Posts belonging to Category Off With Their Heads

An Inventive Lot, These Spammers

I got a spam email this morning with the subject line of “STOP SPAMMING ME!!!!”  Inside it said that my Facebook account had been hacked and that they had attached a screen shot.  Yeah… like I’m going to open a file from someone I don’t know, sent to an email address that has nothing to do with my Facebook account.

I have to give them credit for ingenuity, though.  Taking advantage of the fear of having your account hacked combined with the universal loathing of spam to try to hack your PC (most likely to turn it into a spam bot) is a master stroke.

Please, Not Again!

I just realized that I am going to have to call SiriusXM customer support.  After my last horrible customer service experience with them, I am less than eager to go another round, but with the purchase of the Flex it will be inevitable since I have to deactivate the XM receiver in the Avalanche (which I no longer have) and somehow get the Flex’s Sirius receiver put on the account.  My research so far on this topic is extremely discouraging.  It seems that despite “merging” the two companies, the billing still runs as separate entities.  Which means that if you have an account with XM, you can’t put a Sirius radio on it (and vice versa).  It appears that you have to open a new account for the Sirius radio and cancel the XM account.

And to put the icing on the cake, the latest online buzz (via forums and Facebook) is that SiriusXM phone support has a serious theft problem.  The reps are under such intense pressure to sell you additional equipment or services that they will often add additional billing or equipment to your account that you did not authorize.  There are numerous complaints from people who called to cancel or change service who ended up being billed for things they did not authorize.

I’ve submitted a question via their email page, to see if what I want will be remotely possible (there are also hints online that they will really merge their operations “real soon now”).  But I am not holding my breath waiting for an answer.

Update: They got back to me a day later (not too bad), but the answer was as I expected: you cannot put a Sirius radio on an “XM account” and vice versa.  So this morning I girded for battle and dialed their so-called “Customer Care” number.  After 45 minutes, two transfers and two hang-ups, I finally succeeded on the third try in canceling the XM radio account I’ve had for the last 9 years.  Or at least that’s what I was told.  I will anxiously await the “7 to 10 business days” they claim it takes for the refund to make it back to my credit card to verify that it actually happened.  For now, I’ve got a free trial of  Sirius in the Flex, so my satellite radio needs are being met.  But I am dreading the day when I have to become a subscriber again.

Which is really sad, because when it comes to the actual service, it works fine when all the equipment is functioning.  It’s only when you have to contact customer service that the company fails so miserably.  Really, isn’t it a crappy reflection of their customer service that it took 45 minutes and getting hung up on twice to do something as simple as cancel an account?  Further, isn’t it even more crappy that the supposedly “merged” company can’t mix the two “accounts?”  If they weren’t so shabbily run, I wouldn’t have had to cancel an 9-year-old account just to change radios on my end.

Frankly, if I could find some way to reliably get “fresh” music (I quickly tire of using an iPod or other device), that had good customer service, I’d jump on it.

The Stupid Bowl is Coming!

All you slovenly North Texans need to get your crap together and make sure you polish everything to a bright, shiny finish before the Stupid Bowl comes to town next month.  Also, you need to be on your best behavior.

Or at least that’s the message I’m getting from the various cities involved in this massive boondoggle.  While the level of rhetoric is steadily being ratcheted up to 11 (you can’t watch Fox 4 anymore without a “live” reporter breathlessly intoning on the latest 18-wheeler to arrive or the current status of tent construction), I was somewhat content to just ignore it all (even the creepy Slant 45 initiative), at least until Troy Aikman dropped the final straw on my back at the end of tonight’s 6:30pm news.

I mean it’s bad enough that the City of Arlington has a webpage dedicated to ratting out your messy neighbors (lest we offend any of the delicate sensibilities of the hoity-toity Stupid Bowl visitors as they visit Arlington’s Grand-Theft-Stadium), but now we’ve got Troy Aikman on TV telling us we all need to act appropriately when visitors come to town.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find a copy of this sanctimonious bullshit online, or I’d link it here, but it pissed me right the hell off to be lectured on hospitality and how to act by a guy whose claim to fame is that he could play a game that is more known for the misbehavior of its players than anything else.

