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November 17, 2008

Weaving Tangled Webs

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
     -- Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17

It starts with a spam message that appeals to a potentially desperate audience of people hounded by personal debt:

Debt elimination spam message

At first glance, it looks to have some blessing from Microsoft, despite the intentional misspellings to get the message past some content filters. All of the links—including those at the bottom that look like they'd point to Microsoft—take you to a domain registered a few years ago to an address in Saudi Arabia. The domain, by the way, is flagged from here to Timbuktu as being a baaad place by multiple malware-detection services (e.g., Finjan).

But the links in this email message (they're all to the same URL) are to a page within that site, a page that redirects attempted visitors to a different domain that was registered a couple of days ago to someone claiming a Moscow, Russia address. The page hosted there shows no company name or other identity, but serves as a lead-generation page for (possibly) debt "elimination" services. A form on the page asks for minimal personal information, and no account numbers or passwords. It does say, however, that by submitting the form, you grant permission to be contacted, including by telephone.

Anyone filling out that form would be dealing with yet another deceiver weaving a tangled web. This page includes three logos at the bottom boasting protection by VeriSign, review by Trust*e, and compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Absolute lies on all three counts!

These are tough financial times for lots of families. That spammers and scammers target the most vulnerable is, to all but crooks, unconscionable. Be careful of any lifeline thrown your way via spam: The other end of the line is most likely tied to an anvil.

Posted on November 17, 2008 at 09:41 AM