Over the past year I’ve been getting a steady trickle of “friend requests”, i.e. invitations to join a service, for a website called SiliconIndia. Virtually all the supposed senders were women from India. Job titles included Software Engineer, Business Analyst and HR Executive. Most were very pretty. By that I mean not just better than average looking, more like the portfolio of a modeling agency.
Because of my volunteer work against online scams, some email accounts of mine end up in address books of thousands of people who over time have forwarded me samples of questionable mails. Consequently, I also receive a lot of requests to join online networking and other websites, many of which make it too easy to invite everyone in your address book to join a particular service when you join. One mail folder that I keep exclusively for such invitations from people I don’t recognize currently contains over 1,100 examples.
When I received another SiliconIndia invitation yesterday, I decided to take a closer look and a very interesting picture evolved. I had 42 invitations going back to February 2008. Nine of them (originating with three indivuals) did not include a photograph and almost all of those were from the first month. They may have been real invitations. The interesting thing about the other 33 invitations was that the senders were all female. Not one guy! 23 of these were sent from Gmail accounts and 10 from AOL or AIM accounts. One picture I received from both a Gmail and an AOL account. It wasn’t just that these emails had AOL or Gmail sender addresses, they also did not come from a SiliconIndia mail server as one might expect for regular “tell a friend” invitations. All were sent from regular personal Gmail and AOL accounts through the respective mail servers.
What this tells me is that someone is manually making up invitation mails, using pictures of pretty women to attract mostly male job seekers to join that service. And somebody somewhere is making money out of people who respond.
Out of curiosity I joined the service under an assumed identity. The profile for the person who had invited me the day before had a list of 456 “friends”. If she were to “stay in touch” with all of them as it said in the invitation, she’d be a pretty busy lady. So next time you get an invitation to join SiliconIndia to connect with some pretty woman, don’t delude yourself. Most likely some guy somewhere is being paid a few rupees to mail pictures of pretty girls to thousands of guys in order to drive traffic to a commercial website.