Two years spamming spammers back
I created a bot to respond to these types of emails…
Sarah: My husband dead two years ago and the family members wants to kill me and my children and seat on the inheritance he left for us with bank here l am now in a hiding with my kids and the documents of inheritance is with us…
Bot: Very nice! Where abouts are you located?
^ that’s the Sp@m Looper. It’s a service I made that puts spammers (and scammers) in an email loop with a bot that regularly asks the spammer questions.
But first, the back story…
I hate spam email. My inbox is a sacred place, and spammers shit all over it. I get in the zone when responding to emails, and it’s tough to jump from an email about our businesses pricing strategy, to reviewing the latest bug reports, to something that looks like this (this is an actual email I’ve received):
Please first let me introduce myself. I am the name Parul Johnson and I have opportunity of the lifetime for you.
My services include multiple abilities in cyber security defense and webinars including strategies.
Please find this letter as an invitation to work in the future.
Damnit, Parul. Not only do I have zero clue what you’re offering, but I never even reached out to you to express interest in “cyber security.”
Imagine if this type of thing happened in real-life. You walk out the door in the morning and you’re immediately attacked by Parul, Kevin, and Amelie.
“Good morning Brian. I talked at your face yesterday morning and you didn’t respond. Have you had a chance to look over my offerings?”
“No, I walked away on purpose. Please leave me alone.”
“Okay, sounds good. I’ll catch up with you at the coffee shop later today to see if your priorities have changed.”
“Please don’t talk to me again. I’m going to work.”
“No problem. I’ve removed you from my list, but here is Emelie and Kevin. They paid me $5 for your whereabouts and information. Have a good day!”
Email spam is real-life spam. I live in my inbox, and it becomes next-to-impossible to get work done when you’re constantly bombarded with garbage.
Back in early 2015, I decided I had enough. It became clear to me: it’s my job to stop spam. That “Spam” button on Gmail just didn’t get me going anymore. There’s no reward. I was seeking revenge.. and some comedic relief.
But, how… how do you stop spam?
You waste the spammers time.
I figured if I could eat up a spammers time, then they would have less time to perfect their new spamming technique. How do you eat up a spammers time?
I put them in the Spam Looper
The Sp@mLooper is a service I built that takes emails from spammers and puts them in a “Loop.” It works like this:
- Parul sends an email to my personal email.
- I read it and realize it’s garbage. So I forward it to email@example.com
- The Spam Looper (bot) removes my personal information, and starts a new “conversation” with the spammer as if the spammer had emailed him.
- The spammer responds to the Spam Looper.
- The Spam Looper continues responding… forever.
I generated a bunch of open-ended questions that continually respond to the spammer to keep the conversation going…
Very interesting… are you offering this for free? What is the pricing?
Wow! This sounds like an awesome opportunity. Can you tell me a little more about it?
Hmmm… I like what you’re saying, but can you provide me with just a little more information? Looking for specifics.
This worked well. Spammers were fooled. They would have 4–5 email exchanges with the Spam Looper. You can see a 24 message conversation here.
John Turing’s tofu leggings williamsburg banjo
I wanted to up the ante. It was already hilarious these guys were talking with someone named “John Turing,” now I wanted to test their perseverance. So, I found this little gem and used “Hipster mode” to generate random hipster words at the end of the conversation after ~5 emails had been exchanged. It was strange that some people just ignored it and kept talking to the Sp@mLooper, while others questioned it. You can see the hipster in action here.
Spammers will find you, even if you’re not real
I think one of the most interesting findings I had was the fact that after the first month, I didn’t have to feed the Looper anymore. People were just spamming it on their own. It was miraculous. It reminded me a lot of the Hydra — the more people the Spam Looper responded to, the more spammers it attracted.
Bots can negotiate prices?
The Sp@mLooper had one conversation where he badgered for pricing so many times, he was able to negotiate a $50 discount on the software package. Not bad!
After awhile, I gave up on it. I didn’t have time to write any more code. The code was getting sloppy because I would just hack on it when I had time. So, if you want to steal the code to run your own version, or build on it, you can check it out here: https://github.com/beweinreich/mlooper
Maybe someday we won’t have to deal with this garbage, but until then, there’s the Sp@mLooper.
*After some consideration, I decided to hide the email addresses / personally identifying information from some of the spammers. The site only showcases the funniest ones.