How to Have a Conversation with a Random Spammer

While I am a confirmed Skypernaut, I learned that Trusty Friends Nova and Stormy don’t always have access to Skype.  They use Google Talk during these times.  I discovered that GTalk is pretty much like Skype, except not as good.  Now, to be fair, it works beautifully for IMing. It’s fast, it integrates with Gmail nicely, and it doesn’t use as much memory. However, it lacks a number of Skype features I’ve come to depend on.  For instance, it does not flash on my bar like Skype does to let me know there’s an update in one of the numerous chats I’m in there.  GTalk beeps instead.  Anyone who knows me, or has read this blog long enough, knows that I am a Geeky Mom.

This means one of 3 things.

a. I’m playing Skillet, Lacuna Coil, Kamelot, or Handel’s Messiah (depending on time of year) at outrageously loud levels while singing at the top of my lungs, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep. I may not have the same voice quality as Simone Simons or the sopranos singing the arias in the Messiah, but I make up for it in vocal enthusiasm.
b. The kids are screaming about who has to pack the last dirty coffee cup in the dishwasher, and I have stuck my fingers in my ears and have reached the LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!!!! stage of the evening, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep.
c. I’m fragging baddies in Middle Earth, Vabbi, Firenza the Eta Eridani Sector block, or on Dantooine, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep.

Switching conversations in Skype is incredibly easy if you have the recent conversation tab open.  In GTalk, you have to click on the overlapping buttons on the bottom windows bar and hope you get the right one.  There’s no way I could have 9 (I’m not kidding) different conversations in GTalk like I do in Skype without that driving me crazy.  Still, I’m willing to deal with what works for others when necessary.

The other thing that Skype does much better than GTalk is handle privacy.  I can set Skype so that only people who I have exchanged contact details with can contact me.  This has saved me a lot of spam IMs from Chinese Nike shoe sellers, Russian prostitutes, and North Korean Viagra dealers.

Last night, courtesy of this blog, a spammer got through on GTalk. I answered because it was someone who had emailed me, and thus was in my contact list.  I had cheerfully ignored the email as probable spam, but GTalk decided since it was in the list of people who had emailed me, it must be OK.  It didn’t help that I wasn’t paying attention when I answered, since it was 2:30 am.  However, I am grateful for the line of thought this generated, because it gave me a perfect blog topic.

Anyway, here is the actual discussion we had. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and/or guilty.  Note that this was not one of the more brilliant things I’ve done on the internet, and you should avoid following this example.

2:30 AM jh: hi
  how r u?
 me: hello
2:31 AM jh: whr r u frm?
2:32 AM me: A Geeky town. You?
 jh: india
2:33 AM may i know about something?
2:34 AM me: It depends on the question. 🙂
 jh: ok
  wht is ur profession
2:35 AM are you busy?
2:36 AM me: Well, it’s the middle of the night by me. 🙂
 jh: ohh
2:37 AM me: I write and manage the family.
 jh: it’s your profession
 me: They keep me busy
  I take it you do tech?
 jh: ok
2:38 AM i can not understand what you want to tell exactly
2:39 AM me: you work with computers?
 jh: yes
  nad u
  sorry and u
 me: I play with computers. 😀
 jh: ok
  what is ur age
2:40 AM me: Mary Kay had a wonderful saying when someone asked her age. She said “A woman who will tell her age will tell anything.”
2:41 AM jh: ha ha
2:42 AM tell me you are man or woman
2:43 AM are you there?
2:44 AM me: My husband is calling me to bed–must go. Have a good night!
2:45 AM jh: okey
  sleep tightly
  good night

Now, let’s examine this in Geeky Mom detail.  Let’s say a random stranger meets you on the street or calls you up on the phone, and asks you where you live.  Do you look at him and say, “I live at 90033 South Moron Row, Stupidsville, 90210”?  No! Why?

Because that would be freaking IDIOTIC.

Who in their right mind is going to give a complete stranger their personal information? Apparently, lots of people on the internet, because I see this kind of stuff posted all the time on MySpace, Facebook, IMs, and forums.  For some reason, some people assume that everyone else on the internet is as nice and honest as they are.

Here’s a newsflash, folks.  People tell lies on the internet.  Lots of them.  There are sick people out there who take great joy in sitting at their computer figuring out how to separate you from your hard-earned money, and sometimes even from your home or family.  They like to gather that information in one setting if they can, but sometimes these Bad Guys will do this over multiple conversations, gleaning little tidbits of information here and there, until it adds up to one nice, big package of information.  If you’re lucky, they’ll only sell your email address and info to spammers.  If you’re not so lucky, they’ll come visit your home and rob you blind.  If you’re really unlucky, they’ll find you and you’ll disappear, with nothing left but a bad picture on a school milk carton and a mention on the America’s Most Wanted ‘Missing Children’ tab.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #1: Don’t tell people you’ve never met ANY private information like your address, your phone, or the status of your tattoos.

If you wouldn’t yell “I’ve got a a dove-and-heart tat on my left butt cheek!!!!” in the middle of a crowded New York subway during rush hour, don’t put it on the internet. Frankly, most of it’s TMI quality, anyway, and there really are some things we just don’t want to know about you.

