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Now There's a Piece of Spam That's Likely To Get Few Results:

"Apartments For Rent in Ulaanbaatar," a message (with photos) that just landed in my mailbox overnight.

Hoosier:
Oh sure. SOUNDS like a good deal. But rent control has ruined the market for apartments.
4.16.2008 11:58am
Dave!:
Hey, if you have to rent a place in Mongolia, they probably figured it couldn't yurt.

*rimshot*
4.16.2008 12:00pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Elitism! Contempt for the hard-working folks of Ulaanbaatar, with their small-town values!
4.16.2008 12:07pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I got that one, too! Oddly enough (actually not, for spam), it's addressed to some shlub at U. Kentucky.
4.16.2008 12:10pm
ak47pundit (www):
Subprime Crisis spreads to Ulaanbaatar.
Women and Mongols hardest hit.
4.16.2008 12:14pm
neurodoc:
a Piece of Spam That's Likely To Get Few Results
If you are a landlord with a place to rent, you don't need a lot of responses, you just need one from someone who will do it for the price and terms you have set, while not destroying the place. And if the spammer reaches enough people, one among them may be someone eager to move in. They might add that the price includes a month's supply of a very effective male performance enhancer along with the apartment, and guarantee that with the entire package the renter will attract the foxiest women in those parts.

Amusing that the spammer added the extra a's in the subject line, presumably to defeat spam filters. But would any spam filter have rejected "Ulan Batar"?

Lastly, can someone more knowledgeable about these things than I tell me why spammers do this? They aren't taking you someplace that will allow them to work their mischief; it doesn't appear to be a phishing expedition; they aren't selling something; etc. So what's the point? Are they somehow able to confirm what are and are not good email addresses with junk email like this?
4.16.2008 12:27pm
Buckland (mail):

I got that one, too! Oddly enough (actually not, for spam), it's addressed to some shlub at U. Kentucky.


My daughter is currently "some shlub at U. Kentucky". What I've found interesting about her spam is that she frequently gets spam directed at folks in the UK -- United Kingdom. I guess some of the filtering software gets hosed with the UK right after the @ sign.

So while she can probably get you a good lead on a flat within walking distance of Picadilly Circus, (not to mention some penile enhancements for the visit) Mongolia may be a tough one.
4.16.2008 12:47pm
Paul Milligan (mail) (www):
I've heard that folks in Ulaanbaatar are very bitter these days.

Unless you soak them in a salt water brine for 12 hours before cooking.
4.16.2008 12:49pm
M (mail):
Neurodoc- the "extra" 'a's make for the favored Mongol transliteration. I don't know how you say it differently, though. I did once rent an apartment for a short time (a week) in Ulaanbaatar. It's not the most beautiful city but an interesting place to visit with very kind people. The apartments were comfortable, convenient, and cheap.
4.16.2008 12:50pm
Hoosier:
A couple years back the government of Mongolia decided to switch their schools from bilingual with Russian to bilingual with English.

Does anyone know if this has made a difference for the Aglophonic traveler? (I also speak German, but I suspect that wouldn't do me much good in the middle of Asia.) I was thinking that this would be a fun place to go for an "adventure holiday" at some point, but even more so if one can get around reasonably well with no Mongol-speaking abilities.
4.16.2008 12:58pm
Mr. Bingley (www):
Some khan artist must have sent it to you.
4.16.2008 1:01pm
Conan Mahoney:
But once you get your $20 Million from the Bank of Kenya, you may want to have second homes all over the world.
4.16.2008 1:11pm
Hah!:
Mr. Bingley wins the thread.
4.16.2008 1:24pm
Iolo:
Just don't ask for an English-speaking doctor if you get sick when you move there!
4.16.2008 1:32pm
Gino:
I second that. Mr. Bingley wins!
4.16.2008 2:02pm
M (mail):
Hoosier- My experience in Mongolia (several years old now) was that many more people under 30 (or so) speak English than Russian. People over 30 might speak Russian but most don't do it all that well. Most people, of course, don't speak either but many do in touristy sorts of places and there are lots of local tour groups/agencies that can set up trips around the country and have english-speaking staff. It's not a very hard place to visit, at least once you get there. Local writing is (still, I believe- certainly was several years ago) in cyrilic script so that can make things a bit harder.
4.16.2008 2:15pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

Amusing that the spammer added the extra a's in the subject line, presumably to defeat spam filters. But would any spam filter have rejected "Ulan Batar"?


