Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Spam Report: $25 Million for nothing

This spam yells at you "We're giving away up to $25,000,000!*" and the 'fine' print says:
*No purchase necessary. See www.iwon.com for official rules, odds and prize information. Promotion ends 3/31/04. Open to US and Canadian residents (excluding Quebec) age 13 and over. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Annual Grand Prize winner's odds of winning $25 million are 1:250. Annual Grand Prize paid in equal annual installments over 40 years without interest.

Come on people. Use your heads.

If your math skills aren't very strong, let me help. $25 Million for ONE person over 40 years would be over $600,000 a year. This is a 'no purchase necessary' contest. For the odds to be 1:250 that would mean that

  1. there are a maximum of 250 players in the contest and one prize of $25,000,000 (over 40 years)
  2. there are less than 250 players in the contest and multiple multi-million-dollar prizes
  3. They intentionally misrepresenting your chances of winning anything as the chances of winning the big prize
  4. There isn't really a contest at all and they just want your email/contact information

Think it through.

Remember, this is an unsolicited email received from a company that only asks for your email address. It has likely been sent to 25 million email boxes. On with the test:

Which is the most likely? What product do you think they are selling? How many units would they have to sell in order to be able to pay out $25,000,000 over 40 years? All contests are intended to increase sales. Businesses are willing to take a 10% hit for 'advertising'. $250,000,000 in sales??? Must be a huge company. In business for 40 years? Must be a well known company.

But wait,...

...there isn't any logos! What are they hiding? No identity. No known products.

No Thanks!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Bible: Chapter and Verse

This site shows bible quotations, chapter and verse in 30 odd different bible versions. Free reference like Dictionary.com without the advertisments. Take a peak: PHIL 4:12

I found this on Dave's Supergalactic Megafantastic Blog-o-rama. The quote seemed appropriate for my current situation too:

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Spam Report: Not Tickle-ish

As part of my on-going service, I would like to provide you with a report on a questionable banner ad you might have encountered in your e-travels.

Tickle is primarily a match making site or on-line dating site. But there are banner ads you may have encountered that are for various tests you can take.

The test that caught my eye was an I.Q. test. You know the one, it has a picture of Einstein on it or some colourful I.Q. test blocks. If you are curious, you click through. You are then brought to a 2 page I.Q. test which promises to tell you great things about your intelligence profile and even what careers that you would be suitable for. And it is "developed by PhDs" and "PhD certified"

Great. I'm in.

So I start answering the test questions. It takes a significant amount of time. Some of the questions are really easy, and others are quite tricky. After the second page, I am interested  in what my report will be. It seems like a valid test.

But at this point, I know something that you might not be aware of. I have encountered tickle before. I know that it is a match-making site. I have seen the popup ads for tickle at one of the sites I visit all the time. I have seen them enough to know how persistent they are.

I am also wary of dating sites because of a spam email I received, got curious about and investigated. This spam mail dating site was an email and personal information collection scheme!

Anyway, back to the test... Sure enough, after the final page of the I.Q. test, there is a screen that basically says, "Register on our site and we will give you the results of your test."


Grumble, grumble, ... waste my time ..., should never have clicked,...

Okay, so I want my results. I know that my name will go into the tickle dating database (They don't actually tell you that it is a dating database at this point). I have an extra (free) email that I am willing to sacrifice so I made up a name and some other contact details and filled in the fields.

The next screen tells me the I.Q. results (134, not that I am bragging) and then offers to sell me the full results from an "actual PhD" for $9.95 (Access to the dating site is 'free', test results $9.95)!

I just thought I would try and save you the trouble of going through this test, getting your contact information stolen and have you tempted to pay for a useless report in the bargain.

Talk about sophisticated scheme, eh?

SO... be wary! There are lots of offers out there. Some are very sophisticated and it may seem like you are getting great value for a small price. But you have no idea what they will deliver. Consider the cost AND the benefit. Your personal information is very valuable. Don't provide it on a whim. It doesn't cost much to make a web page LOOK like it is backed by a reputable company.

[Edit] There are others who have been burned by not being wary of enrollment schemes like Tickle's IQ test. Note: I hesitate to link to the complaints.com. It appears to be a low maintenance site designed to attract click-through advertisement. There does not seem to be ANY filtering of content posted by visitors. Consumer-Beware with anything you read on this site. It does add some anecdotal evidence, however, allowing the reader to assess other people's experiences.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Spam Report: Administration Masquerade

I got a notification in my email from BlogPatrol.com warning about hackers masquerading as 'admins'. I am glad that they notified me about this particular dodge. The attachment is, no doubt, a virus or some other malicious program.

The twist that makes it notable is that the file is zipped and has a password. That means that the content is encrypted. Email and virus scanners, therefore, cannot scan the content of these files and must skip them.

That means, dear reader, that YOU are your own worst enemy. If you are unwary, you put in the password, decrypt the virus and run the program, thinking it has already been scanned. IT HAS NOT BEEN SCANNED!

