As a business owner and admin of a couple/few websites, I get a lot of e-mail. No. Not like that. I mean a LOT of e-mails. Almost never under 100 per day, and sometimes three times that. Mostly it’s press releases, ad copy disguised as press releases, event listings, and way, way too many newsletters (all of which I at least want to read…). Surprisingly little is outright spam these days.
What I have been receiving with increasing frequency are scam attempts that are more sophisticated that the Nigerian prince messages of the last era. The spelling and English grammar are often flawless and the design looks surprisingly pro. Most impressive is that some of them seem to target me at a demographic level that makes me think that these con-artists are likely, in many cases, American organized crime rings.
Some of the most predatory scammers really play to your fears to make you think that giving them your money will protect you.
Like Donald Trump retaking the White House in 2024, unless you keep throwing money at “Blue” strangers.
I’ll say right off the bat that I don’t know if the e-mail at left actually came from a political action committee (PAC) called Resist Reclaim Rebuild. Two attempts to contact leadership at the organization yielded little useful information. An attorney from Ohio responded to my first message to say that he no longer had anything to do with the organization. He provided a link to the organization’s filing with the Federal Election Commission. That document showed that the new person in charge was named Jay Petterson. My e-mail to him has gone unanswered for a few days now. Given my questions, I would think that if a legitimate organization sent out this e-mail, they would want to clear up any misconceptions about their methods and motives. So, let’s take a look at those methods.
The red, white, and blue color scheme is expected, given that this warning concerns the election. What’s important to remember, though, is that the colors aren’t just intended to make the reader project their anxieties onto the 2024 election, but, as importantly, invoke the stress, and ultimate victory, of Joe Biden’s narrow defeat of Trump in 2020. Liberals could be said to be suffering from a mass, collective form of PTSD, brought on by four years of the Trump presidency and the 2016 campaign season.
The words making up the name of this PAC are critical to following up with language that mirrors the emotive effect of the color scheme. The name of the organization is a subconscious trigger that sends the recipient on a journey. First, “Resist,” is directly tied into the identities of the many Blue voters who have considered themselves part of The Resistance over the past four and a half years. Phone calls, letter writing, supporting progressive candidates at different levels of government were all the steady chores in the long game against a second Trump term — not to mention the constant battles fought on social media.
The word “Reclaim,” while not front of mind for me if asked to come up with some keywords in connection to the president, has actually been so omnipresent in the news media as to be rendered nothing more than a barely whispered hope on the tip of every Democratic tongue. Biden more or less began his campaign for the presidency with an op-ed in the New York Times, “Joe Biden: Reclaiming America’s Values” on September 14, 2017. After that, the verb was pretty much tattooed on the forehead of the president’s image. Biden’s gonna reclaim patriotism. Biden’s gonna reclaim the United States’ role of global leadership. Biden’s gonna reclaim control of the United States Postal Service. In all, a Google search yields over one and quarter million instances of the terms “Biden” and “Reclaim.” Admittedly, in some cases the GOP plans to reclaim the White House in 2024, but mostly, it’s Uncle Joe courageously reclaiming all the we lost in 2016. For many people who have viewed American exceptionalism with rose-colored glasses, President Biden came along just in time to reclaim America’s lost innocence.
The media jumped on Biden’s plosive “Build Back Better” campaign promise, such that a similar Google search produced three times as many instance of pairing the terms “Biden” and “Rebuild.” The associations tend to be less dramatic, more pedestrian, usually tied to infrastructure, though sometime pertaining to America’s image. And that’s exactly the satisfying steam valve this organization wants to open wide. We fought and RESISTED together! We were victorious and RECLAIMED our honor together. Now others can get on with the boring task of REBUILDING…together-ish — call me in 2024. The liberal public can go back to their expectations of normalcy. And, as potholes and bridges get fixed, and the economy stabilizes, they can feel the sense of relief that when their children ask “What did you do in the war for America’s soul?” they can answer proudly, “I wrote checks, my little ones. Powerful, laser guided checks.”
