What weird spam is this?

By Felix Salmon
July 23, 2009

On June 11, I got an email from mike.power200@gmail.com:

Hi,
What are the tax if i live in ny and la?
Would you consider giving me a hand or at least some advice based on your experience?
Would you consider giving me a couple pointers?
Thank you in advance.
Sincerely,
Larry

It was the first of many such weird, semi-targeted spams. June 22, from petrov.gazprom@gmail.com:

Hi,
How much rent you can play on a 6 million house? What are the pros and cons I should be looking out for? Would you consider giving me a couple pointers? I really appreciate your help. Thankyou, Jerod

June 27, from winstonfinancial@gmail.com:

How much per square foot to build an apartment? I have been thinking about this for a while and was hoping you might be able to shed some light on the subject. Please point me in the right direction. Thank you for your help.
Thanks,
Jerod

July 1, from the same winstonfinancial address, but this time with a different name at the bottom:

Hello,
Are interest rates on cds going to go up? What Gotchas should I be aware of?
Please point me in the right direction.
Thankyou. Gratefully, John

On July 5, an email from petersons.production@gmail.com dispensed with the greeting entirely:

When are mortgages going back to normal?
I need a little help/direction before I can start. Any nuggets of wisdom would be absolutely great and very much appreciated. Would you consider giving me a couple pointers? Thank you very much. Warmest Regards, Terry

On July 10, the same email address asked me about fixed vs variable mortgages, signing itself “Susan”; on July 15, it was “Frank” looking to rent a house in the UK; and on July 19, the email had changed to petrov.gazprom@gmail.com, where “Tony” wanted to know “How much does it cost per day in london?”. By July 21, “Tony” had changed his email to iris.accountants@gmail.com, maybe because the petrov.gazprom address had switched over to “Leanne”, who, this morning, asked me “How much does 1 hour phone cost on the home phone?”.

The general rubric is clear: a foo.bar@gmail.com email address, a question, a plea for help, and a sign-off. Is anybody else getting these emails? And what is their purpose?

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