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Stupid Email Watch: The Alter Ego Who Refuses to Die

3/27/12

By Ken Magill

Shuvitt Inyurass lives!

I vowed to retire my off-color alter ego in May after a respondent to my juvenile shenanigans outdid me with an unintentionally humorous reply, but recent developments have forced me to resurrect him.

As long-time readers know, Shuvitt Inyurass was my fake name in a 2009 exchange with a Nigerian 419 scammer in which I introduced family members such as Pierce D. Boyle and Lihtta Pharty Inyurass.

I have used the fake name and email address, ShuvittInyurass_at_yahoo.com, to communicate with various likely scam artists over the ensuing years to see, among other things, if they can spot its obvious absurdity.

Well guess who can’t spot its obvious absurdity now? A well-known data giant and the Democratic Governors Association.

Both began emailing the address recently and both have been personalizing the messages by addressing Shuvitt by his first name.

“Shuvitt,

“I'm the guy who writes the checks at the Democratic Governors Association.

“I just went over the numbers with Colm, our Executive Director, and we have to raise $51,790 by Saturday if we're going to elect more Democratic governors and stop the far right (check out the chart below). It's a long way to go and it's critical we get there,” said the most recent message from the Democratic Governors Association.

The message was a fundraiser sent to a ridiculously named email address with zero political affiliation and no financial history whatsoever. No giving. No buying. Nothing, except maybe a signup somewhere.

I want to say I have never signed the address up for anything legitimate, but I may have. Even my alcohol-addled mind can’t imagine the Democratic Governors Association buying email addresses from 419 scammers.

But I certainly didn’t give the address to any political organization. I use a dummy address set up in my son’s name at Yahoo! for political lists. And yes, that address is being slaughtered with political spam.

So I probably subscribed Shuvitt Inyurass’s email address to something—a contest or sweepstakes, perhaps—that resulted in it being acquired by the large data provider. However, ShuvittInyurass_at_Yahoo.com is published in harvestable form on ChiefMarketer.com, so it’s possible the address was scraped.

Either way, I suspect the Democratic Governors Association bought ShuvittInyurass_at_Yahoo.com as part of an email list purchase.

And if so, the email manager at the Democratic Governors Association is either being sold a bill of goods or is being willfully ignorant, even by political standards—and possibly both.

Shuvitt Inyurass has never voted in any federal, state or local election or donated to any cause. He has shown no activity that would indicate any political leanings.

What’s more, when communicating with the 419 scammer in 2009, Shuvitt Inyurass said his great grandfather, Puhttitt Inyurass, fled the Soviet Union to escape communist persecution of the landed-peasant class and then immigrated to America to found the Inyurass Ointment Company.

So if anything, Shuvitt Inyurass would probably be some kind of communist-hating Ayn Rand/Rand Paul objectivist-libertarian hybrid—not your classic Democrat.

In any case, according to the email headers, the messages from Democratic Governors Association to Shuvitt Inyurass are coming from political email marketing agency Blue State Digital.

Something crappy is going on somewhere.

I’ve long known that the marketing-lists industry has more than its share of bad actors.

For example, years ago—Christ, going on 20 now—I worked in the creative department at a small business-to-business catalog firm.

The job was already going sour when we got a new vice president of marketing. The way I always tell the story is some of us went out to lunch, the new VP ordered a chardonnay, I ordered a Labatt’s and our relationship was defined right there.

He canned me something like three days later.

Over the ensuing years, every now and then when I’d get irritated or bored, I would go to the company’s catalog-request page and enter an obviously ridiculous name—something like Shimdibbee Zambagoogoo, for example—and my real address.

Soon, Shimdibbee Zambagoogoo—or whomever—would start getting catalogs and I’d get a juvenile chuckle.

One day, a copy of the trade journal I worked for arrived at my apartment addressed to one of my ridiculous alter egos.

Some B-to-B list firm was clearly selling names and addresses of catalog requesters supplied to my former company who had never shown any signs of activity after the initial request. My trade-journal employer’s list manager had apparently bought a file containing at least one of the names.

Something similar is clearly going on with the Democratic Governors Association’s email program. The big difference, however, is that an offline trade journal sending a print publication to a garbage name has few ramifications beyond the wasted printing and postage.

But by sending email to illegitimately obtained email addresses—purchased or otherwise—the Democratic Governors Association is risking being labeled by the ISPs as a spammer and getting all its messages—even those to top donors—treated as spam.

And, indeed, some of the Democratic Governors Association’s messages are going into Shuvitt Inyurass’s inbox. Some are going into his spam folder.

Maybe someone at Blue State Digital should explain to someone at the Democratic Governors Association that its email-list supplier’s sloppy data-acquisition practices are putting the association’s entire online fundraising program in danger.

On the flip side, if enough buyers of garbage data get burned, maybe the data industry’s bad actors will start to feel the pain they have long deserved.

Meanwhile, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Shuvitt Inyurass’s email address going forward. Clearly, he is not ready to retire.

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: robinteractive
Date: 2012-03-28 11:06:04
Subject: Another possibility...

Another possibility is that someone had some fun with that previously-posted email address and subscribed you to a list. I'm inclined to think (based on similar spam experiences) that it was more likely address harvesting, list-selling/sharing, etc., but is a fellow prankster signing that email address up to a list a possibility? I just signed up for the DGA list to see if I'd get a double-opt-in message. Not so far (15 minutes after sign-up). But I do have a feeling I'll get a lot more political mail than just the DGA...

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