You Have Already Won. Save our Planet!

November 22, 2013



A friend has received this.  Really.

Slow day in Nigeria?

Washington Post:

So why don’t Internet scammers try to change up their tactics? Everyone knows about the Nigerian prince. It’s tired and cliched. Why don’t more scammers try to dupe us with the fake inheritances of a Kazakh prince instead, or with Greek bonds or fancy credit default swaps or something clever like that? Something we haven’t seen before?

A fascinating new paper (pdf) from Microsoft researcher Cormac Herley actually tries to answer this question. He notes that 51 percent of all e-mail scams still originate from Nigeria, even though this is the most obvious scam known to mankind. And Corley argues (with math and graphs) that it’s not because scammers are stupid. Most of them are actually quite clever. Rather, they’re explicitly trying to weed out everyone but the most gullible respondents:

Our analysis suggests that is an advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage. Since his attack has a low density of victims the Nigerian scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives. By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.

Scamming people, after all, costs time and money. Herley notes that everyone who responds to a scamming ploy “requires a large amount of interaction.” The worst thing that can happen, from the scammer’s point of view, is that a savvy person starts responding and toying with the scammer. (Teddy Wayne, a writer for The Awl,recently conducted an amusing three-month Facebook correspondence with a man from Malaysia pretending to be a beautiful woman — this is a nightmare for scammers!) Better to keep the e-mails predictable and tired. That way only the most unsuspecting suckers respond.

3 Responses to “You Have Already Won. Save our Planet!”

  1. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    Put the possibility of getting many $$$$$ to most people and good judgment goes out of the window.

    Greed blinds common sense. Where have we seen this before?

    This letter rings lots of alarm bells… Really?
    Sender doesn’t know the name of the recipient.

    This should be taught at school. Noone EVER offers real free money unsolicited by email whether lottery, grant or illgotten millions.

    Most email readers, and it seems especially those on smartphones still don’t easily allow displaying the originating IP address and country of origin, which would help identify a lot of rubbish.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    I agree that anyone who can spare the time should respond to these scammers and try to waste their time—consider it to be a public service project.

    I was once the recipient of a Nigerian scam email—of the “help us move $28 million dollars out of the country and we’ll give you half” variety. They wanted me to send something like $6000. in “processing fees” and provide all kinds of personal banking data. I responded that I was REALLY interested but that I was a little scared by that amount of money and needed more information before I committed. We exchanged half a dozen messages before they quit trying.

    It need not be said that NO information of any sort beyond the email address should be given, not even a name. Since they already had the email address and used it to try to scam you, no harm should come of using it (Anyone out there who is an IT guru, please check me if I’m wrong on that).

    However, mentioning the UN, climate change, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, and “protecting the planet” might repel certain of the gullible “low information” types that would be the best candidates for the scam. Or maybe that’s smart?—since those are “turnoffs” for them, perhaps the intended targets would love to take part and receive $$$ from those they perceive as the “enemy”?

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