It’s bad enough that scammers keep pestering us, in the apparent belief that if they use the same ploys on us over and over, sooner or later we will change our minds about what a bunch of crooks we know them to be, and fall for the schemes we have rejected every time until this one.
But now the scammers have to insult us by treating us like total ninnies. ‘So maybe you weren’t quite dumb enough to fall for the regular bunkum. But we think you are dumb enough to fall for bunkum that has a slightly different look or feel. The old wrinkles didn’t work, but how about a new wrinkle? We’ll use a little modern technology. You’ll never figure this one out.
‘Of course it won’t seem like technology. It will look like the personal touch, which we know will be so reassuring and flattering, it will override the modicum of common sense you have applied to our blandishments so far.’
Hence the hand-addressed, personal note-size envelope, and the little note in blue ink, on linen-texture note paper, from ”Jack.” He was anxious to have me know about Home Promise.
How sweet. If the handwriting on the note were not so legible, I might even think it is another Jack who was a scammer right down to the ground. Well, the other circumstance that suggests otherwise is that he is now a scammer in the ground, having shuffled off, mortal coil-wise, several years ago.
Why no last name? Because obviously everyone knows a Jack and will supply that last name from memory. The personal salutation tells us this Jack is on a first name footing with the addressee.
Jack mentions my difficulties in getting a mortgage, just because I don’t have perfect credit and a big income. He tells me he is writing me this personal note so as to help me. Also he wants me to have the $50 cash coupon he has enclosed. (Actually I am not seeking a mortgage. Had one. Paid it off. Don’t miss it at all.)
Jack supplies a phone number, and a URL that takes me to a website where it is necessary to poke and pry to discover Home Promise’s physical location, or what is said to be their physical location, which is in Greencastle, Pa.
Jack told me to call him at 1-800-701-0260. The website lists a different phone number. It also doesn’t tell us much about this company but has lots of shine-you-on baffle-gab, the kind that purports to take the place of specifics.
That’s the technology? No, having a website is so commonplace, every legitimate enterprise has one, and for every one of those, there must be a dozen of the other kind that have websites too—some have one for each permutation of their scam, or each kind of victim.
The technology used in this instance is—fontology. The trick to creating this “handwritten” letter is the use of a handwriting font. You have to look carefully, because the effect is very realistic.
The kind of handwriting font we are most familiar with is calligraphic—something like Zapf Chancery. Then there are some others that resemble some other styles of handwriting, but they would not make you think they are handwritten—we’re talking about the general effect, not a convincing simulation.
This scam letter is a simulation, though—the intention is to deceive you into thinking that a person wrote it by hand, and that this person is someone you know, someone who knows you.
The “writing” is carefully designed to look less than uniform, and not too neat, and a little inconsistent. Some letters have several versions. A randomizing algorithm is built into such font systems.
Where can you find other uses of simulated handwriting, besides other tricky advertising? On the funny pages. The printing in “balloons” looks as if it is hand lettered. But most cartoonists (or their helpers) generate the lettering with computers, much as they duplicate various poses of characters and make tiny changes for different frames or strips, and just as they use “fills” to produce the “hatching” that looks like little lines or dots for shading or clothing effects, etc.
I don’t mind that. I doubt there is any intention to deceive—it’s more a matter of retaining the traditional look and feel of comic strips. But I am disgusted with sales ploys based on the pretense of personal letters from supposed friends and acquaintances. Pretty shabby.
E Drymar@gmal.com. Skype lilimartini.