I am sure that Readers will be pleased to hear that my efforts to block all offers to expand my non-existent genital appendage have proved successful. The Gmail filtering of all emails containing the word 'penis' worked beautifully. Hurrah, then! (Though I'm awfully sorry if you wrote to me and had to use the word 'penis', because your mind was pure and you knew of no other colloquial or slang equivalent. Your email would have been bounced, never reaching me)
But of course other types of spam still come through. They do end up in the Spam Box. (Thank you, O efficient Gmail!) But I don't really want to see them at all. I want them cast off into some cesspit.
Here's one I found in my Spam Box barely a day ago. It's the 'let me tempt you with mention of lots of money' type, but this time with a difference - the personal appeal made to me for money-transfer facilities (or whatever is really wanted from me) claims to come from Aisha Gaddafi, a daughter of the late Colonel Gaddafi, a western-trained legal expert, a one-time UN goodwill ambassador, and a highly vocal political figure now on the 'wanted' list of the new government of Libya!
This is a pretty blatant fraud, because I can't imagine that the real Aisha Gaddafi has written to anyone in these terms; nor would need to; nor would ever risk relying on an unknown recipient's co-operation in not passing the message straight on to someone in authority. It reads as follows:
How are you today, I hope my mail meet you in good condition of health?
Dear I have decided to contact you after much thought considering the fact that we have not meet before, but because of some circumstance oblige me, I decided to contact you due to the urgency of my present situation here in the refugee camp for your rescue and also for a business venture/project which I need your assistant in this business establishment in your country as my foreign partner as well as my legal appointed trustee. I am Aisha Muammar Gaddafi, the only daughters of the embattled president of Libya, Hon. Muammar Gaddafi. I am currently residing in Burkina Faso unfortunately as a refugee. I am writing this mail with tears and sorrow from my heart asking for your urgent help. I have passed through pains and sorrowful moment since the death of my late father. At the meantime, my family is the target of Western nations led by Nato who wants to destroy my father at all costs. Our investments and bank accounts in several countries are their targets to freeze. My Father of blessed memory deposited the sum of $5.8M (Five Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Dollars) in (BRS) BANK Burkina Faso which he used my name as the next of kin. I have been commissioned by the (BRS) bank to present an interested foreign investor/partner who can stand as my trustee and receive the fund in his account for a possible investment in his country due to my refugee status here in Burkina Faso. I am in search of an honest and reliable person who will help me and stand as my trustee so that I will present him to the Bank for the transfer of the fund to his bank account overseas. I have chosen to contact you after my prayers and I believe that you will not betray my trust. But rather take me as your own sister or daughter. If this transaction interest you, you don't have to disclose it to anybody because of what is going with my entire family, if the united nation happens to know this account, they will freezing it as they froze others, so please keep this transaction only to yourself until we finalize it. Apologetic for my pictures I will enclose it in my next mail and more about me when I hear from you okay.
Please I want you to contact me here on my email; (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more conversation.
Thank and Best Regards,
Oddly, this email actually came from the account of one Cynthia K Kones, whose present email address is email@example.com. I couldn't understand her involvement. A quick search on Google led me to a website called Socialvibes.net (run by Professor Joel Charles Snell, of Kirkwood College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and a post on 22 August 2014 in which (as I have done, above) the Professor gave the text of a suspicious email under the heading Phoney Plea? (I am not urging anyone to follow the link, but here it is anyway: http://www.socialvibes.net/socialvi/2014/06/25/phony-plea/) Ms Kones was appealing direct, on her own behalf, calling herself 'Cynthia Kipkalya Kones', explaining her background, and employing language and a style amazingly similar to that used by 'Aisha Gaddafi'. Why, the text in both instances might have been composed by the same person. Remarkable.
It was very easy to find other email appeals, couched in the same sort of way, that people have received and republished as an Awful Warning.
I stumbled on a website run by Antifraud International (no, I've never heard of them before, either, but they seem to mean well) and they provide a forum - well, quite a number of specialised forums in fact - for members to post up scams and and other frauds that have arrived in the form of email messages. Thus I found several variants of the 'Aisha Gaddafi' message - see (if you feel confident enough) http://antifraudintl.org/showthread.php?86148-Aisha-Gaddafi-from-Libya.
If you do take a peek, you might as well go the AntiFraud International's Scam Mail Depot (http://antifraudintl.org/forumdisplay.php?19-Scam-Mail-Depot) and see all the various forums you can dip into. Dip at will. It's quite staggering, all that illegal activity, all designed to ensnare unwary and gullible people. There must be hundreds of fraudsters out there writing (and re-writing) these messages in the expectation that someone, somewhere, will be daft enough to respond. And I am quite sure that, once in a while, someone does.
The message I got must have been sent out merely on the information that my email address existed. They simply tried me, to see what resulted. There was nothing in my email address to indicate that I lived in the UK, and therefore might not approve of the late Colonel Gaddafi and his family. You know, the late Colonel's generally bad attitude to the West, and his long-obstructive stance in relation to the Lockerbie incident. There was also nothing in my email address to suggest that I might not only be Libyan, but pro-Gaddafi, and in particular unquestioningly loyal to the Gaddafi family.
How do I filter this type of message? Sigh.
It did at least prompt me to look into Burkina Faso, a poor landlocked sub-Saharan African country, for which brief particulars can be read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burkina_Faso. One of the references at the end of the Wikipedia article caught my eye: LGBT Rights in Burkina Faso. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Burkina_Faso. It seems that the country has no laws against being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, but the U.S. Department of State's 2011 Human Rights Report still found that:
The law does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in employment and occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care. However, societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remained a problem. Religious and traditional beliefs do not accept homosexuality, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons were reportedly occasional victims of verbal and physical abuse. There were no reports that the government responded to societal violence and discrimination against such persons. LGBT organizations had no legal presence in the country but existed unofficially. There were no reports of government or societal violence against such organizations.
It sounds as if the day-to-day challenges faced by LGBT people are simply ignored as if they don't exist. One might be able to live in harmony with one's neighbours, or one might be reviled. The police and other officials will look away and do nothing. That is better than living under the constant threat of dire and cruel official punishments, but not much better.
Yet another place not safe to visit, methinks. I'm rather glad I'm not a foreign correspondent by profession, or anyone who has to go to these places. But maintaining a judicious distance does shut off quite a lot of the world.