The "extra a's" represent long vowels. Mongolian, like many other languages, distinguishes long and short versions of vowels with the same quality. One can find pairs of words distinguished only by the length of a vowel, e.g. /tsas/ "snow" with short /a/ vs. /tsaas/ "paper" with a long /a/, or /ul/ "sole" vs. /uul/ "mountain". In both the usual Cyrillic writing system and in the usual Roman transliteration, long vowels are written double.
4.16.2008 2:18pm
Hoosier:
M--Thanks. That helps.

I'm also curious about why a spam filter would catch Ulan Bator. Why would anyone at IT have entered it as a suspect term?

I was trying to come up with the word LEAST likely to be in ANY spaminator in the Anglo world. Hard to know, but I suggested "ocelots" to my colleagues. And they agree that it isn't likely.

Ulan Bator doesn't count, I suppose, since it is a propper name. But, geez. It's not like a message that includes in close proximity "has died without an heir," "National Bank," and "Nigeria."
4.16.2008 2:34pm
Vern Cassin (mail):
Spam has been getting more entertaining. My favorite from last week: "Stalin took two of these a day."
4.16.2008 2:37pm
ys:

I'm also curious about why a spam filter would catch Ulan Bator. Why would anyone at IT have entered it as a suspect term?

Ulan Bator is actually the name of a French post-rock band. We can be assured that, even if spam, this mailing is at least more authentically Mongolian, rather than some French trash, so you can go ahead and inquire about the apartment availability. It worked for me in Krakow.
4.16.2008 2:44pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I got an imaginative one the other day. The sender claimed to be a hit man who had a contract to kill me, but if I would outbid his client he would not do so.

I responded that if he was seeking the satisfaction due a gentleman, he must show that he is such, whereas it would appear he is a tradesman, and I fear a disreputable one if he would knowingly breach his contract. But if he could demonstrate that I was wrong, and he had the correct social standing, I would be happy to choose a second and have them negotiate the conditions of our encounter. As the challenged party, I have the right to choice of weapons, and I would choose rifles at 600 meters.
4.16.2008 2:55pm
neurodoc:
<b>Hoosier</b>, I am not the one to be offering any computer-related advice. As you can see, I was mistaken about the transliteration of Mongolian, and hence in the assumption that the spelling was defeat spam filters. But I doubt there is any word, spelled correctly or incorrectly, that spammers would not use in their subject lines. I believe they use dictionaries to generate random word combinations for their subject lines, and sometimes those tweak the recipient's curiosity, causing one to have a look at what is there. I have seen some very curious subject lines, ones that made me think the email was actually intended for me, only to discover it was in fact another spam offer of a male enhancer.

Usually, I recognize spam based on the sender's address and delete it unopened. But recently I received a piece of spam that had my own email address as both sender and recipient?! I know that it is possible to make it appear that email is coming from an address other than the true one, but what was this all about? Should I be worried that this particular piece of spam somehow signaled that I was at risk of something much more serious and sinister than more spam?

So again, can anyone tell me what sort of spam, if any, ought to be feared? Can anything bad come of spam if one doesn't answer them, or click on any links in them, or go to the websites they would have you go to, or do anything but happen to look and promptly delete?
4.16.2008 3:02pm
neurodoc:
Dave Hardy, I have heard of that one before. But do tell us what price had been set upon your life. And do you have any idea why someone might engage a hitman to "snuff" you out (per Father Pfleger)? A vengeful ex-wife? Someone with a big insurance policy on your life? Anything?
4.16.2008 3:07pm
Fub:
neurodoc wrote at 4.16.2008 11:27am:
Lastly, can someone more knowledgeable about these things than I tell me why spammers do this? They aren't taking you someplace that will allow them to work their mischief; it doesn't appear to be a phishing expedition; they aren't selling something; etc. So what's the point? Are they somehow able to confirm what are and are not good email addresses with junk email like this?
Here's a longwinded and loosely worded shot.

Many possibilities, for example: links hidden as white on white text in HTML emails. Since the email was "with photos", it was likely HTML, and the apparently embedded JPGs could be actually URL references to images from the spammer's server. Remote image loading can serve as a bug to tell spammer the email was actually read by the IP address that requested the JPG. Images can also be vehicles for malware injection, depending on the particular browser, OS, and user privilege settings of the spam recipient. Malware injection is often for purpose of turning your computer into a zombie for sending more spam. That's only some of the possibilities.

To avoid trouble:

1. If you read email from a web email server interface (as is popular these days), NEVER open even a suspected spam. If you don't recognize the sender or subject line, don't open it. A clever spammer can make even that exception a bad choice by collecting email addresses from such things as this comment thread and using appropriate subject headers. But most are too lazy for that.

2. NEVER run your browser from an account on your computer that has administrative or root privileges, especially if you read email via browser and webmail server.

3. If possible, ALWAYS read email offline (with absolutely NO internet connection) after downloading via POP3 or other remote email download protocol.

