THE curse of modern e-communications is that any Tom, Dick or Harry with a computer and modem can invade your business, if you let them.
This phenomenon, of course, is known as spamming, and those of us with less-sophisticated e-mail systems which allow such rubbish through will know that the most annoying forms are the hoax missives emanating from Africa or eastern Europe which promise untold riches if you just send details of your bank account. Amazingly, some people still fall for them.
I received two of the more inventive spam messages of recent months. One supposedly came from Chelsea Football Club informing me that I had won 1m in their centenary e-raffle.
It proclaimed: "The results were released on 19TH NOVEMBER, 2005 and your email was among the 20 Lucky winners who won 1,000,000.00 each on the 100th anniversery [sic] of the CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB, and your email was attached to ticket number RR38844240 and ballot number 00147."
All I had to do was to fill out a form and contact a "Mr williams brain [sic]", who added menacingly: "Any breach of confidentiality on the part of the winners will result to [sic]disqualification."
Oh well, that's me done my million quid, then.
A day later came a message from Mr Festus Sankoh of Abijan, Cote D'Ivoire, in west Africa. Apparently the sum of $26m is sitting in a bank account which only he has access to, and I could get a whacking great dollop of the money if I sent my personal details to him.
Festus added plaintively: "I know that this massage [sic] will come to you as a surprise as we do not know ourselves before, but be sure that it is real and a genuine business."
Festus, your story touches my heart, but as they say on that excellent telly series, Dragon's Den, I'm out of your business plan.
Such spam cons might be taken a bit more seriously if the senders could spell. But they did get me thinking: if individuals get taken in by such arrant nonsense, would it not be worth trying a similar stunt on the racing community, which is never knowingly outdone for gullibility, as shown by tipping lines making money?
I never cease to be amazed at how punters sign up for tipping services, especially telephone tipping lines, on the basis of advertised claims such as: "We had nine out of 12 winning bets recently, all of them proofed to the Racing Post."
A few things to ponder: if they had nine out of 12, what were the odds? If they were all 1-4 or 30-100, no wonder 75% were winners. And what was the percentage over the long term? Any idiot can pick three winners out of four odds-on shots on a good day, but how about their past 60 or 70 bets?
And has anyone ever bothered to contact the Racing Post to check if the bets were indeed proofed to them? I suspect that the editor, who is a lovely chap, would go bonkers if he had to check every bet allegedly proofed to his organ.
Yet people sign up to tipping lines, which proves that the punting fraternity and sorority may be fertile ground for a new, racing-orientated spam con.
So if you get the following e-mail in the next few days, please don't ignore it. It's a genuine offer of advice from someone who is in the know...
"Dear mug, Ignore all that rubbish about tipping lines. I have a genuine foolproof system which always works and will make you and me a fortune. Send me your credit card details, and I will deduct 100 tomorrow in return for which I will send you the name of a horse which will win at odds of evens or better. You can then charge your own contacts as much as you like for the info.
"And the beauty is that it doesn't really matter if the horse wins or not, because we're getting the cash up-front anyway, and who is going to be daft enough to sue us if we happen to get a tip wrong? After all, nobody would be willing to admit in public that they fell for this stupid con, would they?"
Clearly, no-one in his right mind would be suckered into such a scheme, so why do punters continually pay money up front for the services of tipsters, especially those with telephone tipping lines which cost a fortune just to call and hear some bloke rambling on for three minutes about the weather or whatever, to keep you on the premium line and racking up a fortune for him?
Tipsters? You would as well trying the above Mr williams brain or Festus Sankoh. At least you know they are conmen.