Do you talk to robots? If you use an Instant Messenger like Microsoft’s Live Messenger, you’ve probably been contacted by a spam robot by now. There are several ways to get spam on Messenger, and I’ll tell you about the two ways I see the most, so you know what’s going on when it happens to you.
- One way is for a new contact to request you add them to your contact list. In Live Messenger, people can’t talk to you until you approve them as a “contact”, and add them to your list once they add your email to their list. How’d the spammer get your email address? Well, you could have been phished (given your address to a website pretending to do something you want, while it really steals it so you can be spammed), harvested (a spammer got a hold of an email with your address in the CC line or you may have posted your address in a public space online), or your address was guessed in a dictionary search. In any case, do not add the person to your contact list, block them, and report them to Microsoft as a spammer (which is an option in the new Live Messenger version).
If you mistakenly add a spammer to your contact list, don’t panic, you’ll be fine. My friend did it once to see what the spam was about. He ended up talking with a chat-bot. The idea of the spammer is to get you to click on links to their website with expensive junk for sale. The bot (computer pretending to be a human) tries to convince you that they’re telling you a great secret deal, and isn’t a black market automaton.
- The second way you end up with spam in your messenger is when a contact of yours gets their password phished (stolen through trickery on a fake or unscrupulous website). Once a spammer steals the password to a Hotmail (Live) account, they can send instant messages to everyone on the contact list. This problem is not unique to email passwords. It happens to Facebook and Twitter accounts too. You should be especially leery of unexpected messages from contacts that contain any sort of link. Do not click the link. Ask your friend what link they sent you. Most of the time they won’t know what you mean, and that will confirm that the link was sent without their knowledge by a virus or a password thief.