The American Association of Retired People is the latest spammer to hit an email address here that usually just gets links to porn or pitches from Nigerian lawyers offering to split $6.5 million from their dead clients.
It came from LeslieSmith@thalized.info – about as real as the latest lawyer from Lagos? – with the subject line of “Receive a gift with AARP membership”
And here’s the usual ‘you asked for it’ nonsense that leads off the email:
“You have received this e-mail on behalf of AARP because you requested to receive information from the company listed at the bottom of this message.”
There is no company listed at the bottom of the message, of course, but then we all know that the first rule of spam is that Spammers Always Lie.
The message goes on to suggest clicking on a link that’s supposedly www.aarp.org/benefits to take advantage of all of the irrelevant blah-blah-blah in the rest of the spam. Of course, once you start lying, why revisit the truth?
The real link – the one hidden under the www.aarp.org/benefits tag – is actually at http://thalized.info
Now my best guess is that domain – thalized.info – is probably a throwaway domain created in the past few days or weeks and will lead to somewhere else. So let’s check out my theory:
Registered at GoDaddy (what a surprise! not) on July 2nd, 2010. And with contact info that’s clearly bogus, such as the phone number 1-426-745-7985 that doesn’t exist. Yep, spammer spoor alright.
So what happens when we click on the link?
We get delivered to www.aarpmemberhip.org with the AARP logo all over it, plus a toll free number that leads me to a telemarketer (name withheld) at the AARP call center in Nevada.
So who owns aarpmembership.org? A St. Petersberg, Florida, company called SendTec (sendtec.com) that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year , just months before it set up aarpmembership.org and was earlier under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the USA.
Calling AARP’s Washington, DC, office and asking for a media contact gets me Charlotte Marshall. After explaining the brief outline – spam to my inbox and the link to AARP – I asked if aarpmembership.org is in fact associated with AARP.
So are you saying that AARP sends out unsolicited junk mail?
“This company does that, yes,” she told me and went on to explain that they buy email addresses from third parties.
When she asked again why I wanted to know, I repeated that I’m a journalist and was conducting and interview.
“Oh,” said Charlotte. “Can you hold on while I get you a spokesperson? That’s not my department.”
So after a bit of waiting, AARP spokesperson Jordan McNerney came on the line. I gave him the same backgrounder, and asked about the connection between the throwaway source of the spam, aarpmembership.org and AARP.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “That’s not my department. But I will try to find out for you and call you back.”
Anyone willing to bet on that last promise being the truth?
So is this a first for AARP?
Not according to this blog post by Johm Mello at allspammedup.com which relates a similar story from a few months ago.
AARP claims 39 millions. And has a reputation that extends into Canada. Must be really bad times in the USA if an organization that I used to think had credibility is using the same shady tactics as the ugliest of the porn spammers and the offshore criminal gangs trying to steal identities.
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