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A Dispatch

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March 02, 2006

Mortgage/Diploma Spam

For the past few weeks I've had this creepy feeling that the increase in diploma spam and the style of some of the messages reminded me a lot of mortgage spam. Call it a seventh sense (the sixth sense, apparently, is reserved for those who see the dead).

I wasn't paying close attention to the spamvertiser URLs of the messages as I sped copies to the Federal Trade Commission's "refrigerator" (spam@uce.gov). But in short order today, I received both a diploma spam message and a mortgage spam message that brought everything into focus.

The spamvertised domain (not revealed here to prevent anyone from hitting the site and jacking up the hit counter) was the same in both messages. The only difference was the subdirectory to which each message led. The diploma spam went to the "mba" directory, while the mortgage one went to the "was" directory.

Naturally I checked on the domain name registration. I found exactly what I expected: Network Solutions (registrar) displays a record created Monday with completely bogus data:

  • A street address in Denver that doesn't exist.
  • A ZIP code for Denver in the 29000 range (Denver is in the 80200 range).
  • A contact email address that is rejected by the mail server for that address.

The domain record was created on Monday and modified on Tuesday (it's now Thursday), so it's possible that the registrant used a valid email address during registration, and then changed it to a phony one after the registration was completed. I'll file a dispute out of a sense of duty, but by the time anything happens (don't get me started), the spammer will be using a new and different domain.

Most of the diploma spam I've seen over the last several months ask idiot responders to call a U.S. phone number (the number is to an outfit that acts like an answering/forwarding service, as noted by Brian McWilliams). But what about this confluence of mortgage lead and diploma lead spamming? That a diploma mill would find it necessary to hide behind a lead generator (as many legitimate mortgage brokers do with their "don't ask, don't tell" policy about how leads were acquired) seems kind of bizarre to me.

I can only hope that the software that crawls through messages forwarded to the FTC refrigerator can pick up on the connection. The messages not only don't come close to meeting the requirements of the CAN-SPAM law, they're virtually demonstration examples of how to thumb one's spamming nose at the law. Perhaps the FTC can assist in making this spam operation perceptible by the sixth sense.

Posted on March 02, 2006 at 09:34 AM