You know those completely implausible, unbelievably over-the-top scam emails spelling out some overwrought story about a deceased Nigerian prince, his massive fortune, and the lawyer (esquire, really) who needs your help to transfer the funds out of the country before they are seized by the government? One Microsoft researcher thinks these stories are unbelievable on purpose. Implausible stories drive away all but the most gullible recipients, he argues. The ones most susceptible to the scams self-select.
In a paper released yesterday titled "Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria," Microsoft researcher Cormac Herley puts forth the economic argument that there is an associated cost for each person a scammer decides to pursue. That cost is time and effort, and each potential target requires an investment. By overcooking their stories in the original email, these scammers immediately provoke some vast percentage of their recipients to hit the delete button. But the ones who don't are the very kind of people who will likely buy the rest of the con hook, line, and sinker.
"A less outlandish wording that did not mention Nigeria would almost certainly gather more total responses and more viable responses, but would yield lower overall profit," Herley writes. In other words, and without sugar-coating it: if you actually respond to one of these Nigerian scam emails, you've passed the "dumb test" and are ready to move on to the next step, which is where you surrender your personal information and perhaps even a bank account or social security number. Please don't do this.
If your are dumb enough to fall for these scams,you shouldn't be managing your own affairs.
Not sure I agree. This is perhaps no dumber than playing lotteries. Really this seems more about desperation. In such situations, logic is thrown out the window ... since it is not able to solve the person's problems anyhow.
Also, tall tales are often more successful because the listener tends not to believe that the story teller would make up something so extreme.
If anyone is interested, please send me all of your money and I will double it in 2 weeks... I swear on the my late Nigerian Prince's grave.
In space, no one can hear a tree fall in the forest.
@Far Out Man -- I've never been around when someone actually brought this up before, but I've always wanted to ask the question: Regarding "This is perhaps no dumber than playing lotteries" ... has it ever occurred to you that gambling can just be fun of its own accord? That, perhaps, people playing might not even expect to win with any seriousness, but gain entertainment from playing the lottery and that's part of what they're paying for? --
The Nigeria scam is not nearly as bad as all the world drug companies that solicit me, with the hopes to make my penis several meters long. Why in the world is there such an obsession with penis length, sheesh?!
Does anyone notice the date and time of these comments are NOT in sync...?
Every day is a new day!
Ope! It's just me, ... snort.. lol.
Every day is a new day!
Far Out Man: Most people playing the lotteries lose only a few bucks at a time,and can quit anytime.I agree with JoshS,people get pleasure from gambling,even if the odds of winning are almost nil.On the other hand,if you fall for the Nigerian scams,you could potentially be cleaned out of your life savings.
A lot of people play the lottery and lose hundreds, thousands or more over their lifetime. A smaller number of people are addicted to the lottery and spend nearly everything they have. A very very tiny number of people actually win a lottery.
Similarly perhaps a good number of people respond to these emails but lose only small amounts. A smaller number of people would carry on to the end and possibly lose their savings. Possibly a very very tiny number actually "win" by laundering real money.
The argument that giving away your money can be pleasurable of course could be equally claimed by those that respond to these emails. I certainly could believe that it is a strong element in the allure of these scams.
Far Out Man: I realize some people have trouble with gambling,but I am talking about the millions of people that invest modest amounts of money in lotteries.There is a group of people in my office at work who buy lotto tickets weekly,in-spite of me telling them they would be better off investing the money in a blue chip stock.But,it's their money,and they obviously get pleasure doing it.
Nigerian scams are a different kettle of fish: once they find a "live one",I've read,they will bleed their victim dry if they can.
I DID find a blog once from someone who derived pleasure from stringing the scam artists along,and not giving them a dime in the process-some people have very strange hobbies!
LOL ... I was thinking that some folks might try to "play" with the scam artists ... either for some adventure or as payback.
I admit complete ignorance on the number of people that become victims and what percentage of those actually lose significant amounts of money. I would have guessed that folks that lose their life savings (10's of thousands?) would be very few, but I will have to look for some data. Perhaps accurate numbers are hard to come by but I'll see what I can find.
More interesting would be to know if my assumption that a very few of the offers might not be scams is correct. If there are no valid ones soliciting the general public, responding to a scam email or letter would truly be dumb. Zero chance is certainly a tiny bit dumber than almost infinitesimal (by the way, I've played lotteries too)!
Remember the old saying,if it sounds too good to be true,it is,and these scams are the perfect example.If you want a laugh,check out this site: www.419eater.com
thanks for that link. That was eye opening!
I had no idea that the real 'victims', the targets of the 419 scammers, go through such an elaborate process, even traveling to different countries. I'm now having more trouble feeling sorry for them. To me, it seems more about greed and how that can seemingly make ordinary people behave stupidly.
After reading the two top-listed scam baitings ("The road to ..."), I'm tending now to look at the scammers and the victims in the same light, both fueled by greed.
In a perhaps weak analogy, this seems like a classic question about the drug trade. Who is more responsible ... the country producing the drugs or the country demanding the drugs?
Perhaps we've made an incorrect assumption that the victims are innocent and dumb!
You're welcome,Far Out Man.Your drug analogy strikes a chord with me.I think responsibility is a irrelevant.The "war on drugs" has been an abject failure for almost a 100 years-drugs are easily obtained and prices are stable or dropping,inspite of government spending of billions of dollars a year in interdiction efforts.
The only solution is to legalize all drugs,including the hard ones.Purity and dosage would be guaranteed by the state,and sales would be along the same lines as the sale of alcohol.This would cut the cartels out of the drug business,and save billions in law enforcement costs yearly.
If you think that is an extreme position,consider that early in the last century,heroin and cocaine were OTC drugs at pharmacies-how does the DEA explain why this didn't lead to the country coming apart at the seams? I have another website for you to check out: www.leap.cc
This organization has a membership of 15,000 police officers and criminal judges who believe the "war on drugs" is insanity.
thanks for that link also. You're preaching to the choir on that one! It sickens me to think of the 10's of billions the drug cartels rake in each year. Too many others make plenty of money directly or indirectly. Hard to change even with major public support.
Far Out Man: You're welcome! Sadly,I don't see legalization happening in my lifetime.I guess the difference between alcohol prohibition and drug prohibition boils down to the fact that drinking booze is socially accepted and almost everyone does it.On the other hand,drug users are viewed as ne'er-do-wells living in the gutter.