This is not about the high fat content in processed meat. I actually don’t mind real Spam. It can make a tasty sandwich, and years ago, we had it battered and fried, as a main meal. This once cheap alternative to ‘real’ meat has now had its name hijacked by some nasty kinds of internet scammers, as well as countless thousands of others trying to sell unwanted goods and services.
Over the last few months, my Yahoo e mail account has been literally bombarded with Spam. Luckily, it is obvious to Yahoo what is going on, and they place it directly into the appropriate file, most of the time. We have all had the bogus Facebook messages, meaningless when you don’t have a Facebook account. Voluptuous young women, seeking to renew an acquaintance that we never had in the first place, pop up from time to time. Replies to e mails we know that we never sent, enquiries about goods and products we have never ordered, all of these are regular Spam folder arrivals.
More recently, I have noticed a more worrying type of e mail, which doesn’t always get plonked into the Spam folder. They have worrying headers, like ‘Your forthcoming Court Appearance’, or ‘Last chance to settle unpaid account’. One even claimed to be from the (non-existent) National Police Force, and offered the chance to escape prosecution, by paying an immediate fine. My apparent ‘crime’ had been to look at ‘unsuitable Internet sites’, though none were mentioned specifically. This e mail contained an official-looking web page, complete with impressive badge and logo. It offered me the opportunity to pay a substantial fine, by inputting my card details onto a pro-forma, and sending it to the imaginary ‘National Police Force’. I would receive a warning, instead of prosecution, as long as I paid immediately. Obviously, I had no intention of doing anything of the sort. Not only had I not looked at ‘unsuitable’ Internet sites, even if I had, I would expect an official at my door, at the very least. But how many people are fooled by such scams? How many pay without question, believing them to be real? I put this into the Spam folder, hoping that Yahoo would notice. They still keep coming up though, albeit as Spam. So why are they not rooted out and banned by the ISP and Web Mail provider too? I am sure someone out there knows.
Parcel deliveries. In this day and age, many of us buy from the Internet, and receive notification of failed delivery, or perhaps of despatch, pending delivery. I keep track of things I order, and tend to mainly use reputable companies like Amazon. However, my e mail inbox is daily peppered with e mails telling me that I have to make a call about a delivery, or pay an additional charge due to failed delivery. This can be in the form of calling an unrecognisable number, which immediately connects to some far-off land like the Cayman Islands, and charges £40 a minute to play a recorded message about a non-existent delivery. Until I get a phone bill running into hundreds of pounds, I am none the wiser. Others tell me that I have not been in to receive my goods, so must pay a small additional fee, and I can e mail my card details for this. Should I be foolish enough to fall for this, I will be handing over my card details and authorisation code to who knows where, to be charged an exorbitant fee for a parcel that doesn’t exist. But how many are fooled by this? In a busy life, expecting parcels, used to e mail updates, it is very easy to just do this without thinking. Yes, some of these e mails get put in the Spam folder, but many escape, and slip through into the main mail.
Then there are the threatening e mails that concern supposedly unpaid accounts and bills. They will offer the chance to make an immediate payment, again by card, to save the bailiffs knocking on your door later. They will be vague, and claim to be representing others, rarely going into detail about why the money is owed. Most of us will happily ignore them, or just delete them. We know that we have no bills or accounts overdue, and even if we had, we would be contacted by the companies themselves. But what of those confused by these communications, or the elderly? They may have bills that they are not sure they have paid, or be fooled into believing that they owe someone for goods or services. They will give up their card details, unaware that the accounts will be milked of all that they contain.
I believe that it is up to all the Internet Service Providers, Web Mail providers, and any associated companies to do more to stop this. They all earn a fortune from our use of their sites and services, and could easily plough back some profits into self-policing of these scammers. In the meantime, keep an eye on those e mail folders, and never open anything you are unsure of.