From the Kenosha News on 5-20-07

Why does so much spam make so little sense?

      Not only does spam seem to be multiplying, it is also getting more absurd and mysterious.   Matt, one of my colleagues, sent me an article called “The Evolution of Spam” that was really helpful in understanding modern spam.  Read it on-line at http://www.wxpnews.com/archives/wxpnews-277-20070515.htm

      Below are some e-mail oddities that people often ask me about, along with an explanation and common causes of each:

  1. People often wonder why they get spam that “isn’t even addressed to me.”  This is due to a common tactic of putting the recipient addresses in be Bcc (blind carbon copy) field of the message.  Blind carbon copy means you’re getting a copy but none of the other addressees knows that you are, nor do you see the addresses of anyone else getting a blind carbon copy.  Spam filters stopped accepting messages with no To: recipient a while ago, so spammers now put one person’s address in that field and all the other targets in the Bcc field.
  2. You may receive warnings that you sent a message to an e-mail list or address and that message bounced back.  This happens frequently if you have a very common e-mail address, such as amy@yourdomain.com or jj@mailhost.com.  The commonness of what comes before the @ is the issue here since the latter part (the domain name) is common easily obtained by spammers and viruses.  What’s happening here is that a spammer or a virus is sending out messages – usually LOTS of them – with faked addresses using common names followed by any domain name.  That makes it look like your e-mail address is sending spam.  To my knowledge, there is little or no way to track this down or fight it.  Just delete the warnings, and do a virus scan just to be sure it really isn’t your computer spewing messages.
  3. The latest spam craze appears to be notifying people that they’ve one some distant lotto – usually in Europe.  Why would anyone believe this?  It’s a modification of the Nigerian scam, aimed at duping you into giving out your banking information so that they can deposit huge sums of non-existent cash into your account.  I’ve been clicking the “spam” button in my Yahoo mail for weeks now, and I don’t really think it’s helping yet.  I don’t know if clicking the spam button only blacklists the sender or if Yahoo actually studies the offending messages to learn from them and filter out similar scams in the future.
  4. What about all those stock tips?  The scenario is that the spammer buys a bunch of penny stocks, then sends out a “hot tip” about that stock.  If he/she can get even a modest number of recipients to buy the stock, the price goes up, and he/she sells their shares.  I suppose the spam recipient could possibly make money on this, but it isn’t likely. 
  5. Finally, some messages just seem to ramble on about nothing or contain only random words.  Matt’s article cited above explains this.  Spammers like to give anti-spam systems a workout, make them confused, and teach them to recognize something random while REAL spam and phishing attempts slip through.  It’s a diversionary tactic.

by Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 5-20-07