Get Adobe Flash player

A totally unscientific look at what Americans really want

Where is the sex? Where are the African bureaucrats needing partners to cash out millions of a dictator’s blood money? Where are the wacky, the exotic and the incomprehensible scam e-mails that used to clog inboxes?

This is no scientific study, but based on a study of the junk mail received in our filter over several days, the wild and lurid has given way to desperate and boring in terms of online scams.

There is still plenty of junk mail clogging Internet servers, but it has morphed in the past year or so to reflect a nation more excited by COBRA health insurance than “meet [ing] hot singles in your area.”

In the earlier days of the Internet, sex/porn was the pitch in roughly 90 percent of all junk e-mail, with the other ten percent being offers to split millions in some type of ill-gotten gains. There were also a few fake dog giveaways where you still had to send money.

Now unscrupulous offers veer toward illegally restoring a credit rating or getting you a credit card despite your poor credit score. No one would write a movie script where the villain’s scheme was that boring.

For those not plumbing the depths of their junk mail filters, these finance schemes have become the standard fare of online hooligans. Offers involving personal finance in our junk mail filter over the past month outpaced offers for the exotic/erotic by more than 100 to 1 (especially if you took out the multiple offers for Viagra that came in isolated batches, offering discounts of between 56 and 89 percent).

Looking at the most recent 100 junk mails, more than 70 were offers for low priced modern essentials – insurance, credit scores, credit cards. Included were the following subject lines:  “less than perfect credit,” “get  VA loan now,” “cash when you need it.”

A few others related to coupons – “Oodles of free coupons”  and “save $75 a week.”

Another category also preyed upon people’s financial/job uncertainty, touting educational help such as “MBA questions,” “find business school programs,” “need help paying for college.”

One of the more frequent offers didn’t fall into any category and struck us as particularly odd. A large number of junk mails in the past month have offered language classes - “Master Languages like the CIA.” It’s hard to see how the senders of these e-mails believe there are hundreds sitting at home bemoaning their inability to decipher Italian just waiting for an online offer.

There probably aren’t many sociology experiments that draw conclusions based on what junk-mailers are sending out and maybe for a good reason.

But you can’t help but notice a change in the baits put out to American Internet users. Reflecting our national mood, the offers now are mundane daily concerns – health insurance, home loans, credit ratings.

If you were to use junk-mail frequency to define the national mood, it’s hard to be optimistic about the economy while realizing that scam artists are working angles focused on cheap insurance.

While little more than a modern annoyance, scam e-mail topics maybe can be read as something like signs of the times. In flush times, scammers probably wouldn’t hassle us much with offers of cheap insurance. You know things need improving when even junk-mail scams paint a grim economic picture.


Add comment

Security code