Aikman, you can shove your commercial and your Stupid Bowl XLV nonsense up your ass (perhaps the commercial will make nice viewing for you until you get your head out of there).

Cry For Help…

Someone hit my site over the weekend using the following search phrase:
   i have emails which repeatedly continue arriving in my inbox the same “ones over” and over and over again why

Aside from the weird use of quotes, can’t you just feel the desperation in that search?  I think it’s the pathos of the “over and over again why” part that puts it over the top (kind of reminds me of “When will the hurting stop?” [*]).

Anyhow, to answer the question, either you have been targeted by a particularly annoying spammer, or there is a problem with your email program.  I have seen this problem at times with Thunderbird using POP3 when you leave the email on the server and your system is experiencing intermittent network problems as well as insufficient memory.  This was with an old laptop that had insufficient memory and was getting bogged down by a nightly virus scan.  Adding more memory fixed the nightly network problems and I haven’t seen the issue since.

Comment Spammers Suck

We all have our particular windmills at which we must tilt.  The blogger at the Keitai Goddess is engaged in a war to stop comment spam.  What’s interesting is that one of the spammers actually responded to her.  The respondent’s sense of entitlement to use of our blogs for marketing purposes is breathtaking:

Leaving comments on your blog linking back to our site is a fair trade as long as the comment is relevant and a decent length.  Many SEOs say content is king when it comes to ranking in Google and Yahoo, but this is not true.  Links are king and links from good websites are king.  Content comes in at a close second.  We give you content that makes YOUR site rank higher for different keywords and you give us a link back to our site that helps our site rank higher.  I don’t see how this is not a fair trade.  We’re not “parasites” like the people who comment on blogs and leave (sometimes literally) over 100 links in the comment and completely ruin that page’s pagerank.  I’ve seen people put links on blogs that run anywhere from 1 to 200.  We leave a relevant reply, take 1 link, and leave.  The ones who put more than 1 link in their reply are the parasites, not us.

I really have to wonder what this spammer thinks “relevant” comments are.  I’ve seen crap like “great article,” or even some that try to summarize the gist of my posting, but they’ve all been very transparent as text used for filler just to get their link past the spam filters.

Anyhow, the “conversation” got a bit heated, and the spammer really lost her cool in her followup message, to the point of acting like a creepy stalker by searching out Keitai Goddess’s comments on other blogs and claiming that those were somehow unethical or hypocritical because those comments included a link back to her site.

Really, the tiniest bit of common sense would have revealed to the spammer the difference between a real comment and one done solely for SEO purposes.  The rule that I use for determining if a link/comment is spam is that if the comment is truly relevant and adds something new, then I examine the link to see if it is back to the person’s personal site or to a commercial site.  If it’s to a commercial site, and I don’t recognize the online “persona” as belonging to someone I personally know who is associated with that enterprise, then it’s spam.  Period.  End of discussion, no debate allowed. 

In other words, commercial entities are NOT ALLOWED to post comments on my blog.  My comments are intended to be by and for people.  The only time I might entertain a comment associated with a commercial entity is if I’ve commented about that entity’s products or services.  However, the person doing the response must do so under a real name and they must identify themselves as being associated with the company.  Anything else would border on dishonesty or sock-puppetry.

What’s The Point Of It Anymore?

I’ve noticed lately that spammers are hitting my contact form about twice a week.  What’s weird about it is that it just says something like “Buy <drug name>” or “Cheap <enhancement drug>”.  The notes don’t give any information about who is selling it or where to get it. 

And the comment spam I’m seeing is just about as useless.  Spam filtering techniques have gotten to the point where just about the only things that will get through are genuine human messages and complete garbage.  I’ve seen a few where it appeared people typed them up and just used the URL field to try to advertise their sites.  Others were filled with what appeared to be random gibberish with copious links to sites with URLs that looked like they were created by hitting a bunch of keys on a keyboard all at once.  What kind of sucker would click one of those links?

So if most of the spam lately doesn’t provide any good ways of getting the spammers into a search engine because it’s gibberish, or they can’t even list their site because of the filters, you really have to wonder why the spammers even bother anymore.  Is it sheer cussedness?  Are they up to something that they think will pay off in the long run?  Or are they just being annoying buggers for the heck of it?

