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A Dispatch

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December 27, 2004

The Ugly Somewhereian

As an Anglovideophile (someone who enjoys British television programming), I'm usually amused at portrayals of American characters in my favorite shows. Such characters are usually loud, brash, back-slapping, and very me-oriented. At times I cringe at what seem to be unflattering caricatures—until I realize that I know people just like the boors on screen. It's not uncommon, then, for American spammers to assume that the rest of the world does things the way we do them in America.

But I just saw a turnabout on this theme with the following spam message subject:

Via/Cia/Vico unbeatable boxing day price!

The bit at the beginning is shorthand for three popular prescription drugs (two hardeners and a softener). But look at that reference to Boxing Day! How cool is that!

I'd wager that 80% or more of Americans haven't a clue what Boxing Day is (despite it being a public holiday right next door in Canada). The percentage may be higher among those who buy drugs (real or otherwise) without a prescription.

That led me to wonder about the author of this spam message. The Web site at the end of the spamvertised link is hosted in China, but that's fairly common among illegal medz spammers from around the world. The message entered the Internet through a Trojaned machine connected to an American (Michigan) DSL network. Again, another deadend trail.

The domain name, minted only a couple of weeks ago, shows a registration to someone who gave an address in Norway. Domain name registrations are so easy to forge today that I don't put immediate faith in any registration record I see.

Grammar and spelling of the message indicate a good grasp of the English language. Shipping is purportedly by United Parcel Service, a favorite in the U.S., but a worldwide organization nevertheless.

The Boxing Day reference is a real puzzle. Would it make good marketing sense for an American spammer to use that term in the Subject: line if a large percentage of the intended audience wouldn't know what it is? Or is it a case of a spammer from outside the U.S. practicing reverse Ugly Americanism, unaware that not everyone in the world knows a term taken for granted in one's own culture?

The cynic in me says it's an American spammer who is trying to throw off possible puruit by authorities, making it sound as though the operation is outside the U.S. A prosecutor would place an order and trace both the shipping and credit card processing data to find out for sure. If only!

Posted on December 27, 2004 at 01:30 PM