A nasty new form of email spam

A little while ago I had a slightly strange email via the feedback form on my blog.  Here it is:

From: June Olsen <june.olsen@cilkr.com>
Date: 5 June 2012 19:20
Subject: Religious Considerations in Higher Education

Hello,

I found the information on your blog post insightful as I was researching and writing a series of articles higher education. As a contributor to several of the articles on the website, I believe that the resource covers many progressive topics in higher education and faith including the availability of classes that adequately cover religious topics, the class between universities and religious acceptance, and balancing a student life and religious life.

I’d like to write a guest article on your blog about a topic relating to one of the topics that I’m conducted research in. Would you be interested in working with me on an article?

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best,

June

I was slightly baffled by this, and wrote back an enquiry as to what it related to.  I heard no more.

Today I received this almost identical email via the form on my blog:

From: Sofia Rasmussen <sofiarasmussen3@gmail.com>
Date: 9 June 2012 18:54
Subject: Practical Applications of Philosophical Debates

Hi,

I found the information on your blog post insightful as I was scouring the web for research on a higher education (specifically PhD-related) website that I write for. As a contributor to several of the articles on the site, I’m very interested in connecting the findings of rigorous academic research and higher-level philosophies to practical issues we face today.

I’d like to write a guest article on your blog about the topic I suggested above. Would you be interested in working with me on an article idea?

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best,

Sofia

This makes clear that the first item was spam.  It’s too similar.  I’ve put in italics the bits that are dropped into what is clearly a standard framework.

Now I see that Google mail is flagging this second item as a possible phishing email. 

A google search reveals a third such item here, dated 4th June:

Hi ,

I found the information on your blog insightful as I was scouring the web for research on graduate-school related topics. Through my research, I noticed that the blogosphere (and organizations such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics) has been talking alot about dentistry’s bright future and high rate of growth.

I’d love to write a post for you that perhaps blends this topic with something deeper you are interested in for your blog. How dentistry programs compare to others, innovations and research in dentistry, etc. What do you think? Thanks, and I really look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

(name removed)

Slightly different again … but still spam.  Another example, 4th June, is here.

Be warned. 

21 thoughts on “A nasty new form of email spam

  1. I’ve been getting three or four of these a day for a couple weeks now … it’s really annoying and half the time the text doesn’t quite match up to the subject of my blog …

  2. I’ve had a couple of these too. Not obvious that they were spam and, as I run a website on religious literacy in Higher Education, it seemed quite plausible! Thank you for posting this, it confirmed my suspicions without me having to reply to the spammers!

  3. I certainly didn’t recognise the first one as spam. I presume my email address has been sold to the highest bidder. Are they phishing emails, do you suppose?

  4. … and I just got two more variants! One on writing about politics and one about dentistry’s future … starting to notice names (June Olsen, Patricia Watson)

  5. Do you ever wonder why you bother posting something like this? Well, it is for good reason. I too got that email, thought to Google the e-address before responding and found this posting. Well done and thank you!

  6. Ha, thanks for this. I got a few on my work blog, and also responded to the first one and recognized a pattern in the next ones. They all seem to be targeting somewhat academic blogs, as far as I can tell.

  7. Yup, I have been getting these spam messages as well.
    They all have a different lead-in such as ontology, biology/religion, PhD life etc. Most have some fairly obvious grammatical error making me think that they are being auto-generated. Actually, they may be using a Hidden Markov model to generate the topics that match your blog entry….many of these algorithms are published so they can reuse the code. Would be cool to see if their blogs are also auto generated.

    I am very interested to see what their game is with these. I think that the previous version to this form of spam is to create link exchange with for-profit university listings so it may be that these guest blog posts act like blogs and then try to get users to click on one or more of these for profit universities or sites where ads for these are all over the place. Hummm

    The one I got today is pasted below:

    Jennifer Jenkins said: Hi,

    I found the information on your blog insightful as I was scouring the web on learning theory, epistemology, and innovative methods of teaching. Through my research and from perusing news periodicals on a daily basis, I’ve found that the traditional notion of knowledge attainment is being challenged across many plains, and I’d like to further explore this idea.

    I’d love to write a post for you that perhaps blends this topic with something deeper you are interested in for your blog. What do you think? Thanks, and I really look forward to hearing from you.

  8. Hey,

    Just received the same thing myself. The writing felt ‘off’ so I googled some keywords and landed here, confirming my suspicions. Just thought I’d chime in, copy-paste my own version of the spam, and help, perhaps, this post get a higher Google ranking so other people can quickly find out they are wasting their time…

    Hi ,

    I found the information on your blog http://www.rotman.uwo.ca/2012/piraha-and-progress-nic-mcginnis/ insightful as I was scouring the web on learning theory, epistemology, and innovative methods of teaching. Through my research and from perusing news periodicals on a daily basis, I’ve found that the traditional notion of knowledge attainment is being challenged across many plains, and I’d like to further explore this idea.

    I’d love to write a post for you that perhaps blends this topic with something deeper you are interested in for your blog. What do you think? Thanks, and I really look forward to hearing from you.

    Best,

    Jennifer

  9. Jennifer Jenkins keeps writing to me about my blog. Too bad it’s not mine. But she follows up a few days later each time. So friendly! I’m interested to see if anyone figures out the goal.

  10. A new one, sent via this blog:

    Subject: Criminal Justice and Society
    Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2012 15:03:19 +0000
    From: Sarah Macinilo

    Hello,

    I came across your blog a few weeks ago as while conducting research for a website that I contribute to. The website aims to look at how practitioners in public administration are solving today’s problems. The idea was originally to create an objective collection of resources for people interested in social justice, but it has since grown into something much wider (the resources come together at http://www.publicadministration.net). Basically, the mission of the website is to provide engaging content about government, NGOs, and citizens collaborate in today’s society for the greater good.

    The entirety of the web resource has been referred to by well-known websites such as Stanford, Global Higher Ed, and other reputable sources.

    I think a guest blog post that acutely attempts to dig into some of today’s more pressing issues in social justice and community planning could be of some value to your readers. If you’re interested, I would love to write something for you and perhaps start a friendly dialogue. What do you think?

    Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

    All my best,

    Sarah Macinilo

  11. received too and really disappointed about it, as these proposals come only from people that one knows and works with in real life.

    that was too good to be true: who is really passionate about academic research on mathematics? it has to be fake.

    on question: what’s the point about sending these emails? where is the “spam” part of the process? is this some marketing research in support of some project to be deployed?

    m

  12. I don’t think that they really come from colleagues. They’re spam, that’s for sure.

    I’m wondering what the payload is too. It must be address harvesting … getting the unwary to reply.

  13. Here’s a new version of the scam (I’ve deleted a “:” from the URL posted, so as not to give the scum a link, if that’s their game):

    Subject: (From Roger Pearse’s blog) Positive Factors in Childhood Development
    Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2012 10:40:16 +0000
    From: Sarah Thompson

    Hello,

    I came across your blog a few weeks ago as while conducting research for a website that I contribute to. The website aims to look at the progressive areas of early childhood psychology. The idea was originally to create an objective collection of resources for people interested in psychology but it has since grown into something much wider (the resources come together at http//www.forensicpsychology.net). Today, the project looks at important factors in childhood development that pay dividends in the future.

    I think a guest blog post that illuminates the the advancement of our understanding of childhood development would be interesting for your audience. If you’re interested, I would love to write something for you and perhaps start a friendly dialogue. What do you think?

    Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

    All my best,

    Sarah Thompson

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