The Resist, Reclaim, Rebuild PAC is here to tell you that there’s Trouble in River City. Already, liberals need to beware the GOP, which rhymes with T, and that stands for Trump. He’s RIGHT BEHIND YOU, like an orange zombie. And pollsters and political analysts are predicting that Trump would win the Republican primary if he ran, and possibly (even probably) win the general election this time around. Only a donation made right now can stave off the deplorable hordes.
There’s just one problem, whatever truth there may be to these claims — and there is quite a bit of data to back them up — not a single sentence in this e-mail informs the reader what, specifically, the PAC would do with the requested donations. Further, while the e-mail does contain links to a donation page at Act Blue, which is really no more than a donation payment gateway system for fundraising orgs, there is no link to more information. No actual name of a person. No phone number to call. No e-mail or web address. The message seems to have come from the address [email protected], but if you type resistreclaimrebuild.com into a browser’s address bar, you get this:
A dead site. Just a name that is apparently owned by GoDaddy and can be purchased. Which almost certainly means, and a conclusion supported by the the raw source of the e-mail, that the “From” address is likely fake.
As I said, a listing exists for this organization, which materialized on the political stage in October of 2020, at the FEC and also at OpenSecrets.org, which tracks the money in politics. But there’s no way to confirm that the e-mail even came from that organization, and because there’s no web presence with that name, we wouldn’t even be able to tell how the money was spent, who runs the PAC or who sits on their board. All we really know is that they opened an account with Act Blue, so that when you DO click through to the donation page, it looks official. And apparently, according to OpenSecrets, they did give a few bucks to Democratic candidates last year.
But the disturbing part is that, whether or not these Resist, Reclaim, Rebuild e-mails are coming from the organization that has registered with the FEC, there’s absolutely ZERO transparency. If this organization wanted to, it could continue raking money from well-intentioned liberals who would pay just about anything to prevent a second Trump term, and then use that money for bloated salaries, expenses, and administrative costs and do nearly nothing to rebuild anything. And that’s the best case scenario. There’s just as much chance that the e-mails aren’t even coming from any sort of political organization at all. The whole point of the e-mail campaign — and I’ve gotten at least a dozen, so it feels more like an onslaught — may simple be to frustrate, irritate, and demoralize the center and left with a non-stop flood of beggy pitches. By the time the mid-terms get here, Democratic voters will have had it up to here with all the messaging, and will feel like they’ve given enough to Resist Reclaim Rebuild that they refuse to contribute directly to any actual campaign.
If you’ve already given to this organization, don’t freak out. Because they’re processing payments through Act Blue, which is a credible processor, the most likely situation is that only a tiny fraction of your contribution went to any Democratic cause. It’s very unlikely that any of your personal data has been compromised. On the other hand, whoever these people are now know that you’re willing to part with your hard-earned cash in the middle of 2021 to influence a presidential election that’s still three years away. You’re probably going to get swamped with more requests from Resist, Reclaim, Rebuild, whoever they really are, and plenty of other outfits.
If you can’t find the website, the list of organizational leaders, and sort of proof that they are who they say they are — and are going to do with your money what they say they will — don’t click that “Donate” button. You have no idea whose bank account is getting fat off your trust and sense of political responsibility. There are way, way too many legitimate, transparent causes to contribute to before election season if you have the means and heart.
I’ve decided to take other types of these con-mails and use them to help educate readers about the threats targeting our inboxes. I know, I know…You’re too smart to fall for these traps. That’s what I thought until, under heavy deadline pressure, at the end of a long, frustrating day, I got what looked exactly like an e-mail from a financial institution I deal with. “WHAT NOW?!” I bellowed, and immediately clicked the link that took me to what looked like the sign in page of that website, entered my log-in credentials. Were it not for some curiously worded language, and a request for information that this site had no reason to need, the alarm bells might not have gone off. I saw that the URL of the site was unfamiliar, opened up the actual institution’s page in a different browser, and promptly changed my login information. I felt so stupid, but also realized that slip-ups can happen to nearly anyone — all it takes is a distracted mind and letting your guard down.
I have a doozy coming up that has ensnared many people, mostly men, before they realized the flaw in the threat. Look for it next month!