The one that didn't get away

Despite enjoying my work as a journalist, the nature of my job means I don't often get to originate stories, mainly feeding off what the rest of the BBC is doing.

This morning provided a welcome break from the routine.

Going through my e-mails I noticed a piece of spam that had negotiated its way through the two filters I have on my work account. It claimed to come from the Disasters Emergency Committee, seeking donations for the Asian tsunami relief fund.

I immediately smelt a fish. Or a phish, as the parlance has it.

The e-mail in question put me in mind of the internet banking scam that traps so many people, coming as it did from an unrecognised address.

And the link directed users to decuk.org which had subtle but important differences from the real DEC website.

Most details seemed correct, but these operations are always very clever in mimicking the authentic sites. I didn't trust it at all.

It bore all the hallmarks of a get-rich-quick-at-the-hands-of-the-naive-and-compassionate scheme: spelling errors, out of date information, dodgy urls.

Also I couldn't believe the DEC was actively spamming mailboxes - keen for cash they may be, but they surely know spam loosens no one's purse strings.

But was it a story? Had I missed the boat? Was it genuinely from the DEC? Or was it a significant and distinctly unsavoury twist on the tsunami story?

A word in a couple of senior editorial ears, and a couple of hours later the technology section of our site has a new lead story. Turns out the site is indeed completely bogus and the DEC have asked the police to investigate.

I can't claim credit for writing the story, or even the phone-bashing done by the Tech team. I was too busy keeping my own section ticking over to follow up my lead.

But I do have the satisfaction of knowing that thanks to me, the BBC News website is carrying a story that no one else appears to have picked up yet, and a significant and distinctly unsavoury twist on the tsunami tale at that.

So if you'll excuse me, I'll just sit here in my justifiably smug, warm glow, knowing that some good has come of my day's work.

And in the spirit of charity, I hope the bastards cynically cashing in on the misery and misfortune of millions get absolutely screwed.

STOP FTP: Checking the scam site within the last few minutes, I notice it's been suspended. I love it when a plan comes together.


A little less than two years ago, shortly after nota benny started, I published this post celebrating the news that Ivan Noble, a colleague who had been battling a brain tumour, had been responding well to his treatment.

Sadly, Ivan died last night.

Meanwhile, the newsroom seems to retain its usual eerie calm. But heaven only knows how my colleagues are feeling. And it's clear from the response of the site's users that many feel they've lost someone important.

There's much more I could say, but it all seems frivolous and inappropriate.

At the time of the original post, I wrote: I probably should have said more to Ivan than I have over the past two years - especially since the diagnosis - but it looks like I'll have the chance to rectify that now.

I never did, and for that I'm sorry.