Want a free lunch?

Who doesn’t love a free lunch?

C’mon now – you know there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Yet why do countless people fall for “the inbox hustle“? I’ve been working on whitelisting technology for over a decade, and my sojourn has taken me far from where it started on Windows to the Internet at large, and to the base psychology at play when a typical person gets gamed by crap in their inbox, on Twitter, or on the Facebook wall of a friend (2 Free Southwest Airlines tickets. I know you’ve seen that recently – we all have), or even some of the more obnoxious ads you see crawling around the Internet. I’ll be blogging even more about this in the coming months – but I wanted to pass along a little of what I have learned when it comes t0 the most fundamental components of every Internet scam. In fact, it’s probably the foundation of every scam on the Internet. It is… The seven deadly sins. Regardless of any theological ideology you may follow, the basic premises of the 7 ideas expressed in the list underlie a few basic psychological drivers of humans.

There are countless  iterations of the seven deadly sins around – but at their heart, they’re almost identical. What are they?

  • Lust
  • Greed
  • Gluttony
  • Discouragement
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Pride

In many ways, I’ve probably just told you a key secret to marketing. But with Internet scams, it is the key. If you can hit one of these chords, you’ll probably succeed. There are deeper tricks at play in most spam, and I’ll get to those in time. But if you step back and watch the email spam you receive over a week, the Twitter bots or Facebook linkbait you see your friends get sideswiped by, I can all but guarantee it will match one of those 7. In fact, most of it will match just the first two.

I’m a little strange. I collect spam. Most people delete it. I collect it. I analyze many aspects of it. Below, I’d like to share an example of each sin, in the form of an actual spam subject line I’ve received over the past year. I like to refer to the spam subject line as “The hook”. The job of the hook is to catch your eye. It’s the shiny object designed to distract your prefrontal cortex for a second, and trick your mind into thinking the risk/benefit of performing the action you’re about to do is actually in your best interest. Thus, the 7 deadly sins.

  • Lust: View pics of singles in your area
  • Greed: Lock in Low Rates with LendingTree before it’s too late!
  • Gluttony: Enjoy A Week Of Subway Subs
  • Discouragement: Weird Tip of a Flat Belly
  • Wrath: News Alert about Avandia!  Has anyone in your household taken Avandia? You need to read this
  • Envy: Search our list of foreclosed homes.
  • Pride: 10+6^2=?? How Smart are you

Much like my recent post about the desire path, the reality is that it is practically human nature to want something for nothing – or want something we can’t have. The reality is that if everyone took a second to think before they clicked on every link to ask themselves, “is this too good to be true?“, nobody would ever get bitten by phish or malware. Luckily for criminals, many computer users will click first, and ask questions later. Feed them a link based upon the 7 deadly sins, and you can all but guarantee it, if the net is cast wide enough. Just look at the Love Letter virus, or so many other recent attacks. So many begin with simple social engineering to click a link or download an infected file. But the hook is, more often than not, a basic play on very primitive human desires.

1 comment

  1. […] mentioned before how much time I spend investigating spam. It’s allowed me to observe some pretty interesting, sometimes amusing, often annoying, […]