August 29, 2005

Scammers' Language

I just got the following email message:

Dear user of, mail system administrator of would like to inform you that,
We have found that your account was used to send a huge amount of spam
messages during the recent week.  Most likely your computer had been
infected and now contains a trojan proxy server.  We recommend you to
follow our instruction in order to keep your computer safe.
Best regards, user support team.

It is accompanied by a zip file putatively containing the instructions that I am supposed to follow. I imagine that it actually contains a virus, though I'm not going to go to the trouble of finding out. (This is the one downside to running GNU/Linux - if I actually want to try out a virus I have to go find a machine running Microsoft Windows. I feel so left out...)

Anyhow, any native speaker of English will detect a number of errors in the above message, some of them errors or deviations from standard written usage of the sort that a native speaker is not likely to make at all, or even a non-native speaker who has been here long enough to be working as a system administrator. There's the use of a comma at the end of the salutation in place of a colon, the failure to start the first sentence on a new line, the failure to capitalize the first letter of the first word of the new sentence, and the omission of the before mail. Then there is the use of a comma rather than a colon before something set off like a quotation or list entry and the incorrect treatment of a subordinate clause as such. A native speaker would not say recent week instead of past week, or had been infected instead of has been infected. The construction We recommend you to follow... is not English.

Such a plethora of errors should alert just about anyone that the message is a fake. Are the scammers so foolish or ignorant that they don't realize this? It probably wouldn't be too hard to get someone to polish their prose. Or are enough computer users too dense to realize that messages like this are fake that the scammers don't bother?

Posted by Bill Poser at August 29, 2005 08:25 PM