By the way, Mr. jh really is from India, believe it or not, and with any luck thinks that “A Geeky Town” is the actual name of my home city.  I can just see him looking it up on Google maps now.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #2: Don’t use your real name on the internet.

Why do I use a screen name? I don’t want people looking me up in the phone book and figuring out where I, and hence my kids, live.  I’m rather protective that way.  I also don’t want my boss reading my status messages, and I don’t want potential future employers or complete strangers finding out about me via Facebook and other social sites, so I don’t share my screen name with my co-workers or my employers.  Besides, I don’t want to hear about how much my co-workers drank at some bar and then puked back up last Saturday night, either, so that works just fine.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #3: Don’t tell strangers what you do.
Unless it’s a work-related site or public knowledge already, strangers don’t need to know that you’re a professional daisy-picker.  It’ll also save you from a bunch of questions on daisy-picking techniques.

Since Mr. jh got info from this site, it was very easy for me to say ‘writer and family manager’ during our little chat, since as a Geeky blogging Mom, I’m obviously both by default. Of course, in the ‘painfully obvious’ vein, he answered that he ‘works’ with computers. Wow, there’s a surprise.  When he asked my job, I thought briefly about answering “professional Russian hooker”, but Trusty Friend Mishy had already said “5 bucks says he’s going to hit on you!” I didn’t want to lose the bet quite that fast.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #4: The only people who need to know your real age are your family and your doctor.
I’m permanently 29, thank you.  This is an excellent age to be, by the way.  You’re still young enough to have  great health, barring unusual circumstances, but old enough not to be insanely stupid like you are when you’re going on 21.

This reminds me of a story. Yes, I know this is completely off on a tangent, but it’s the most epic “I’m not telling my age” story, ever.  It needs to be told.

I had to ask a lady how old she was–in a professional capacity, of course.  She hadn’t put down her age or her birthdate on the form she had filled out.  She was one of those women who colored her hair and had that non-descript kind of look that said “I’m anywhere from late 40’s to early 60’s”.  I had absolutely no guess on her age.  Anyway, the conversation then went like this:

Me: “May I ask how old you are?”
Lady: “I’m 19.”

At this point, I was thinking “Oh, she jokes around about her age like I do. That’s awesome!”  I was about to laugh, when she said in a completely serious tone and with an entirely straight face:

“I’ve been resurrected.”

At that moment, I understood why she was taking a page-long list of anti-psychotic medications.  Apparently, it was OK for her to list those on her sheet but not her age, but then we’re talking about someone who, God bless her, connects regularly to the Mother Ship.  I ran my hand over my hair briefly to make sure I didn’t have a tin foil hat on and just hearing things myself from the Mother Ship.  I paused, thought hard about what to say next, and wondered how I was going to find out her true age.

This was one of those moments where the insane part of the brain kicked in and hijacked my mouth before the sensible part of the brain could say, “Wait, what? NO NO NO NO NO Don’t say that!!!”

Me, entirely seriously: “What year were you born in your former life?”
Lady, entirely seriously: “1953.”

I couldn’t believe I asked her that.  I couldn’t believe she answered with her real birth year instead of whacking me over the head.  I couldn’t believe the rest of our time together was spent as if absolutely nothing bizarre had just happened during that exchange.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #5: The only people who need to know your gender are people who actually see you, like your family and your doctor.
If someone on the internet says “tell me you are man or woman”, proudly tell them, “I’m a hermaphrodite, just like Jabba the Hutt!!” I’m not sure what part of “Geeky Mom” made “jh” think I might even be remotely male, but perhaps he was just trying to be polite and make small talk.

I was laughing at this point in the ‘conversation’, and sharing the potential hermaphrodite answer with fellow Skypernaut and Supremely Awesome Trusty Friend Sabretooth, when he cheerfully pointed out to me that “jh” was a confirmed spammer on the Stop Forum Spam site, according to this search. He also cheerfully and wisely pointed out that jh now had my email.  I said goodnight to jh, blocked him, and took the email address off my contacts list so that GTalk doesn’t still think he’s one of my best buddies in life.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #6: If you are stupid enough to continue talking with a complete stranger on the net, especially one from another country, and he professes “True Love!” after only 2 weeks and wants to get hitched, he just wants a marriage visa to your country.

This actually happened to my sister-in-law, but her idea of being ‘net-savvy’ is knowing how to use a net to scoop fish out of the pond.  She called us from Pakistan on her honeymoon after marrying the guy in London, 6 weeks after “meeting” him in a chat-room.  Why London? He couldn’t get a visa into the US to get married here.  She bubbled over in glee about marriage to Mr. True Love, and that she was staying on some family farm with a bunch of chickens running around, despite the fact that he was supposedly a banker at some unknown bank. I got off the phone with her and promptly called Homeland Security to report Mr. True Love. I thought about calling the Marines to go in and rescue her, too, but she got back to the US safely a week later, so we happily avoided an international incident.  I suspect Mr. True Love was watched rather closely for quite some time since he wasn’t able to get into the US for several years after that.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #7: If you come in contact with a spammer, run your antivirus and malware scanners.

I’m paranoid about viruses and malware.  I ran AVG antivirus, including the rootkit scan, and Malwarebytes.  These and many other fine programs are available at one of my favorite sites,

By the way, “jh” didn’t hit on me, but Trusty Friend Mishy would argue that I cut him off before he got the chance.