4. No matter what method you use to read email, NEVER click on an embedded link unless you absolutely trust the email sender. Best policy is to never click a link in email unless you are absolutely confident it is safe by several means. Configure your browser or offline email reader to display the plain ASCII text, even if the email is HTML. That way you can examine the embedded URLs. This is easy to do in most offline email readers.

5. If you have any doubt whether your PC is already infected with malware, obtain and run several reputable and free virus, spyware and adware scanners. Infected computers are often used as zombie networks to distribute even more spam and malware.
4.16.2008 3:33pm
kelvin mccabe:
Hoosier and M: I dont know if this helps, but I am representing a Mongolian guy in a DUI case in Chicago. Doesnt speak much english at all, but does speak Russian, Mongolian and Japanese.

Being in a large city has its perks: For our preliminary hearing, he was given the services of a Mongolian interpreter from the "exotic language" section of the interpereters office. The court had to call that lovely lady in 'special.' As we were leaving court and heading to the parkign lot, I noticed my client Tsolombayer (sp) getting her cell phone number!

Unfortunately, as far as the hearing is concerned, he blew, failed sobriety tests, had no insurance, no valid drivers license (he had some mongolian id that presumably was a license, but he had been in the states for years and never got one here) and is on an expired visa. Which makes his first time DUI a felony and makes him (theoretically) deportable. I'm fairly positive i can get it reduced to a misdemeanor to avoid the State having to explain how the officer who speaks only english communicated all the necessary information to my non-english speaking client with regard to the field sobriety tests, etc... I cant push too hard though, because he is looking at a felony conviction.

But - and this is the whole point of my story - if its the case that he does get deported back to Mongolia, perhaps i can have someone forward me this spam mail so he would at least have an apartment to rent when he gets off the plane!

And you guys think this spam doesnt work...
4.16.2008 3:55pm
Hoosier:
neurodoc--"As you can see, I was mistaken about the transliteration of Mongolian"
I can't speak for the others, doc. But in my book, that's an 'understandable mistake.'

ys--"Ulan Bator is actually the name of a French post-rock band. "

When did rock END? And why wasn't I notified? Did this happen ONLY in France?

Which reminds me: Google presents us with some interesting information. Recently I was looking for the lifetime stats of pitching-great Vida Blue. I discovered that his name is now the name of a band. (Still no word of a band called 'Whitey Ford'. But there's always hope.)
4.16.2008 4:16pm
rarango (mail):
Most entertaining thread I have read in quite a while. Most of the commenters write better comedy than late nite writers! Well done!
4.16.2008 4:18pm
pete (mail) (www):
My favorite spam was one I got recently that identified the sender as Avon Barksdale.

Not the best choice for getting someone to trust the sender.
4.16.2008 6:16pm
BGates:
But recently I received a piece of spam that had my own email address as both sender and recipient?!

We've traced the spam. It's coming from inside the computer.
4.16.2008 6:21pm
kelvin mccabe:
BGates: Does anybody remember the name of that 'free' anti-spam filtering downloadable program that was itself a sophisticated trojan that opened the floodgates for even more ridiculous amounts of spam and pop-ups?

I would say caveat emptor applies, but nobody bought anything. They certainly downloaded a huge headache though. Does anybody know how to say, "net-surfer beware" in latin?
4.16.2008 7:26pm
ys:

Hoosier:
ys--"Ulan Bator is actually the name of a French post-rock band. "

When did rock END? And why wasn't I notified? Did this happen ONLY in France?

No, everywhere (haven't you noticed?), but France was the last one to try to hold on to it, until that is "Ulan Bator" came around. Backward, n'est-ce pas?

OK, just kidding. In reality, post-rocks are used to designate postal routes in the rocky terrain of Mongolia.
4.16.2008 8:05pm
Jim L. (mail) (www):
Once in Ulan Bator I asked some Mongolians what locales they referred to when they were trying to name some place extremely remote -- clearly Outer Mongolia or Siberia wouldn't work. They seemed to have no idea what I was talking about.
4.17.2008 12:30am
Hoosier:
Jim L--But how I wish they had said: "Yeah, well, WE say 'Mongolia' too. I mean, look around us."
4.17.2008 12:53am
Bob Goodman (mail) (www):
Ulan Bator is actually the name of a French post-rock band. We can be assured that, even if spam, this mailing is at least more authentically Mongolian, rather than some French trash, so you can go ahead and inquire about the apartment availability. It worked for me in Krakow.

Is that why that team of contestants on the NBC game show Lost, taken blindfolded to Mongolia, guessed that they were in Poland?
4.17.2008 1:41am