COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE HAWKINS

A true old adage is sometimes forgotten

Recently, I decided to shut down an email address, one that was associated with a former place of employment.

Although I have been retired for the past three years, I kept the account thinking it was useful. For various reasons the need has since withered and died.

It was a difficult decision. So many messages were coming in promising money or some other reward, I was reluctant to let the account go. I was certain that if I were to take advantage of some of the offers I would become unbelievably wealthy. After a while it became too hard to pick a proposal to pursue, so I gave up.

Since that time I learned that all those messages to which I paid close attention were spam. Couldn’t be, I muttered, since so much of it comes to my email box regularly. The offers must be real or the scammers would eventually give up.

I guess it just doesn’t cost much to capture an email account and fire off promises of great wealth and success.

I jest, of course.

These things must work. They just keep coming. That is what is puzzling. How can they be successful?

Over a period of the two days before I expunged that email address, I received 86 messages addressed to me. Of those, 41 were special offers of one kind or another. I thought we had a pretty good junk mail protection program for our computers at my former place of business, so I can’t begin to imagine what numbers others receive.

Shannon, Rebeckah, (my spell checker says this is an incorrect spelling of the name, but surely Rebeckah knows how her name is spelled) Jonathon, Frank and Suzanna all, separately, expressed their gratitude to me for saving them $1,000. The message said “I can’t believe you saved me a thousand dollars.”

I couldn’t believe it, either. I know a Suzanna, so I asked her what it is I did. She didn’t know.

There were seven messages telling me of bank account problems. None of the banks were ones with which I did business.

There was a string of messages, each one immediately after the other, letting me know I had an on-line payment fail to go through. Each message identified a different amount. For some reason I must have used that account to pay six invoices that included a payment that ended in exactly 48 cents. Interesting coincidence.

There were three messages from a rating service, all from different addresses, noting a complaint with the same case number. I did not respond. I hope that didn’t wreck my credit.

Dr. Goodluck tried me twice during those two days, about half an hour apart. That was a tough one to resist. Dr. Goodluck just sounded so … right.

Nine messages were from apparent friends, because that’s how they addressed me: Dear friend. Each was concerned that I had a problem with a specific bank. The same bank. I don’t know any of the people who sent the messages and I didn’t do business with that bank, either.

There were half a dozen messages explaining to me that an uncle or father or someone had been deposed or in some way found himself (it was always a male sounding name) in trouble in some country and wanted my help in spiriting away a great deal of money.

Just from the six, in this group of 41, I could have looked forward to such a life of wealthy ease it was almost too much to turn down. It required lots of will power to hit the delete key on those offers.

I could go on, of course. Everyone who has an email account has seen this stuff.

I’m writing about this for one of two reasons.

There are so many of them and they come in such varied but similar forms it is hard for me to believe they work. Surely, anyone who has an email address recognizes these are charades.

Either that or they really don’t work and, like me at the moment, spammers have way too much time on their hands.

Sadly, a recent story about a La Mesa woman who lost more than a $125,000 to a scam artist, shows they do work.

The old adage “if it seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true,” is often forgotten.

Hawkins is retired after 35 years as a construction industry association manager. He was a broadcast reporter and news anchor in Denver. As a Navy officer, he saw action in Vietnam in the River Assault Squadrons and is the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart. He can be reached at george.hawkins@sddt.com

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