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A Tale of Horses, True Love, and Greed: A Closer Look at Spam Patterns from Asia

Created: 24 Aug 2011 07:04:08 GMT • Updated: 23 Jan 2014 18:19:23 GMT • Translations available: 日本語
Timothy Lee's picture
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As you sit down and open Outlook to delete yet another “Satisfy her in bed tonight!” solicitation from Angelina Jolie, do you ever wonder if every spam email on earth looks the same? It is true that certain phrases in spam seems to resurface ad nauseum in every language imaginable, such as “replica watch”, “reloj”, and “ologi”. Ultimately however, just as with customs, food, and clothing, culture and lifestyle dictates people’s behavior and affects how they use computers. Spam works very much like advertising in that it also caters to different groups based on their cultural backgrounds and local trends for maximum scamming benefits. I will highlight an example of spam specific to Asian below to demonstrate how spam from the Far East differs from the typical med and 419 scams seen elsewhere.

Keiba (horse racing) scams

Japan has one of the biggest horse racing industries in the world. Over 21,000 horse races are held annually in one of Japan’s 30 race tracks. It’s no secret that this sport attracts many spectators - and scammers. Spam emails related to recreational horse race gambling make up a huge percentage of all spam seen in the Japanese language. A typical keiba scam email may look like the following:

There are a few characteristics here that are worth pointing out. Almost all keiba scam emails contain some line that shows a ridiculously high payout rate. Then it entices the potential victim further by offering a secret that “only the selected few” know. This pretense of secrecy also legitimizes the scammers to ask the victims for their personal information. As I quickly discovered, all keiba sites are membership-based and require user registration!

The below screenshot is an example of a keiba scam site. While it still maintains that it is free, in the registration process the user supplies some personal information.

So how exactly do keiba scammers make money out of this? Once someone signs up to the supposedly “free” service, he/she would quickly discover that nothing is free after all. All the information on the website costs points and it takes real world money to buy those points. Its worth remembering that the information these sites provide are just groundless predictions of future events. To further add insult to injury, many of these sites also collect all the registered user information and resell them to other affiliated spam networks, such as adult dating sites (that will be a topic of a future blog) and other unscrupulous advertising agencies. Feel scammed and want your money back? It may be a harder task than you can imagine, despite all the money-back guarantees claimed on those websites. A quick search reveals that there are just as many keiba scam victim help sites as there are actual keiba scam sites. So the next time you come across one of these “guaranteed winning secret” emails in your inbox, remember that it is just another scam attempting to capitalize on human greed and send it to the spam folder!