Spammers don't care about your political causes or your beliefs. They prey on the innocent and the naive, which is why a recent spate of e-mails I've received using conspiracy theory scare tactics does not surprise me in the least.
I am not a "prepper," nor do I fear the end of the world or being jailed in a FEMA work camp. I don't believe that the government is storing up an arsenal of weaponry and ammo for when they will exterminate those who don't follow their Marxist ideals.
But I don't consider those who carry these beliefs to be crazy. I think they are worried and most of them have had that worry converted into outright fear by pundits, conspiracy theorists and scammers. And when it comes to scams, the oldest one in the technological book is the e-mail scam.
Here's the contents of the e-mails I've been getting with the subject line "WAKE-UP CALL: Department of Homeland Security Orders 1.6 Billion BULLETS."
What Are the American People NOT Being Told?
Department of Homeland Security Orders 1.6 Billion Bullets and Armored Carriers!
This Horrifying Video Is One Everyone Should See! Watch Here.
FEMA Storing 400,000+ PLASTIC COFFINS Near Atlanta?
This is a MAJOR Wake-Up Call.
Under normal circumstances, I might think this was something from a crazy relative who'd been watching too many crazy YouTube videos and reading InfoWars a little too closely. But when I scrolled down the page, I found this:
500 record. Marc Gasol, who missed the previous two games with an abdominal tear, finished with 13 points. Horford had just six points in the first half but still reached double digits for the 31st consecutive game, the second-longest streak of his career. Cleveland seemingly had control of the game in the fourth quarter, but lost a battle of teams that have been decimated by injuries. I saw a lot of heart from our team, especially this time of the year when you have no shot at the playoffs, Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said.
It went on longer, but I'll spare you the rest. When I did a little searching, I determined that the above comes from several Associated Press stories.
When you see this kind of thing in an e-mail -- sometimes it will be a bunch of random words just stuck together with no coherent meaning -- it means the spammer is trying to use a bunch of words that will fool spam filters into believing the e-mails are legit. In my case, it fooled Gmail, one of the more reliable spam filters on the Web, so it worked.
At the very bottom is a message that allows you to "unsubscribe" from the mailing list. After I did a more detailed look over the source code of the e-mail, it was clear to see that this was indeed a scam. In every message, a different domain name was used in the links to the Web sites the e-mail supposedly promoted.
I carefully clicked on a few of the links to see what they were. DO NOT DO THIS. I used an IP proxy and some other mechanisms for protecting my computer, but you shouldn't attempt it. It led me to a version of a survivalist Web site called FamilySurvivalCourse.com, or at least it looked like that Web site. This one asked me to wait five seconds for the video to load. I waited about 30 before I realized I was probably pressing my luck. FamilySurvivalCourse.com is a legit Web site (it's not a spam site anyway) with an apocalyptic video about the end of the world and how we should buy this training program. Whatever.
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Turns out that entire Web site was faked by these spammers, probably as a means of either dropping malware or spyware onto your computer or by trying to get you to buy the product and stealing your credit card information.
I would think, given the average level of paranoia of most people who subscribe to these types of conspiracy theories, they would be dubious about pointing their browser in the direction of a Web site from a link in an e-mail, but it only takes a couple for the scam to work.
Bottom line: Don't be fooled by ANYTHING you see in an e-mail. Don't click on links unless you know for sure where the e-mail came from and where the link is taking you.