Email mystery… clues!

Lets see if we can figure out the validity of this email.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Brittany McClaine <bmcclaine@ncpcharterschool.org>

I don’t want to reply to the email.  If it is actually a spammer’s address then I will just be handing them a working email address.  Alternatively if a spammer has just used a real Brittany’s email address without her knowledge then I don’t want to harass her.  

Note: this is different from breaking into Brittany’s email account without her permission.  It is actually very easy to change the ‘From’ address when sending an email so that it looks like it’s from Justin@bieber.com or something – great for practical jokes and spammers alike!

Date: 11 December 2012 21:54
Subject: Loved your page! Special Thanks from Mrs.McClaine and Kids! 🙂

Hi There! I just wanted to send you a quick note on behalf of some of the kids in our After School program! We’ve been using your page ( http://digitalkatie.com/bsl.htm ) quite a bit while going over an intro to Sign Language, it has been super helpful!

Most educators would be very flattered by this and pleased that the site they have worked on has been useful outside of their classroom.

The kids have a hearing impaired student in their class, and we thought it would be great if everyone was able to communicate on the same level🙂

This just doesn’t seem right.  I could maybe understand a class getting confused between ASL (American Sign Language) and BSL (British Sign Language) if they were learning in isolation but I would expect a Deaf student to correct them (and to not understand the BSL the kids had learned!) 

Usually in a spam email there will be something that doesn’t seem right like a fact, a situation or use of language (the spelling and grammar).  This is because the spammer will be using a standard template to try and send as many emails as possible without having to write a new email each time.  Often the standard template doesn’t quite fit the situation.  It may also be someone who doesn’t speak English very well so there may be quirky use of words or incorrect grammar.

As a Thank You, a couple of the students also found and wanted to pass along this family resource page to ASL: ( http://usinsurancenet .com/ family-health-reference-to-asl/)

The link made me wonder what age the students are.  This web page is fairly high level and isn’t a web site I would use with pupils. There are lots of great websites for learning BSL and ASL these days so it seemed strange that the students would pick this one.  

The aim of the link spam is to try and get you to link to a web page.  One of the ways of getting higher up search listings in Google and other search engines is to have lots of pages linking to yours.  This will also get the site as a whole higher up Google’s listings, which means more chance of people buying insurance from their site.  I don’t even know if the site is legit – it may just be a way of getting people’s credit card details.

We’ve actually been using it just as much as your page and thought that maybe you would want to include it on your British Sign Language Links page!  I was hesitant to email you at first but the kids keep asking if I’ve talked to you about it yet! (haha they’re so cute!)

Really?? These kids need to get a life 😉  This gives people an emotional involvement though – the poor children, desperate for you to do something as simple as adding a little link.  What harm could it do and it will make the kids happy!?

…but there are no kids, and it will contribute to spammers sites getting higher up search engine listings, which will mean more people thinking the sites are legitimate and being tricked into entering their credit card details.  

Would you possibly consider adding it for them? I would love to surprise them before we finish the unit next Friday, that their research find has actually benefited someone else! They would be so excited!…and I may even surprise them with a pizza party for doing such good research 😉

More emotional guilt tripping.  What teacher would buy their pupils pizza for finding a web link??  Really?!  There’s also a time limit – next Friday – to try and get people to add the link before the email gets lost in their inbox.

Thanks again!

-Brittany

************************************************************************************** Brittany McClaine

Is there really a Brittany McClaine?  Does she work as a teacher?  Searching her name shows that it’s a fairly rare name but one site seems to think she’s a  Constituent Services Representative in the US Senate, not a teacher, and that she lives in Dover AR (AR is the state code for Arkansas.)  This site may be faked though.

bmcclaine@ncpcharterschool.org
Jean Massieu Academy 

Does the NCP Charter School exist?  Yes, and the Jean Massieu Academy is part of it.  The Jean Massieu Academy exists but it’s a 6 hour drive from Dover, AR where Brittany is supposed to live.  It does have many hearing impaired students through (10% according to their website) and the school use both English and ASL to communicate.  This makes it more likely that the pupils and Brittany would know that ASL is very different from BSL (although that might be quite interesting for them).  I suspect the spammer has searched for a likely school to sent the email from.  There is also no Brittany McClaine listed in the School Handbook (although it might be out of date)

**************************************************************************************

So, all the clues point to this being a spam email.  If this is the case then it’s likely that others have fallen for the same trick.  It’s always useful to search for a phrase from an email if you’re not sure about it’s authenticity (use quotes ” ” around the phrase for better search results).  Sometimes it will show websites talking about it being a spam email and sometimes (as is the case this time) it will show others having fallen for the scam.  Strangely, Brittany, Sue and Kathryn have all sent almost identical emails to people who have been so flattered that they posted the whole email onto their site.

This email spam technique is often used in comments of blogs.  Comments will be posted onto your blog saying how wonderful your blog is and maybe you’d also be interested in this other site.    This way you’ll hopefully allow the comment to be published onto your blog (if you’re sensible and have your comments set to ‘approval’) and then the link will help the search engines think that this is a site that people like enough to talk about and share.

Spammers are getting more clever so you need to be aware and alert to be able to out-smart them!

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