Political SPAM

Bitter is complaining about a candidate for Virginia Attorney General who is spamming her and who won’t respond to requests for removal.

In a similar vein, I’m pretty annoyed by the spam I’m getting from Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson of the Texas Supreme Court for his re-election campaign.  The reason I’m annoyed is that I never gave anyone permission to send me emails about Jefferson’s campaign.  Worse than all that, the email address is one created specifically for use with the Fred Thompson presidential campaign.  I’m not sure who to be more annoyed with: Fred Thompson’s website for selling my email or Jefferson’s campaign for using a list without doing any opt-in confirmation. 

The emails are being sent on behalf of Jefferson’s campaign by StreamSend and they include link tracking URLs and email tracking image bugs.  The whole thing has a stink about it.

Two Down… Many More To Go…

I was glad to see the announcement that two pump-and-dump penny stock scammers were arrested recently. 

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Special Investigations Unit charged two Texas residents with devising an illegal high-tech scheme to defraud investors out of more than $4.6 million. Both suspects, who were indicted July 3 by a Harris County grand jury, are the subjects of an ongoing investigation by several states and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In addition to the state’s charges, the suspects face securities fraud charges, which were filed today by the SEC.

Darrel Uselton, 40, of Katy, and his uncle, Jack Uselton, 69, of Houston, face organized criminal activity and money laundering charges. According to state and federal investigators, the Useltons reaped millions in illegal profits by promoting shares from at least 13 penny stock companies. The suspects then secretly sold those stocks into an artificially active market they created with manipulative trading schemes, spam e-mail campaigns, direct mailers, and Internet-based promotional activities.

I don’t know if these two were involved in any of the scams that affected me, but as the recipient of the blowback from bot-net blasted spam emails, I think it’s about time that some of these bastards were taken down.  It’s just unfortunate that we can’t bring back the stocks and the pillory.

Spam Blowback Continues

Despite removing all catch-alls, thereby killing the Joe Jobbers in their tracks, I still seem to be banned from sending email to certain people.  Most notably people with AOL email addresses.

I had someone contact me yesterday via my Contact Form to ask some questions about the Marlin Camp Carbine, but my reply got bounced.  AOL informed me that it was not accepting email from my address.

Now this is stupid on the part of AOL, since I never sent spam to their users.  But they still put my domain into their blacklist of spammers, apparently because of the previous Joe Job crap. 

Anyhow… if you try to contact me and you’re using AOL (or Earthlink) and you don’t hear back from me, you might want to investigate getting a less brain-dead email provider.

Kill All Spammers

I hated to cave in and do away with my catch-all address, but I finally had to do it.  I saw a definite pattern where I’d get four or five apparently hand-crafted emails, followed within a few hours by a tidal wave of bounces.  It appears to me that the spammer were probing my domain to make sure the catch-all was still in place so that their bounces wouldn’t be rejected.  Then, upon confirming the catch-all, they’d engage the bots for a major spam run, with me catching all their crap.  If I’d taken the catch-all off of the domain, their initial probes would have been summarily rejected by the SMTP server. 

Because I’ve been using the domain for the past seven years for making up email addresses at will, I had lots of possibly valid addresses that I had to deal with.  I wrote a short Perl script that groveled through all my old Inboxes (back to 2000) to extract all addresses with an address in the “To:” and/or “for” headers (in some cases, especially with lists, my address wouldn’t have been in the “To:” field), discarding duplicates.  When I was done there were 1732 unique email addresses.  I spent a couple of mind-numbing hours going through that list deleting garbage entries from spammer Joe Job backscatter.  That left me with 604 addresses that I had to enter into the Dreamhost email control panel.  Fortunately, they have a “bulk edit” feature for each domain.  But it almost caused the panel to cough up a furball when I uploaded the list.

Now I’ve gone back and deleted another 30 or so that looked legit, but which I’d forgotten had been compromised by spammers.

If anyone out there has tried to email me and the message bounced, it’s probably because I missed an address in the alias file.  I’ve verified that the Contact Form target address works, so you can get in touch that way.

Anyone for killing spammers and using their guts to hang them from light poles?  Or am I the only one so annoyed?