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A new low: Katrina spam

Posted by Richard on September 7, 2005

I suppose it should come as no surprise that the scum who send out spam and the even bigger scum whose spam includes phishing would try to take advantage of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. The Office Watch Email Essentials team has just issued a special alert:

A message arrived a short time ago that is a new low in scamming and so offends us that we’re sending this special warning.

It appears to be a message from Amazon suggesting that you make a donation to the American Red Cross for victims of Katrina.   But the message does NOT come from Amazon at all.

The From: address is faked to make it seem to come from Amazon.  The look of the message copies the style used by Amazon and the wording is mostly lifted from the real Amazon appeal on their web site.

As with other phishing scams, the link takes you to a site that looks legitimate and lures you into entering your account, password or credit card details.

We picked this particular message as spam because it was sent to an address that we don’t use with Amazon, otherwise it would not have immediately rung any alarm bells.  Having seen the messages on the real Amazon site it looked sincere.

They also noted that spammers have been using such keywords as "New Orleans" and "Katrina" to try to get past filters. Editor Rose Vines, herself a refugee from New Orleans, reported even more contemptible trickery:

After the hurricane, so many of us could no longer could use our old email accounts, and so I was receiving news of friends and family via all sorts of strange email addresses. That meant I had to open all sorts of messages I’d normally discard immediately, just to make sure they weren’t from someone trying to reach me.

There was a sudden upsurge in spam messages with subject messages such as "Are you OK?" or "Trying to reach you" (or maybe I just noticed these ones more…), and I had to check each one no matter who the sender.

When I would open the message and find some horrible spam, it felt like an assault. Really hard to take when I was in so much in pain and feeling very vulnerable. The whole thing was exacerbated by having no proper spam blocking, as I’ve had to use Web mail instead of my usual spam-protected Outlook. "

What’s the appropriate punishment for such vermin? I’m thinking we should bring back flogging or stocks.

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