I Get Spam, Texas City, USA


I’ve keynoted and attended a lot of conferences in the course of my career. So, naturally, a piece of spam that looks like it’s a conference invitation goes right through my bayesian spam classifier.


 

invite


 

I’m not sure where “Texas City, USA” is but it sure sounds big. Because they do things big in Texas.

Here’s what I think is going on: the scammers are trying to get people who want conference attendee visas so they can get into the US. Then, they will get lost into the vastness of Texas City where they will be welcomed with open arms by the horrible racist denizens of that area.

I’m pretty sure, though, that they’re going to fail (and their victims will lose any money they send) because they don’t really look much like a legitimate conference. I’m pretty sure “Socio Economic Development Impaction” is a branch of the social “sciences” but when I googled for it I didn’t expect there to be a website and everything. It looks like they have about 30 employees, so they’re running a multi-million dollar business. Well, not really. The listing of the staff is pretty intense:

staff

TERESA Martin, “Director Crimes against” sounds interesting – it sounds like they are taking attendee safety pretty seriously; it sounds like they’re better than some atheoskeptical organizations. Besides, they have a staff position called “Assistanton” which sounds pretty darned cool.

The main burst page is littered with pictures from large conferences and they claim to be sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I suppose I could call and check…

I’m not pointing a laughing finger at them; if they’re scammers (and they seem to be) they are trying to take advantage of the hopes of desperate people who are trying to get in to the US. It’s important for us to remember that people everywhere are getting fucked by their governments, economically exploited, sexually and racially abused, legislated against, repressed, or just lack opportunity. The US is still a place that’s attractive enough that scammers can ply their trade. My initial reaction was “who on earth would want to go to Texas?” But that’s because I’m privileged to be somewhere nicer.

Comments

  1. johnson catman says

    Our highly motivated staffs has consistently . . .

    Looks like they need a Director of Grammar.

  2. cvoinescu says

    They went to the trouble of inventing a hotel, too. Funny how both them and the hotel use the same weird formatting of US phone numbers (“+ (1) 713 701 5503”). And both sites are made with the same theme package, are hosted by the same provider, and even resolve to the same IP address. Don’t you wish all conferences had such a tight relationship with the hotels they recommend?

  3. blf says

    Whilst I have no idea what “Texas City, USA” refers to, Texas City, Texas, is a real place. It is perhaps best known for (and is the reason I recognised the name) the explosion of the SS Grandcamp, one of the largest non-nuclear blasts ever.

    The website says the event is in Houston (Texas), but the only(?) existing review (via Generalisimo Google™) for the “mandatory” hotel says “There is no such thing in this address its just a con […]”. In my experience, there is never(?) a “mandatory” hotel, albeit conference organisers do ask attendees to use (one of) the recommended legit hotels — and make sure the hotel knows thet are attending the such-and-so conference — since they usually have to guarantee a certain number of bookings and pay hefy “fines” if fewer attendees register.

  4. komarov says

    Prof. Michael Smith must have quite the personality to take on the role of Senior Staff – all of it – all by himself. And I quite like the title “Director of Human Affairs”. It sounds like a corporatised version of Supreme Ruler. If Augustus was ‘merely’ the first citizen in his day then this is what he’d be called today.

  5. says

    blf@#7:
    It is perhaps best known for (and is the reason I recognised the name) the explosion of the SS Grandcamp, one of the largest non-nuclear blasts ever.

    I had never heard of that before. Wow! That’s a lot of ammonium nitrate!

  6. cvoinescu says

    The hotel website doesn’t say the hotel is at that address. That’s just the correspondence address. There seem to be only houses and a school near there. They don’t ever say where the hotel is, nor do they have the customary “how to get there” section on their website. They do list the contents of their chalets in great detail, though: you’ll be glad to know you’ll be provided with no less than three saucepans (one quart, two quarts, and four quarts), all with lids.

    The image with the large audience with people in the front row wearing rosettes and ribbons is from here: http://www.worldsummit2017.org/

    That’s quite an effort they put into this scam. It falls short on grammar and some finer points (do hotels of that apparent caliber bother to tell you how many towels, glasses and forks there will be in your room? The French often write their surnames in all-caps, but does anyone do that with their first name? It’s not even done consistently, and some people are Mr or Mrs but others have no title at all). Still, it may not be glaringly obvious, especially to someone not that fluent in English.

    Do you think this scam actually fools anyone?

  7. Owlmirror says

    Do you think this scam actually fools anyone?

    I think the clumsy translations and inconsistent formatting and so on are, to some extent, deliberate — they are meant to warn away all the people with good scam/fraud detection. The idea is that the people who are gullible enough to take this seriously enough to respond will also be gullible enough to advance fees when requested to do so.

    Where did I read that? Hold on. . .

    Why do Nigerian scammers say they are from Nigeria?

    Far-fetched tales of West African riches strike most as comical. Our analysis suggests that is an advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage. Since his attack has a low density of victims the Nigerian scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives. By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.

    The only counter I can think of are those who pretend to be gullible, like the guy who scammed 419 scammers.

  8. cvoinescu says

    By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.

    That sounds plausible, but I’m not convinced. I think we give the scammers too much credit to assume they intentionally make their offering less believable in order to deal only with the most gullible marks.

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