Now that people have become wise to Nigerian money scam e-mails and “click here” buttons that infect computers with the latest virus, deceptive online practices are getting sneakier.
One sucked me in the other day, promising I could win $1,000 if I submitted a cute photo of my pet. Since I obsess over my dog Sawyer to the point of probably needing psychological help, I chomped on that offer with a few clicks of the mouse, a submission form, and uploading one of the 5,428 endearing photos I have of the pooch.
One thousand dollars could buy a heck of a lot of dog treats.
The junk e-mail began immediately. I was first encouraged to tell all my friends, family members and people I might have passed on the street 12 years ago to vote for my dog’s endearing photo. After all, I was told, the only way I could win that $1,000 was to amass the most votes from fellow Internet suckers.
Anyone who wanted to vote, of course, had to fill out their own submission form that disclosed their name, e-mail, phone number, blood type, shoe size and date of birth. They would then be immediately slammed with their own set of junk e-mail.
I ignored the pass-it-on request, deleted the e-mail and kicked myself for being one of those suckers that are born every minute. With the Internet speeding things up, we are probably up to a sucker born every 0.01742 milliseconds. “Click here to win $1 million.” “Free airline tickets.” “Legitimate work at home jobs.” Anything with the headline “legitimate” has surely got to be a fraud.
In any event, the e-mail onslaught was not over. The next morning saw three more e-mails from the pet photo contest people by 7 a.m. The first told me I had to spread the word to get votes. The second chided me for not having any votes. And the third, well, the third said my dog “insert name here” was adorable enough for the judges to personally select “insert name here” for entry into a contest with a grand prize of $10,000.
If $1,000 could buy a lot of dog treats, $10,000 could buy a whole dog treat factory.
Ensuring I’d keep my sucker status, I checked out the link that took me to the $10,000 entry form. “Insert name here” surely was a winner, especially since the contest people plastered his photo front and center as if he were already on the winner poster. All I needed to do at this stage was give them more vital information that included links to dental records, bank account routing numbers and my mother’s maiden name. Oh, yes. I also had to send them a $20 contest entry fee.
Delete. Delete. Delete.
Three more e-mails stocked my inbox by mid-afternoon. The first again chided me for not having any votes. The second screamed that time is short to enter the $10,000 contest or the judges would rescind my entry of “enter name here.” The third, well, the third said my dog was adorable enough to be selected into the “Cutest Pets in America” book and I need to buy my copy now.
I had to check out the link. It included yet another form asking for yet more information and a big fat warning. My pet would only be included if I acted now! And only if I sent the $50 to buy the book. While the hardbound, leather-like cover was quite attractive, and I always knew Sawyer deserved to be immortalized among 150 other random animals that had suckers for owners, I decided to decline.
I also decided to finally follow the one link of the whole fiasco that made perfect sense: “Click here to unsubscribe to these e-mails.”
Ryn Gargulinski, aka Rynski, is a writer, artist, performer and poet. Her column runs in the “Tucson Weekly” print edition monthly and weekly on Friday on “The Range.” See more writing and art from RYNdustries at ryngargulinski.com and rynski.etsy.com.