…Cyber Crime (or the noble art of Bullshit Detection)

You have 350 unread emails. 

Bog off! 

I hate going through my emails. 

Junk…  junk…  junk…  advertisement…  junk advertisement… 

But in the spirit of this blog, I am Getting Better. 

And so, after twenty years as a GP I have decided I need a lucrative side-hustle to drag myself into the 21st Century and so am setting myself up as an evil international cyber-criminal. 

To lure in unsuspecting fools, I need to beat the system that sieves out emails as junk and spam – let’s call it a “jam” filter (thank god I went for “junk and spam”, not “spam and junk” before inventing that abbreviation.  My mother reads this.  Hopefully she won’t get that last joke.  If you did then, Mother, you’re a disgrace!).  

So as part of my business plan for Dragons’ Den I have worked out my top five potential traps and pitfalls to avoid being sorted as “jam”, and I am sharing them with you now in case you want to offer me all of the money for 5% of the business. 

  1. Punctuation 

This is the first giveaway for the cyber-criminal.  As a tip, when I get e-mails claiming to be from Microsoft warning me my email is being shut down, I suspect the real Bill Gates won’t add nine exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!   

Similarly if you are offered a tax rebate from HMRC (here’s another tip – you won’t) they are unlikely to share your joy with a title “Tax Refund” followed by six smiley faces. 

        2.   Usernames 

If I get a work email from Darren the pharmacist, I will read it.  Clues that the sender is up to no good may include adjectives describing their physical appearance or availability, any reference to vital statistics or unusual random numbers.  So when Darren collars me in my consulting room to query my prescribing I will do as he says.  If I get an email from @hot_pharmacist_196565 then, my dear hot underscore pharmacist:  I believe you to be a bot and shall not be following your pharmaceutical advice. 

        3.   Country 

Now this is a tricky one.  I am very middle class so don’t under any circumstances want to appear racist.  So, just because an e-mail comes from Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, west Africa, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a windfall of $950,000 US dollars that he wishes to share with me.  My geopolitics doesn’t stretch far enough to know if Malawi even has a crown prince, let alone one who may have been impressed by my work online and wish to reward it.  Nor do I believe there are as many overseas widows dying intestate whose solicitors have found me to be their closest surviving relative. 

I also find myself suspicious if the opening is in a choice of languages or they don’t seem to know what bit of my email address is my name.  I am seldom approached in a corridor by a nurse saying “Hello, Hola! Bojour, Greetings, richardbrown.  Could you just take a look at this form for me?” 

        4.   Greetings 

Oh, but the greetings!  Unusually, these deserve a unique “top five within a top five”.   

All real. 

All from my current junk e-mail folder. 

  1. “Greetings to you and your family.”  Friendly, but presumptuous from a stranger. 
  1. “Hello dear friend.”  Rather like this one.  May start using it myself.   As a variation on the theme I have one which opens “Hello, This is your Carol.”  I do not have a Carol. 
  1. “Dear Valid User.”  Formal.  Not so sure I like their tone here.  Sounds a bit “Hey, You!” 
  1. “Hello Dear Friend, I am still waiting towards your respond…” Wait away, sunshine.  If your last email was rubbish, odds are this isn’t going to be a lot better.   

But my very favourite, and with apologies to my old English teacher Mr Watson who  recommended a simple “Dear Sir”, my new opening in all written correspondence is  henceforth: 

        5.   “Greetings, With due respect to your personality and much sincerity of this purpose…”   Sir, I was so impressed by this I nearly opened your e-mail.  But regrettably, I am not a  moron. 

        5.   Content. 

Has the 21st century made us all cynical?  I just smell a rat with some of these.  As an NHS GP my  emails roll like this. 

Real life:  can you do this for me, now and for free? 

Scam:  would you like a share in $950,000 US? 

I have three simple rules for these.   

  • In real life if an email seems too good to be true, it probably is 
  • If something seems even vaguely positive, there’s probably a catch 
  • If something seems unbelievably mind-shudderingly rubbish then it’s probably (a) worse than that and (b) you’re probably going to have to do it outside, in winter, in your pants, in your own time and pay for the privilege. 

So there you have it.  The beginners’ guide to becoming a cyber-criminal.  For those of us who thought a spam filter was that grille thing that goes across the plughole when you’re washing up after a fry up, you are now an expert in the field. 

So, join me.  I shall be starting my network of evil and mayhem just as soon as I’ve replied to the nice lady who is the childless widow of a Liberian Bank Chairman and wants to rest her windfall in my account. 

4 thoughts on “…Cyber Crime (or the noble art of Bullshit Detection)

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