En Words

A place to talk about words - whether from books, stories, magazines, brochures, or matchbook covers.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hit Man Spam Scam

The Associated Press has a story about a new twist on the email scam. Instead of offering a lottery winning or transfer of $23,467,416.28 to your bank (just need the account number), this one promises to cancel the contract out on the recipient's life for a payment. Nearly identical versions of the email have surfaced in Arizona and New Jersey, and, in under a month last winter, the FBI received 115 complaints of receiving something similar. Some incorporate publicly available information on people to make them seem legitimate. Maybe the "to whom it may concern" should have been a giveaway?

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Using Words to Move Stock Numbers

Those who would game the system to advance their own economic market interests have been hard at work on the Internet. Ever get spam touting stocks? Ever wonder if anyone would believe the hyperbolic emails? Apparently they do. According to the Washington Post, the SEC is accusing two Texas men of cheating investors in at least a baker's dozen small cap stocks of $4.6 million by infecting PCs with viruses and using them as sources of spam emails. People who took the bait drove up prices long enough to let the men sell their holdings.

And in Russia, News.com.au notes that hackers issues a false statement announcing the arrest of the CEO of one of the country's main oil producers. The CEO must have been happy on one hand about the inaccuracy, but unhappy that the stock price fell, albeit by less than 1 percent.

This isn't a new type of activity on the Internet. Stock chat rooms used to be one of the main stomping grounds of they who would induce changes in stock prices. It's fascinating how the mere act of telling people what they would like to hear causes them to take specific actions, like spending their money, even though the source of the advice is highly suspect. That shows the stories that have the most power are actually not the ones others tell us, but the ones we tell ourselves. It's not the words on the screen, but the words in the head that tell us what we'd like to believe - that up is down and that we can have something for nothing just by asking.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Internet Word Tests Confusing Users

You've seen them - the distorted collections of letters and numbers against odd background where you discern the characters and type them into a box so a web site knows it's dealing with a person and not a spam bot. The New York Times had an article about how the tests to fool spammers, called captchas (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart), are starting to twist the minds of people, as well. I know that I've seen one or two where I had to try a couple of different times: Is it upper or lower case, or a 1 or l? They keep getting tougher because people develop programs to defeat them.

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