Identity Protection Matters

I’m not sure why, but I’m a bit obsessed with a piece of spam I got earlier today, one of the bajillions of “update your PayPal account” messages I get each week. Perhaps it’s because most of these get sucked up by Postini, and so I never really see them, instead zapping them in large batches. But this one slipped through the cracks, and so I got a close look at it.

What I’m fascinated by is a combination of things: the message uses the kind of identity-theft prevention rhetoric that financial institutions actually use, but it does so in combination with seriously fractured grammar. For instance:

Due to upcoming year 2006, and recent changes in PayPal’s Service Agreement you need to submit additional details on your PayPal account. Starting from 2006 all PayPal accounts will come with complete detailed information! Identity protection matters. And PayPal works day and night to help keep your identity safe.

Due to 2006? All accounts will come with complete detailed information? Wha…?

It gets better, though; scroll down and the message provides some of the details of the apparent identity protection services I’m being provided with:

New spoof tutorial
Learn how to spot and avoid fraudulent “spoof” emails and websites with PayPal’s handy 5-step spoof tutorial.

Protect yourself with tools
Guard yourself against “spoof” emails with the SafetyBar, and against fraudulent websites with the eBay Toolbar.

Checklist if you are a victim…
When you suspect a problem with your identity, you have to act fast. Use PayPal’s checklist for what you should do.

I do at times suspect a problem with my identity, but it has never occurred to me to protect myself with tools. Where is that ball peen hammer, anyhow?

All kidding aside, unless you’re reading closely — not just spotting the weird grammatical issues but recognizing, for instance, that none of headings of the services the message describes are actually linked, and that the only link in the message goes not to paypal.com, but to paypal.com.us-securely-run.com — unless you catch that, it would be relatively easy to mistake this for an actual message about fraud-protection. There’s nonetheless a kind of inadvertent poetry in it. I want to be furious, and yet the phrases from this message keep running through my head…

3 thoughts on “Identity Protection Matters

  1. I’m with Marcus — the ball peen hammer’s good for anything that ails you.

    One of my old email accounts that I still use (because it has the best usenet feed) has no spam filtering on it whatsoever (long funny story), so I can see this stuff any time I want. And the credit-card thieves have, as you guessed, been using anti-theft rhetoric for yonks.

    What amazes me is how grammar and writing style continue to be a very apt indicator. I could almost write a spam filter based only on grammatical observations.

    Finally, a *real* purpose for that superbland legalese!

  2. I got this same e-mail, except it said “due to upcoming January 2009” I almost went for it, except they wanted me to answer in 72 hours(which usually proves a scam) and I found your post.

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