM:

<i>It makes me wonder why they bother -- do people fall for this nonsense?</i>

It only takes one to make a profit.

Vorn

# Mihai on 10 Oct 2005 12:58 PM:

Just mark as spam all emails with subject starting with "After" :-D

# Mihai on 10 Oct 2005 2:00 PM:

The recipe seems quite simple.
Just take a sentence and create lists of synonyms (the Thesaurus in Word is great :-). Then mix and match.

All your messages (and way more) can be obtained from the following "pieces":

After accomplishing
After closing
After completing
After culmination of
After executing
After exhausting
After finishing
After performing
After realizing
After resolving
After satisfying
After wrapping up

the analysis
the appraisal
the assessment
the audit
the canvas
the check
the evaluation
the inspection
the review
the study
the survey

we are charmed
we are confident
we are delighted
we are ecstatic
we are elated
we are enchanted
we are enthusiastic
we are excited
we are gratified
we are happy
we are jubilant
we are keen
we are pleased
we are satisfied
we are thrilled

to accord
to afford
to extend
to give
to grant
to offer
to proffer
to propose
to provide
to submit
to suggest

for you
to you
you

as follows
as we will specify
the following
this endorsement
this offer
this proposal
this
what follows

Your current mortgage
Your existant mortgage
Your existing mortgage
Your present mortgage

certifies you
licenses you
makes you eligible
meets the criteria
meets the requirements
qualifies you

for more more than a
for more than a
for you to get more than a
to get more than a

3.1
3.2
3.3
3.4
3.5
3.6
3.7
3.8
3.9

better
decreased
deflated
devaluated
lessened
lesser
lower
smaller

amount!
cost!
percentage!
rate!
tariff!

# Maurits [MSFT] on 10 Oct 2005 6:46 PM:

http://spamassassin.apache.org/

# Jonathan on 11 Oct 2005 8:16 AM:

"...Only a fellow idiot would actually jump up to take the offer.... do people fall for this nonsense?"

You just have to put 2 and 2 together, and you'll arrive to the same conclusion like douglas Adams did in "The Dilbert Principle": People are idiots.

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