Sunday, October 4, 2009

What price spam?

October 2, 2009

“Am stranded!!”

The title of the subject seems believable. After all, while we are still experiencing the aftermath of typhoon Ondoy (international name Keshena) wreaking havoc to millions of people in Luzon, and me just traveled from Manila a week before Ondoy arrived, who will not believe that I am actually stranded?

But in London? Perhaps, it is believable if it is in Florida. But that is another story.

The hoax cried like wolf drowning in a sea of mud. And me, while experiencing silhouetted pain, didn’t realize that a spam message sent to my 600+ contacts created disturbance of epic proportions by just reading the responses of those the spam message have caused.

It all started with a message that I can’t open my yahoo ID. While no longer surprise since I’ve experienced for more than a year a routine to change my password often, a spam is still a surprise. In this age of cyberspace, guarding our cyber-home is equally important like guarding our morals.

Significantly, I also realized how important friends are, despite the disturbances the spam caused them (and me) they heartily extended support, believing it was true.

Take it from Mr. R&*(, a friend for more than 15 years, London-based and a graduate of History and Philosophy of Science:

“Hello Roxanne

That sounds terrible. It must be awful to be stuck and not know what
to do next. I'm really sorry though because I cannot help you with the
money. With the best will in the world I simply don't have access to
that kind of money - even to lend for a short time. I just don't have

I find it strange that the consulate would not let you use a phone to
call home. Could you not go back and ask for their help? And the hotel
must have more than one phone line - since it sounds like it is them
who want payment surely they would let you make calls to arrange a
wire transfer?

It sounds like you don't want anyone to know you are here, but I think
you may have to tell somebody back home in order to get out of your

Were the police involved? Can they not offer you advice on how to get
home? In any case you should go to the police if you have been robbed.

The most important thing is to stay calm. I am sure it can be worked out.

I'm really sorry that I can't help Roxanne. But I'm sure it will be
fine. People get robbed while abroad all the time and so the travel
industry and consulates are used to dealing with the problems.

Good luck with it


And after telling him am OK and it was just a spam that I hardly expected. Here is his kind reply:

“Dear Roxanne

I am so relieved that it was just spam. I did wonder since it seemed
so unusual and unlikely. I was very worried when you didn’t reply - I
had imagined coming to find you and putting you up for the night while
it got sorted out, but I stopped short of saying so in the first
message in case it was a hoax.

I am at work now so cannot write for longer - but I'm glad you are OK
and wish you all the best

Your friend

R&*(, “

Someone read his mail first other than me. Fortunately, that someone didn’t reply to his e-mail.

Another friend (a Filipino based in New York) is about to contact his friends in London to ensure that I will get the kind of support needed.

“Hi Roxanne,

Do you want me to contact some folks there in London, so they could at least assist you with you predicament?

I know a couple of people who lives in that area. They may be able to help you with your situation.

Please advise on what else we could do from our end.


But others are not as polite as you expect them to be. Maybe because of the length of time you overlooked each other. Or they just simply send an e-mail message which look like, well, a spam. Or someone sent the e-mail in their behalf and then end up a spam victim, like me.


“Go to hell it is free”

Said she.

Maybe she forgot me, but we collaborated once in an indie film shown in her department. She’s a college professor and a department chair.

“Kill yourself if this is not true”

Coming from an alternative (progressive) online newsmagazine which I used to contribute several years ago, replied with tremor.

I just hope that the messages “Go to hell it is free” and “Kill yourself if this is not true” are, well spam.

Beyond that, I am glad others remain silent (and end up irrelevant?) And others called up just to ensure I am really fine and safe. Truly, in a wired world, it is better to get wired and avoid electrified than being electrified and yet, disconnected.

Daily, I received the inquisitions of friends so diverse that it made me realize how important and unimportant I am to them. I randomly selected the responses, please read.

From a friend who teaches political behavior at UP Cebu, nailed the scammer:

“Hay roxanne...someone hacked into your account. I'm sure you're not in London kay I was just eating lunch with you today. paet. scammers.”

Unexpectedly, a friend so close to my heart for more than half a decade and rarely sent an e-mail, excite my senses when I received his:

“hey roxanne is it true?? what happened?? wla ko money oi...nag unsa diay ka dha ron sa london??”

A lady lawyer I worked with in saving children involved in prostitution cried like a wolf as her reply to the spam:


Below is from someone who loves vasectomy and is an advocate of reproductive health:

“Hi Rox!

You're one of my several friends nga binuangan sad with this kind of letter unsaun kaha ni pag stop! am forwarding this to u in case u didn't know u've bin spammed!

F#^$& “

The truth is it is difficult to stop this kind of online/computer project.

From L.A. to my mailbox, a friend inquired:

“Poor thang! Where did you fly from to London ??
Tell me which hotel you stay?”

From a patriotic independent film makers:

“ok. let me know”

From a fellow who fights for freedom:

“may virus computer mo...”

And from a dyosa:

“ola roxy! your joking!!!”

Below from a friend who writes and edit a national business daily:

“Na-unsa man ka bay? Kahibalo ko naay naka-gamit sa imong email. Ako lang ning sakyan kay wala koy lingaw. Good luck. Will send immediately.”

And again,

“I don't know where you got my e-mail address. But for sure I will forward this e-mail message to all my contacts to warn them about your trick.

I am 100% sure you are not roxanne and that you only used him to extort money online.
Hope you'll die with the storm Pepeng so you cannot victimize innocent people.”

And from a fellow who works as an engineer:

“I'm sorry but the credibility of Roxanne that I know will not stoop low as to beg for money. This gimmick will be ignored will be and reported to authorities. Your IP address is being tracked down by the Federal Government as you are reading this reply.

Thank you..”

It is only now that I realized how important my 10 year-old primary e-mail is and how important its contents are. Maybe, it is true, cyberspace is the end of our species...or mine...

Like what a friend of mine commented in my face book account keeping me cool despite my ordeal and warned for future, identity theft is not far-fetched. I am beginning to wonder how virtual I am in a really imaginary world.

She said:

“Weird. I have similar experience but instead of having someone sent a spam mail, someone deleted my yahoo account. It couldn't be me for obvious reasons.

I recovered the account through secondary email, which contained many notifications that I requested to delete my yahoo account {complete with time and date details}

Some weird things could happen anytime to anyone. What's next mama Rox, an identity theft?”

While I can not paste in this blog all those who replied to my mail, I really took time to reply one-by-one to those who sent friendly and unfriendly messages informing them I am a victim and all are not spared from online hoax. For in the end, the polite and not-so-polite e-mail messages I received is a time consumed on their part and a destruction that wrought havoc to their senses.

So whoever (I am not discounting the possibility of an online project or a computer) triggered to disturbed the senses, time, mode, and circumstances of my online contacts, the obvious reasons seems inadequate, but the incident reminded me as the primary victim and my online contacts as secondary, that in a virtual and wired world we are in, life should be safeguarded carefully.

With the incident, I was reminded of a computer named Deep Blue who defeated Kasparov in their chess match. And what is next after the digital after life? (read: digital afterlife)

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