Spam Fax (or Facts)

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E-mails from widows or children or accountants of wealthy or corrupt leaders or bankers in Nigeria or elsewhere in the Third World are such a daily fixture of Internet life that I don't always remember that this particular scam has been around since it actually cost these scumbags a first-class stamp to get in touch. (Snopes suggests the earliest incarnation dates from the 1920s!)

But I'm a little bit curious about the version that showed up on the office fax during the night. Not about the details of the come-on. (Please! Only $24 million?) I simply wonder whether this signals anything beyond the extent to which our fax number has been distributed through the planet's criminal class.

The fax has long been a target of spammers, even though it has apparently been illegal in the U.S. since the mid-1990s "to send an unsolicited advertisement to a telephone facsimile machine (47 US Code 227)." A quick perusal through our recycling bin came up with a page of "super hot stock tips" that also arrived overnight. This kind of quasi-semi-legitimate-sounding business stuff is what usually chatters its way out of the machine.

A colleague contends that "all spammers are stupid." This would support my thesis that the "real" spam money these days comes from selling "spam kits" (including lists of addresses) to the kind of people who are likely to respond to any offer that's too good to be true. Like those envelope-stuffing ads in the back of the Weekly.

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