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Harmon Leon

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For the Love of Viagra Spam and the 419 Email Scam

Posted: 10/19/2010 10:30 am

Some online rapscallion hacked into my friend's email account and sent everyone in his address book the following message:

I am so distraught. I thought i could reach out to you to help me out. I came down to United Kingdom for a short vacation unfortunately i was mugged at the park of the hotel i stayed, all cash, credit card and cell phone was stolen from me but luckily for me i still have my passport with me. I've been to the embassy and to the police here but they're not helping issues at all and, my flight leaves in few hours time from now but. I am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let me leave until i settle my hotel bills. I'm freaked out at the moment.

After receiving the email, thoughts crossed my brain. What the hell happened to my friend Clark? Why is he suddenly overseas? (Didn't I just see him yesterday?) How come his hotel didn't ask for a credit card upon check in?

Then it dawned on me; this ploy is the latest twist on the old Nigerian email scam. Instead of receiving a spam email from an ambiguous prince who urgently needs the help of a complete stranger, this scam claims to be from a desperate friend lodged at a strange foreign hotel where credit cards aren't needed for incidentals upon check in. This roust is officially called the 419 scam. When a good Samaritan replies to the distressed email, they are then asked to wire money via Western Union. (Who wouldn't want to help out a desperate friend in need?)

Well done email scam spammers, well done!

Besides the Nigerian email scam, my favorite reoccurring spam is the steady stream boasting the merits of boner pills. With all the filters out there, why do these Viagra spam emails still flood our inboxes? I always delete these messages or immediately mark it as spam. So how do these spammers make money by pestering us to purchase Viagra online?

Blame their pesky bulk email on the monopoly held by our U. S. pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer controls the American production and distribution of Viagra. On these shores, it costs an erection-enthusiast $10 per pill via prescription for Viagra. In other countries, such as India and Mexico, it's the Viagra Wild West. There is no longer a patent on the pill so Viagra can be manufactured very cheaply and sold at a cost of roughly $2 per pill.

With high profit potential and a massive amount of competition, erection enhancement entrepreneurs resort to the Internet. The online Viagra game then becomes all about evading spam filters. If "Viagra" appears in the subject line or body of an email, a general filter will designate it as spam. So those wanting to sell American-pig-dog-oppressorsViagra online are cunning; they defeat spam filters by misspelling Viagra (V1agra, Via'agra, vi*agra), use text made invisible by setting the font color to white on a white background, or simply present the text as an image in the body of the email.

Offshore boner pill hawking can mean righteous cash. If a spammer sends out 1 million Viagra spam emails a day, they might get 200 clicks a day to the online pharmacy. At this rate, the spammer could expect a 1% sales success rate. If the typical order of Viagra is $100, a boner pill spammer could make roughly $29,200 per year. Not bad cash considering the amount of backbreaking work put into the process.

What's the lesson to learn from all this? In these troubled economic times maybe a viable career option is either spamming people with Viagra emails or urgent email messages from overseas that leave people thinking their friend is trapped in a foreign hotel.

 

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