Last night I spent a few hours (seriously) reading the hilarious stories at DontEvenReply.com. The website’s author emails people who post classified ads. As he puts it: “My goal is to mess with them, confuse them, and/or piss them off”. He succeeds amazingly well.
One story in particular was amusing. It is titled ‘Comanche Quest‘. In it the author has created a bunch of characters, all with their own email addresses, and leads the victim on a wild goose chase. I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes by the time I was done reading.
Then I thought about how we handle those annoying phone spammers that call the office every now and then. The easiest thing is just to hang up the phone as soon as someone tells me they want to sell me some shares, or fix my computer, or talk about my retirement plan. You could pull a Seinfeld on them of course:
But even funnier, and more annoying to the marketeer on the other end, is to give them the impression that you are really interested in buying something, and then waste a lot of their time. So here is what we do. We say, “that sounds very interesting, can you tell me all about it?” and then put the phone down and just stop listening. The other thing you can do is say ‘Yeah, that sounds awesome! But hang on a minute because there is someone at the door’. A few minutes later you can come back and say ‘Still here? Give me a few more seconds as I take care of my guests and then we can talk.’
That way you will easily steal ten minutes of their time. In that time, they can’t call and annoy someone else, so you are really doing the world a favor.
So why don’t we apply the same principle to spammers? I would like someone to create a service so I can reply to anyone trying to sell me bullshit and tell them “Sounds awesome and exactly what our company needs, but I’m not the one who decides on that. Can you contact email@example.com and tell him I sent you?’.
Now, when the spammer emails firstname.lastname@example.org they get a nice auto-reply with a fat 6MB PDF attachment and a text that says, ‘Awesome that Boris forwarded this to us. This is exactly what we were looking for. Can you please fill out the attached PDF and fax it to this number?’.
If the spammer does all that and then sends another email to email@example.com the service would detect that and say, “Hey there, I’m leaving the Procurement Department but told Emma, who will be taking my place here, to take a look at this. Can you contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org?’ which would invite another PDF form, a different one, which has to be faxed again too.
You get the picture…it’s like a semi-automated version of scambaiting site 419 Eater. It shouldn’t be difficult to keep those spammers occupied for weeks filling out forms, faxing documents to non-existing fax numbers, and going from promising lead to promising lead until they go crazy and give up on the whole thing.
Now imagine how great it is going to feel to forward that first email, and then being able to read their messages online, and see how they slowly get frustrated with the whole thing.
I don’t really know how to monetize this idea, but I’m sure that if you manage to do this you’ll end up getting the Nobel Prize and a guaranteed seat in heaven.