Don't Reply to Weird Spam: They Want Your Email Address

spamIn a previous column we talked about annoying spam ads for graphics and photo services coming from China. Since then, our experiment to try to get a response from the sender came to nothing. However, we did hear from some of you who received similar strange messages.

They don't seem like the run-of-the-mill spam: They're not selling anything, they don't prompt you to click on some piece of malware or a fake web site that steals your personal information. And they're not asking anyone to transfer large sums of money to a U.S. bank on behalf of some prince in Togo.They do employ a sort of psychological trick, a kind of trigger to get people to respond in some way. You might even call it an appeal to the Good Samaritan in us. After all, if you received someone's hotel or dinner reservation by accident, wouldn't the decent impulse be to try to write back and correct the mistake?

Well, remember, this is the Internet, where good intentions are often punished. Save your random acts of kindness, because among the experts I talked to, the consensus is these emails are most likely intended to harvest verified addresses. In other words, if a real person replies, then the perpetrator has discovered a valid email address that can be sold over and over to other spammers, whose intentions could be more nefarious.

Let's take a look at some other examples (grammatical and typographical errors intact):

From: [] On Behalf Of Eng John Paradis
Sent: Monday, October 11, 2010 6:21 PM
Subject: Booking enquiry needed.............................................


My name is Eng John Paradis I want to know if there is any availability for 7 persons which are coming to spend there vacation trip with your dinner company.Hope all the 7 people will have a wonderful time with your services.The will be spend 10day .also the need to arrange a nice package for different varieties of foods like and lelight Fried Chicken,Sausage,Penne Pasta with marinara sauce,Sliced Beef Au Jus and drinks like Non-Alcoholic Punch,Alcoholic Punch and Champagne Punch.

If there is availability , kindly let me know about the quotes and accommodation availability as well.

They are looking forward to arrival on
10th November of 2010,
Departure date:20th November.

We want you to arrange this packages for them.

(1)Transportation from airport and to hotel
(2)4 double rooms
(3)Total Packages

Mode Of Payment ;Visa ,Master or Amex.

We want everything to be arrange with the subtotal can write me to my direct email(

Eng John Paradis

If you haven't deleted this on sight, note that it's never a good idea to reply to someone named "nobody." Some scuba divers down in Ambergris Caye in Belize have decided to have some fun with John Paradis.

Here's another example (again, all typographical and other errors left intact):

Subject: Bubble Wrap
Hello Sir / Madam,

Am David Anderson and i want to make an inquiry of Bubble Wrap
and below is the size's i want or need:

(1) 3/16"Thick 48"W 750'L Pink Slit 12" Bubble Wrap
(2) 3/16"T 48"W 750'L Bubble Wrap
(3) 3/16"x48"W 750'L 12" Perf Clear Bubble Wrap
(4) 3/16"x48"W 750'L 24" Slit 12" Perf Clear Bubble Wrap
(5) 3/16" 750' Long Slit 12" Perf 12" Clear Bubble Wrap

kindly forward me a quote per Roll on each of them excluding shipping,
then i will let u the the total QTY that i need,and also let me know
the form of payment you happen to accept. Thank you and hoping to hear
from you

So don't respond no matter how strong the impulse to set Mr. Anderson straight. These spams are probably more along the lines of an Internet meme than an outright scam, since they don't carry any real spam flags or other threats. But you don't want your address sold a few thousand times, possibly to someone who wants to send you something more dangerous than offers for cheap Cialis.
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