Sounds a Little Phishy

An open letter to the phishers who hacked my Gmail account on Dec. 14, 2010 from Nigerian IP address

An open letter to the phishers who hacked my Gmail account on Dec. 14, 2010 from Nigerian IP address

I know it’s been a while, but I wanted to get back in touch. Valentine’s Day will be our two month anniversary. But don’t get any ideas.

I want to thank you. Now, you might think I’m being sarcastic. Yes, you hacked my Gmail account and sent a phishing message to all of my 2,593 contacts, saying I was stranded in London and begging them to wire money. You set up filters inside my e-mail so all my e-mail would get forwarded to you. You deleted all of my e-mail, all of my contacts, and all of my Gchats. But like any courteous guest, you cleaned up after yourselves and emptied Trash.

First, a word about subject lines. I understand you had to change it up to outsmart the Gmail sending limit, but let’s do a quick close reading. “PIS Help Chelsea Shover In Trouble” versus “Address: Shepiston Lane, Hayes, England, UK UB3 1LP” versus “Chelsea Shover In Trouble.” The last one is great. Clear and short. What does PIS mean? Is that supposed to be Please? And the address thing is just too complicated for a subject line.

Additionally, I have to applaud your form in the initial e-mail, but I do have one complaint: the e-mail address you made to pose as me. I’m disappointed. First of all, who uses anymore? I’m not in middle school. Secondly, the handle you chose—“cclshover?” Were you trying to make it look like I stutter? Here’s a clue. The C stands for Chelsea, the L is my middle initial (I don’t think we’re on a middle name basis yet), and Shover is my last name. Unless that first C was supposed to mean cute, or charming, or, heck, crafty—in which case you should have specified that in your sign-off—that was kind of insulting.

Maybe I’m being too hard on you. I don’t even know how many of you there are. The wide-ranging grammar suggests at least three. The grammar in one of the three versions—no doubt, again, rewritten with varying subject lines to bypass Gmail’s 500 recipients per message rule—was pretty good. That version actually fooled one or two people. But your follow-up? Not so great.

I developed an affinity for you as I watched you reply to e-mails as me. I was rooting for you as I watched my electronic doppelganger fumble basic spelling and capitalization. Take this message, a response to a friend who offered to check in again after a final exam: “please can you rush down to the Harvard Square now and make the transfer, i need to settle my hotel now they are putting much presure on me now.please Help In 3 hours time will be too late for me.”

The main giveaway is the dire tone of the final sentence. We’re talking about getting stranded in London, not being locked in a room gradually filling with sand. My friend had offered to go to “the Square” after the test, but you had to fly too close to the sun and throw in a “Harvard” for credibility. Finally, I think this “hotel” is a bit over the top. What kind of pressure?

When people responded, you replied quickly (realistic: plus) and insisted on cash from Western Union (pushy: minus). One friend just asked for a brief description of my relationship with him, to confirm you were not an imposter. This was a reasonable request, and you rolled with it for a few conversational volleys. However, your response, “Are you doubting me or what are talking about,So you don’t trust me.please am really in a serious mess.Am not in that mood of joke.If you really want to help me please do fast am getting late,” seemed unnecessarily hostile, I think.

On the subject of correspondence, I have a confession. The e-mail you got from “Uncle Greg”? The one who asked if you—I—were still stuck in London? The one who told you (me) to live it up in the U.K.? I was taking a turn at posing. I made a fake e-mail address. It looked like so much fun.

But alas, the grass was not greener on the other side. I hated pretending to be someone else online—though I know we all do it, constantly, as we bumble about our postmodern media-soaked lives, et cetera—but it was boring. My fictional relative was too much of a slacker to be very fun. I also regret that I did not choose a more allegorical name.

But back to your handiwork. I have to hand it to you; you put up a good fight. I kind of wanted to be pen pals, to compare notes on developing Chelsea Shover’s online presence.

Thanks for your Assistance,