Musings On 419 Scams

If you have an email box the chances are nearly 100% that you are receiving spam. And if you are receiving spam, you are undoubtedly receiving 419 “offers”, aka Nigerian scams, or advanced fee fraud. Follow the Wiki link to read more on the history of the con, but realize that all of those lotto notifications, Microsoft drawings, passionate please to help get a jazillion bucks out of corrupt leader’s account or whatever are scams. And most people know they are scams and hit the delete button. Some people do try to turn the tables on the scammers by active flogging. It’s kind of fun. But then I read on TechDirt that according to a Nigerian diplomat in Australia, he’s just as amazed, and thus thinks the victims are equally to blame and deserve jailtime. Interesting take.

At the very foundation of advance fee scams is the notion that the person about to be conned is greedy and has no problem receiving or taking something that they know does not belong to them. Let’s face it, the odds of the existence of some random do-gooder coming into millions of dollars of a dead war lord’s loot and finding you clear out of the blue to help smuggle the booty into a safe haven are, ah, remote. But the enticement of receiving something for nothing overrides your common sense. To add to your greed and sense of “morality” the notion that you are somehow taking the money of a “bad man” is harped upon. Next thing you know, you’ve given up all of your precious details and get strung out like a speckled trout in green water as you get played and your funds vanish. Most folks are aware of the scam, but there are enough dolts who let their greed get in the way that… your email boxes stay full of this crap. If you can send out a couple hundred thousand of these emails a day (easy), and you can get two interested replies per thousand (good scammers do), that equates to twenty “marks” a day. If one of those marks plays out and loses just a $1,000 that works out to quite the tidy living. So do not expect an end to the deluge.

If it seems to good to be true… it is.

August 2008
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