Friday, January 15, 2016

Poetry Spam

I have been spammed with poetry.  It's like a poetry slam, but only one letter off.  There are fewer beatniks, but more potential fraud. 

I’ve had the same email address since at least 1997 (possibly longer, but that’s the oldest saved message I could find), which means that it’s out there on the web.  All of the various harvesters have harvested it.  All of the spambots have it archived.  It’s there.

This has never been a problem for me, as I find spam to be more amusing than irritating.  There was a long period back in the early part of this century where spammers had a program that would assign random names to their addresses so it would look like the emails had come from an actual person instead of a machine, though who would name their child “Snowball Q. Dromedary” I don’t know.  Somewhere I have a list of about five hundred of those names, because they were funny and I had the time to do it back then.

I do have a spam filter on my email, as otherwise it would simply be unmanageable.  And the email server has a spam filter of its own that alerts me to the presence of myriad diverted messages every so often and invites me to examine them.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  They go away on their own if I ignore them.  Sometimes that filter misses them and they get sent to me, and if they make it past my spam filter then they show up in my inbox.  When that happens I mostly just delete them.

They’re not hard to identify, really.  Anything in Chinese or Russian is a big tip-off, for example, as are most messages with subject lines IN ALL CAPS.  And when I open one, I pretty much know what to expect.  There will be an offer of some kind – either a link to click or a product to explore.  There will be graphics, since in order for them to work the message has to send a ping back to the original server to get the graphic to load, which tells the spammer that someone opened their message.  There will be outlandish claims and offers too good to be true.  Apparently that Nigerian businessman has found someone to take care of his millions, as he hasn’t written in a while.  I kind of miss him.

All this is why the poem was so odd.

It came from a clearly made-up address.  The first part was simply the first part of my own email address (a common tactic), and the second part, after the @, was no domain I’d ever heard of.  But the subject line promised me a poem and I thought, “Why not – it’s been a long day.”

There were no offers inside.  No links.  No websites. 

There were no graphics to alert the spammer that I’d opened the message.

Still no word from my Nigerian contact.

All there was inside was the entire text of Gray’s Elegy, one of the more well-known poems of the Romantic period and one I hadn’t run across since I left college.  It’s kind of nice.

I’m not sure what purpose was served by this.

There may have been a new mechanism I don’t know about that has alerted the spammer to the fact that I’ve read this.  I may well be inundated with new spam, which would change my email in-box not one iota really.

Or maybe it was just a poem floating about the ether and landing on me.

I think I’ll go with that, on a grey winter day.  It seems to fit.

No comments: