A reader e-mailed in to say that he’s received e-mail spam for the Nigerian scam on an e-mail account that he uses exclusively for Times and Seasons posting. Two warnings are in order for readers.
First, if there was any question about whether spam spiders (programs used to harvest e-mail addresses off the web) would find T & S, that question has been concretely answered. Spam spiders will harvest addresses from anywhere they find, and they’ve found us.
There’s not anything that we can do about this on the blog side. As a general matter, you shouldn’t put an e-mail address on the web if you’re not prepared for it to eventually become known to the public, including spammers. To avoid spam, many people use a separate e-mail account — you can open free ones at places like Hotmail and Yahoo, and many ISPs, like Earthlink or AOL, will give you a bunch of free extra addresses. Also, make sure that you’re running up-to-date virus protection software, and a firewall if possible. (Zone Alarm is free for personal use).
Second, the specific case of the Nigerian scammers. These are the e-mails that claim to be from government officials or businessmen trying to move money out of a country in Africa or Asia, and needing your help (and promising you a share of the profit). They typically promise million-dollar-plus profit for people who aid them. I’ll be as clear as I can — DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THESE SCAMS. They are run by people who are very dangerous. Almost all of these e-mail originate from organized crime syndicates in Nigeria (hence the label). At the very least, they’ll ask for as much upfront money as you’ll give them, and you’ll never see that money again. If you try to get it back, you may get hurt (the criminals have been known to lure victims to Nigeria, then kidnap them for ransom). For further information, see here (Snopes.com) or here (Secret Service).