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Martinez-Fernandez: Spammed to death, part II

By Luis Martinez-Fernandez - National Columnist | Apr 3, 2023

In the first part of this column, I laid out, in Andy Rooney-ish style, a typology of email spam, starting with targeted emails, the sort that can potentially be useful based on their recipients’ identified interests; a writer, for example, getting emails on publishing and editorial services, book festivals and the like.

Since I am in education, I get a steady stream of unsolicited emails from education companies, some of which strike me as legitimate, others seemingly fly-by-night. My spam boxes overflow with invitations for webinars, seminars and workshops on a wide array of education topics, most far removed from my areas of interest.

Some algorithmic fluke has landed me in a human resources company list that bombards me (five each week) with annoying emails peddling webinars aimed specifically at managers and supervisors. These are a few of their recent email subject headings: “Effective Methods to Retain Top Talent,” “How to Fire Employees,” “Break on Office Gossip” and what I suspect to be their bestsellers: “How to Work with Difficult Employees” and “Managing Toxicity and Attitude Issues.”

Much of the spam I get is peppered with buzzwords meant to impress. These are on my “most annoying” list: “ecosystem,” “circle back,” “empower,” “unpack,” “core competency,” “bandwidth” and “resilience.”

And then there are the invitations to subscribe to newsletters. Speaking of resilience, this week I received one from a self-described “resilience-building leader program.”

Upon scanning a directory of online newsletters, I learned that there is at least one for every possible interest, profession, affinity and hobby. Live in Florida? You might be interested in Citreae (“Get smarter about citrus in 3 minutes”). Seeking to learn a new language and not in a hurry? Subscribe to DailyNata (“Learn Portuguese in one sentence a day”). For the literary phlebotomist, there’s the Bleeders (“A newsletter about writing and publishing”), and there’s a nonacademic version of “publish or perish,” the Write or Die Tribe (diatribe?) (“Everything you need to start your writing week off right”).

More annoying is spam of the drift gillnet type, mass emails sent indiscriminately, without regard for recipients’ potential needs or interests: emails offering loans and a multitude of dubious financial services; offers to build or enhance your webpage and maximize traffic; or to create amazing apps.

As I was working on this column, a spam message weaseled its way past the junk filter and landed on my inbox. “Hello,” saluted Nicholas. “I still (sic) waiting for your reply (no period) Please let me know if you are interested. (unnecessary period and capitalization) In my App services (no period)” Dear Nicholas, may I suggest a services swap? You do my app, and I will help you with grammar and punctuation.

Somewhere in Dante’s Inferno’s Ninth Circle, between “Counterfeiters/Falsifiers” and “Traitors” there’s a final resting place for spammers of the most abominable type: fraudsters, scammers and spreaders of malware and ransomware.

When was the last time you won a lottery? Not too long ago, likely, judging by email notifications alerting all of us that we won a lottery without even purchasing a ticket. This week, I won two, one a whopping 950,000 “Great British Pounds” from the London-based British Microsoft Award Headquarters. The message instructed me to click on a link to contact South African-based lottery agent Mrs. Linda and advised me to keep the “information secret to avoid fraudulent claim.”

Before finding out about this lottery windfall, I had considered a tempting offer from Mr. Adolphous (surname redacted to protect his privacy), a German, U.K.-based engineer who offered me a one-year appointment in Liverpool to teach his children Trost and Hanna “in basics and oral English to gain admission to any of the prestigious British school (sic) here.”

It was a generous offer: 5,000 pounds per month, health-care benefits, vacation allowance, round-trip airfare and a Liverpool flat. “Please e mail me if you are available and ready to discuss the teaching position with my family, while you send your picture, resume and introduction about yourself.”

It’s close to my column deadline and I need to check my email. Most of it will be spam. Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete…

Luis Martinez-Fernandez is the author of “When the World Turned Upside Down: Politics, Culture, and the Unimaginable Evenest of 2019-2022,” a collection of his syndicated columns.


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