How NOT to spam

posted by Kelsey 26 March 2011

    Just like everyone else, we get a lot of spam.

    Most of it comes through our email address, but Gmail tends to weed out almost all of it. We get a little through our contact forms, typically overseas companies spruiking SEO services.

    I always enjoy the delicious irony of being sent unsolicited mail telling me I need SEO services. Clearly the spammer managed to find me, surely that should mean regular people can too, right?

    Lately I've been getting a different type of spam. SEO must be on the way out, because at least a half-dozen emails a day are pushing design services and PSD to HTML conversion.

    Normally, I just mark them as junk and move on, but yesterday's influx gave me hours of amusement thanks to the spammers at CSS Chopper.

    While spammers have traditionally paid little attention to the niceties of spelling and grammar, they've improved somewhat over the last few years, particularly as they're trying to attract business customers these days.

    Not CSS Chopper. Their email was rife with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and was generally incomprehensible. But what really got me was that they'd managed to spell "Joomla" wrongly and had attempted to align their list of services by hitting the space bar repeatedly, a technique which never works and leads to extremely mis-aligned text.

    So I did something out of character for me in these situations. I replied, letting them know that I would never use the services of a company that spammed me - let alone a business that can't manage to demonstrate mastery of even the basics of the services they're pitching.

    Their response wasn't surprising. A reply from a 'technical sales manager' apologising for the mistakes by 'the new guy' and still soliciting me for work. Even after replying in the negative I received another response from a different sales manager apologising for the previous two staff members.

    I left it at that - but they didn't.

    This morning I had the following email in my inbox:

    I was looking to request a quote for a website I was looking to build but I found your QUOTE form quit longer and no interesting at all which make me feel good or feel me as a short form. And the Submit Buttons on that page is aligned correctly, Its matter of simple alignment.

    Before requesting and explaining the project requirement. I would like to know why would I trust you for my project... if you are not taking care of usability and small alignment issue on your own business website?

    Regards,

    Vincent Mazza

    It seemed an odd coincidence that this sort of criticism would land in my inbox so shortly after I'd levelled a similar accusation against CSS Chopper. So I did a little digging.

    It turns out Vincent Mazza is a legit designer with an excellent grasp of the English language - clearly it's not the same person as the sender of this email.

    The sender's replay name was a 'Vikash Singh', not 'Vincent Mazza', and after searching for both the name, email address and 'css chopper', I discovered a fake blog (which I won't link to, but it's easy to find). Each post was made on the same day. Several were written by Vikash Singh and several mentioned CSS Chopper.

    A Whois of the CSS Chopper site, revealed that the registrant was an entity called 'Sparx'. Further searches on Vikash's email address revealed that he worked for Sparx Technologies. A little more digging and it seems that Sparx and CSS Chopper are one and the same.

    All of this took about five minutes of sluething, so I replied to 'Vincent' and let him know his little ruse had been discovered:

    He immediately switched to signing his emails as 'Vikash Sharma' and tried to claim that he was just trying to help me, trying to convince me that our quote form was a bad idea and that prospective customers wouldn't be able to contact us.

    Part of my reply:

    That's unmitigated bullshit and you know it. You work for Sparx / CSS Chopper and you tried to pass yourself off as a prospective customer. Now you're back-peddling and pretending to do me a favour.

    You and all the other spammers certainly have no trouble getting in touch with us, so clearly we make it easy enough for lazy 'businesspeople' like yourselves.

    Finally, he agreed to not contact me again. 

    But not before spruiking CSS Chopper one more time, still claiming we could be good partners.

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    About the author

    Kelsey

    Kelsey

    Kelsey Brookes is a professional designer, online strategist and writer.

    From the late 90s Kelsey managed the multimedia and film courses at the prestigious Computer Graphics College, Sydney and eventually founded the Melbourne chapter of the college.

    At the same time, Kelsey was a feature writer for Digital Media World magazine, interviewing subjects from the Australian and overseas film and production industries.

    Since 1999 Kelsey has managed thinksync, providing design, online strategy and marketing services to clients around Australia.

    E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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