Sunday, May 22, 2022

What is Zoosk? Why Do They Spam Me? How Do They Break Up Marriages?

SPAM is SPAM and just because your spouse got an e-mail from a dating site doesn't mean they are cheating on you!

I logged onto my phone one morning and found weird messages in my Inbox and even more of them in my SPAM box.  over a dozen messages from a site called "Zoosk" telling me that someone "matched" with my profile. Many of the names were just gibberish.  "aehafhxzx wants to match with you!" the site cheerfully announces.  Great.  I am a "match" for a cat on the keyboard!

Of course, I knew it was SPAM as I had never head of this site.  They were playing the age-old Internet game of "who has been searching for your profile on Facebook?" - when in fact, there is no way for any site to tell you who has been searching for your profile.  Even Facebook doesn't offer that service.  But apparently, a lot of people get worried about this, hence the SPAM messages about "someone was doing a background check on you!"

From what I can fathom online, at one time, Zoosk was a dating site trying to swim with the big fishes.  But on the Internet, it is "go big or go home!" and sites like Tinder and Grindr took off, while the oddly-named "Zoosk" went nowhere, so the founders sold it.  Apparently the new owners are running it as a scam.  They send out these SPAM messages hoping that (a) you are dying to know who wants to meet you, or (b) you want to know how they got your name and set up a profile in your name.  And apparently it works.

People actually sign up for the "service" just to see what it is all about, and are charged on their credit card in a negative option scheme.  They try to cancel, but their card gets charged again and again.  Sound familiar?  Yea, it is the old AOL gag - take a failing online company, fraudulently charge people's credit cards, and keep doing it until they cancel their card.   You can make money this way.

Like anything else on the Internet, there may be layers to this onion, however.

When I searched "Zoosk sucks" or something along those lines, I got one of those weird "complaint boards" that had comments indicating the whole thing was a scam - that the profiles were fake, no one was trying to "hook up" with you, and they were hoping you'd pay to see who is trying to reach you.  At the bottom of the page, however, was a link to... dating sites!

It is like MLM rebound schemes.  Burned by an MLM?  Try this one! It's not a scam!  You can make money double-dipping, too.

Another site helpfully offers a service to "block" e-mails from Zoosk - for a fee, of course.  So you make money by inflicting minor pain on people and then make money offering it take it away.  Sort of like how the telcos used to charge for caller-ID, then charge for caller-ID blocking, then charge even more for caller-ID block-unblock.   Some sadist figured all of that out!

What was disturbing, however, was one site where I read that someone's wife was scrolling through the husband's phone and demanded to know what all these e-mails from a dating site were all about!  Apparently, the wife didn't buy the explanation that it was unsolicited SPAM messages and accused the husband of cheating.  You can see how unsolicited e-mail messages can be a problem in fragile relationships.

Of course, in order for most scams to work, you need the cooperation of the victim.  You can't be scammed by Zoosk if you don't sign up, and you won't sign up if you don't fall for the "Oh, who is looking for me?" mindset.  Curiosity killed the cat.  And if your spouse wants to divorce you because of a SPAM message on your phone, maybe it is a good thing - not a lot of trust in that relationship!  And why was she searching the trash bin on your e-mail account in the first place?  Weird.

I tried clicking on "mark as SPAM and unsubscribe" and it didn't work - the SPAM kept coming and some of the messages went to my INBOX.  The messages all came overnight, which tells me they are from a time zone on the other side of the planet.  I cautiously clicked on the "unsubscribe" icon on one of the messages and apparently it worked. It was a risky move, as many SPAM sites use the "unsubscribe" icon not to unsubscribe you, but to confirm you are a "live" e-mail address.  So if you click on "unsubscribe" on SPAM it may make things worse.

Of course, SPAM is a minor annoyance.  I like to clean out my SPAM and TRASH boxes daily.  Mark lets it accumulate until Google erases it (after 30 days) which just seems sloppy to me.

Nevertheless, I thought it was a fascinating look at the seamy underworld of the Internet and how they use psychology to get people to click - and pay - for nonsense!