Greed vs. Fear: The Eternal Battle Comes to Twitter!


As I've laid out in my current article about a Gmail hacking episode, many spammers, phishers, hackers, and other electronic intruders are technically gifted but lacking in cross-cultural EQ. "Hello My Goodsir! It is I, the authentic Former President of Gabon, requesting your help in retrieving $38.2 million cruelly taken from me. Your share in the rewards shall be handsome. You need only send me your financial particulars..."

Here's an exception: a wicked little Twitter-based phishing exercise that I've been been receiving these past few days. It appears as a purported "Direct Message" from a friend. Here's a sample, with blurring to conceal just which friend this came from and what the phishing link is.


In case you can't read the screen shot, it's a "friend's" concerned message saying, "What's going on with this bad blog that's going around about you?" With a (certainly dangerous) link to click on for more info.

Ah, those two great motivators, greed and fear. The authentic Former President of Gabon preys on greed; this Tweet Phish plays on fear, or rather its more corrosive cousin insecurity, in Autumn-2011 version.

You have to respect the savvy of whoever came up with this. And if you get such a message, don't click on the link!  (More from PC Magazine last week.)
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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