The email I received from Gina had a very simple subject line: “Hello.” The body of the email was also simple, just a link without any other text. Ugh; spam. I knew immediately what had happened. Somewhere, she had clicked on a malicious link and all of her contacts received the same email.

I happened to see Gina about an hour after receiving the email. She was embarrassed as she is usually very careful to avoid clicking on bad links. As I asked her to think back on what she’d clicked on recently, she hung her head in shame. Staring at the floor, she quietly admitted, “There was a link on my Facebook wall that said that one of my friends had answered a question about me and I wanted to see what it was.”

There it was. One powerful tool in the spammer’s arsenal – vanity, not the spammer’s vanity, our own vanity. When we are led to believe that we will find out something interesting about our favorite subject – us – it is very hard to resist. Despite knowing better, Gina could not resist finding out what her friend had said about her.

We’ve all had friends fall prey to this ploy. Just a few of the applications and links I’ve seen recently which play on our vanity:

  • OMG, I can’t believe you’re in this video. Is this really you? LOL
  • Sam answered a question about you. Find out what he said.
  • Penelope found out that you’ve viewed her profile 6 times. Find out who has viewed your profile.
  • Amanda found out that her IQ is 72. How smart are you?

Each of these play on our desire to know what others are saying about us or how we measure up as compared to our friends. Next time you are tempted to click that link, ask yourself if it feels tempting because it promises to tell you something about yourself. If so, resist. Gina is kicking herself right now for giving into the temptation and is doing a lot of apologizing to her friends.

Photo courtesy of Khya.

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