A new kind of spam makes me wonder how stupid spammers think we are.
To post a comment on any of my blog-based sites, you need to jump three hurdles:
- You need to get past Bad Behavior, a spam prevention solution that can identify bots. If Bad Behavior thinks the a page is being accessed by a spam bot, it simply does not allow that bot to comment. Does this work? Well, during the past 7 days, Bad Behavior has blocked 2,018 access attempts. Does that mean it has stopped all the bots? Sadly, it doesn’t. But it seems to do a pretty good job.
- You need to get past Akismet, the WordPress-provided spam filtering tool. Akismet takes the incoming comments that get past Bad Behavior and evaluate them to determine whether they might be spam. If it thinks a comment is spam, it gets put in a spam “bucket” (my term). Does this work? Well, in March it caught 3,830 spam comments, missed only 11 that I flagged as spam, and incorrectly marked only 3 good comments as spam that I rescued. It has caught a total of 54,048 spam comments since October 2008 — that’s just six months.
You need to get past me. I read all the comments that Akismet approves and either approve them for posting on the site or mark them as spam that Akismet missed. In certain rare instances, I’ll delete a comment that might not be spam but is, in my opinion, inappropriate for the site. (You can read my comment policy, if you’re interested.) I also briefly review what Akismet has flagged as spam and occasionally rescue a non-spam comment from the spam bucket so it appears on the site.
If you’re not a blogger, you probably don’t realize how big a problem comment spam is. Simply said, if I didn’t have Bad Behavior to block the bots and Akismet to filter out spam comments, this blog would attract anywhere from 10 to 1000 spam comments in a day. Spam comment contents range from links to sites selling drugs or offering online gambling to simple attempts to get some “Google Juice” from links to specific sites. Some of it contains crude and offensive words and ideas. If I let it get by me and allowed it to be posted on my sites, it would likely offend most of my readers.
But lately, I’ve begun getting a new kind of spam: beggar spam. The content of the message goes something like this:
I do not believe I get only one chance in life. I am from Guinea so my English is bad. Please give.
Of course, this kind of comment never makes it to my blog. It’s stopped dead by Akismet or me. After a while, Akismet will pick up the pattern that identifies it as spam and properly filter each beggar spam message into the spam bucket.
But the real question is this: do these spammers really expect blog readers — or bloggers, for that matter — to send money to some faceless beggar just because they asked for it? Does anyone actually send them money to give them the idea this ploy works?
Which brings up another thought: The Internet has made it so easy for people to try to suck money out of people that they’ll try anything, no matter how unlikely it is to work. Just get yourself an automated commenting bot, set its options to include the message and link you want, and let it go. Sixty seconds of effort and an Internet connection can flood the world’s blog (and spam filters) with millions of scam attempts. If even one of them is successful, the spammer is ahead of the game.
I wonder how much of the world’s Internet bandwidth is used by but spammers and con artists. I’m not just talking about comment spam here. I’m talking about e-mail from Nigerian princes and widows. I’m talking about responses to For Sale items on online services, where the buyer offers a certified check for more than the purchase amount and asks you to give the difference to his shipping agent. Or the people who e-mail legitimate companies, offering to pay more for services than advertised, with the difference going to a “logistics” agent.
I see how many of these things cross my path in a day or week or month. I’m just one relatively well-connected person. What of the people who are better connected than me? Or the ones that foolishly put their e-mail addresses, unencoded, on a Web site so the spam bots can scrape them up for sale to spammers? Or the ones with blogs at the top of Google’s page rank that get thousands of visitors a day?
How much of the Internet is wasted on fraud and spammy self-promotion?
Anyway, I’d love to get feedback from other bloggers or people experienced with spam. What’s the most ridiculous spam you’ve ever received? The one that made you think the spammer thinks everyone is a gullible fool? Use the Comments link or form for this post.
And don’t try to spam me, please. Your comment will never appear on this site.