Don't be fooled.

Most, if not all, reputable services will NOT send you an attachment with executable code.

Exploits are changing quickly. Be wary of anything that seems suspicious. If you are not sure about something, ask someone you trust about it. You can also do what I do when I get something fishy in my email. Use a search engine to see if other people have encountered the same thing. More than likely, others have had your problem and can offer additional information.

For your reference, here is the text of the fake message.

   Dear user of Blogpatrol.com,

   We warn you about some attacks on your e-mail 
   account. Your computer may contain viruses, in 
   order to keep your computer and e-mail account 
   safe, please, follow the instructions.

   For more information see the attached file.  For 
   security reasons attached file is password 
   protected.  The password is \"52335\".

   The Blogpatrol.com team

   Attachment 1 
   Type: application/octet-stream
   Filename: TextDocument.zip
   Encoding: base64 Download 

I find the most scary thing about this hoax is how friendly and personal it seems. It comes from a site I trust and seems to be directed right at me. The level of psychology that spammers are using is increasing. It could be that it is only a matter of time before I am fooled too.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Running Record

Okay, so I have decided to bear my sole (take off my running shoes?) and let you have a peek at my running log. I have been keeping track of my running progress on Running-Log.com for almost 2 years now. The site only shows you a monthly view of my running, not the more in-depth statistics it provides me. If you are a runner who is still using an old paper log (or an old calendar like I did at the start), perhaps it is time to upgrade and use an on-line log. On the other hand, if the site or the net goes down, you may lose access to your log (don't laugh, it happened to me once).

I guess I just like to live dangerously.

Mel Gibson´s "The Passion of The Christ"

In Sunday School next week I will be teaching my rotation on the Crucifixion of Christ. Challenging material to discuss with adults, let alone a mixed group of kids from kindergarten to grade 6. I thought I would make God's Eyes with them and somehow tie in all the cross aspects. I haven't fully fleshed out what I am going to do. I just hope I don't wait until the last minute to get things figured out.

While we are on the subject, have you heard about the movie "The Passion of the Christ" by Mel Gibson? I haven't seen it yet, but there is a group of us from my church going. One of the leaders at our church directed us to a news release the United Church of Canada has put out about the concepts in this movie. Here are some links:

The United Church of Canada issues statement on Lent and The Passion of The Christ
Deepening the Dialogue about "The Passion of The Christ"

I am doing more thinking about church this lent than I have done in all the past 40 years.

Wait a minute... 40 days of lent... 40 years old... 40 days in the wilderness... Is there a significance? Nah!

Anyway, like the greater church, my minister also directs my attention away from "Jesus died for our sins on the cross" to "Jesus loved us so much He made the ultimate sacrifice for championing the cause of the oppressed and suffering". He was willing to stand up to an oppressive and unfair social system. It does not seem to matter what identifiable group you are considering, there is always an elite group that takes control. It is the elites who separate, marginalize, put themselves above and apart from, denigrate and impoverish, take advantage of and oppress the masses.

Could Jesus have chosen a bigger red flag to wave at the elites than "The meek shall inherit the Earth"?

Just for the record, I am in no way anti-Semitic.

Your Best Interest

I hate my current work.

I don't like the environment. Our office is scummy. Our focus has changed from 'Science' to 'poker'. I don't feel like I get any respect or positive feedback for the work I do. I sometimes feel that the 'decision makers' above me have lost touch with reality.

Sure there are lots of things about my work that I do like. That is what makes it so hard to look for other work. I don't intend on listing what the good things are... (EDIT: not much point of doing that now is there?)

So I took my troubles to the PBGs. Ok, I'll say it, I prayed to Them... while running, for help. Let me tell you, that is not my way of doing things at all. I am uncomfortable with prayer and I think it is ONLY in the context of running that I could possibly be comfortable with 'voicing' a prayer.

As my run progressed I came to the conclusion that I really didn't want angels sliding down gossamer beams coming to my rescue. I have never had difficulty getting work in the past. I would fluke out and someone would offer me a job and I would accept it. Bang, bang, bang. It did, however seem like a pretty random process. I hardly ever considered if the job I was accepting was the right job for me. Not exactly career planning. Sort of career wandering.

So in the end, I ask Them NOT to help me get a job. "I would like to take a hand in it myself."

Much to my surprise, They agreed that "that would probably be for the best." But, they didn't leave it at that. They also sent me a couple symbols that notified me that their hand would be hidden, but their influence would still be there (and visible if I cared to look). They also said that blessings would be mine should I choose to accept them.

God paints the sky every moment of every day. If I choose to look at the ground, I can keep my world grey and negative. But when I am ready, all I have to do is look skyward to see the wonders placed there for all to see.

EDIT: This post is way overdue. I didn't actually post it until March 23, after I had been looking for work for 3 weeks