If you want to skim this blog post, here’s the short version of the story: I received a spam email, and very carelessly disclosed my email information, then the site sent this spam “on behalf of me” to everyone on my Gmail contact list. To those who have received this email, especially to those ppl who are genuine and still have trust in virtual world just as me (cause you accepted and “sent” out spam too), I want to sincerely apologize to you guys…
Every problem has at least one cause, at least one consequences and, of course, at least one solution, so if you want to take a closer look at this, here are the causes, consequences and the solutions…
So I received an email on Wednesday afternoon from an old friend’s friend (with very very loose social ties…), inviting me to join this Chinese “high-end” social networking sites.
So in the email, it reads
“P1.CN is a social networking site for exceptional people like you who are ambitious, desirable, fashionable and brilliant.To ensure the quality of our members, P1.CN is invite only.”
“Because we have identified you have 5 friends who are already on the site, so you are allowed to receive this invitation.”
I used to think I am those kind of ppl who would straightly ignore email invitations like this. It turns out those previous spam emails that I ignored just did not hit you in the right places. So what are the “right hits” from this email?
– social networking sites: as someone who graduated from a communication and media studies program and has been quite interested in social/digital media tools, my first intention was, I might not want to spend time on this new SNS, but at least I want to learn about what it is.
– exceptional people like you: despite how fake and dishonest this sounds, it is more attractive than those emails saying “do you want to meet new and interesting people here?” I acknowledged this platform recognized my value first.
– invite only: so I did not receive this email because I was on some marketing firm’s mailing list, I receive it because I got this invitation from a specific person. OK, i agree that there is still a large chance of this person could have (be forced to) “invite” me.
– 5 friends: this is the killing sentence… okey, so I will actually be able to connect with these five ppl once i sign up. Put aside I am curious who those five people are on this SNS platform, I trust the fact that at least five of my friends are “valuable, smart, brilliant” ppl which might prove that I am part of this “high-end” community, if whether you belongs to this community is judged by how many social connections you have with this group of ppl, then… five people, I might be the “missing piece” of this community.
OK… I am in, at least I wanna give it a try, to see how “high-end” it is. So I started the registration process. Part of the registration process was to “search other friends”, just like the feature on FB and other social networking sites, it wants get more information from you, so as to search possible connections on this site. I might just was too eager to complete this registration process, as well as to learn who else are my “high-end” friends on this site, I input my email info, WITHOUT THINKING it might use the information to spam my other friends AT ALL.
Five minutes after I completed my registration process, I was still trying to figure out what is so special about this platform (江爷爷这个时候一定在骂… 你们啊，太天真，sometimes naive… ), cause it turned out to be not that fancy as it sounds. I do have five friends who are on this platform, not sure if me or any of them are high-end or not… what is the judging criteria whatsoever? Salary, location, occupation?
Then, a friend pinged me online asking, “hey, is that a spam or really an email invitation from you?”
Holy xxxx! A friend who I have wrote only one or two emails received my invitation to this SNS?! which means anyone on my Gmail list could have received this. I mean EVERYONE… professors, managers, professional contacts and ALL my friends… at that point, i was like… “exploded”…
Not to my surprise, for the rest of the day, I received chats, emails, facebook messages from friends asking about the site. I have to explain to those who have asked. However, for those who did not ask. Should I be happy if they did not trust my credibility so did not clicked the link, or should I be happy if they trusted me and clicked the link (then sent out spam to their friends too…)
It’s not the fact that they received spam, it’s the fact that the seriously jeopardized my credibility of “sending” “recommending” and “sharing” information without getting my consent. I felt warm when people emailing me saying, “if this is really a good platform, I want to join, but if not, let me know if it is a spam“, cause in this digital age, when sharing and sending information gets so cheap, and only takes minutes or seconds to type and click, it is hard to get people’s trust like this, and I might have just lost those from a large group of my friends, who knows.
Warn my friends: I tried to post on my Facebook and Gtalk Status to warn my friends. I know not all friends who have received this spam might read these social media messages, but better than nothing. Plus I dare not to send out another email to explain this to all my email contacts.
Warn Google: report all those emails related to that spam SNS site as “spam”, and deleted all those.
Check email login details: There is a place in Gmail (at the bottom of the page) where you can check the log in history of this account.
By clicking it you will be able to access how you (or anyone else) have logged in to this email account. Here is what I found in my log in history. Apparently, this spam site has been found and identified by Gmail this time. However, it might still be worthwhile for users themselves to check this, just in case the password has been stolen or violated.
The only fun part of this, as pointed out by some of my friends are:
1) There are always things you need to do once in your life, for example, spam all your contacts… so now that you have done it, you are one step closer to “complete your life.”
2) So now you know there are people who still trust you, to an extent that they will actually ask you. If you assume people have low credibility in emails and virtual communications in today’s digital world, you should be happy, as at least you have that group of friends who trusted (not sure if they are going to trust any more LOL) you and are willing to take the effort to ask.
3) It turns out to be a great way to get back in touch with some friends who you haven’t contacted for a while… they would ask about the spam, you would respond how stupid you were in trusting the site, then the conversation could go as “how have you been?” “where have you been up to?”, not a bad way of catching up with old friends! 🙂
4) learned how to “virtually” protect myself more, and learned to be understanding to those people who “accidentally” sent out spams. Nobody is smarter or more brilliant than anyone else, we all make mistakes at some point…