Email fraud part 2

While still on the topic of email fraud, I would like to touch on 419 scams, which are also known as Nigerian scams. Most of us routinely encounter such emails in our spam box, so it shouldn't be too alien to us. The modus operandi for such a scam is as follows. The scam artist first crafts an email to bait the victim into replying. Common scenarios include winning the lottery, inheriting a large sum of money from deceased royalty and so on. Once the victim has replied, the scam artist will request a sum of money claiming that a clearance or holding fee has to be paid before the winnings/inheritance can be processed. After paying the scam artist, the victim will never hear from them again.

If we break down the process, we will realise that the scam artist has to perform 2 steps, first of which is to craft a generic email and blast it out to as many email addresses as possible. The second involves personalised follow up messages for each victim to convince them of the legitimacy of his claim and guide them through the payment process. The first step can be automated very easily while the second step requires manual effort on the part of the scam artist. Suffice to say, not everyone who replies will eventually take the bait, thus it is in the best interest of the scam artist to craft the email in such a way that only the most gullible will be fooled into replying, as this is the target group who is most likely to get scammed.

One of the methods used to achieve the abovementioned is through poor english. Most people assume that the grammatical errors and sentence structure problems are due to poor education. However, as this article describes, scam artists deliberately introduce these errors so that the more educated folks will immediately identify it as spam and only the less educated folks will take the bait. It is easier to convince these less educated folks into parting with their money and thus the scam artists will have a higher rate of return for less work.

Another method is through the use of ludicrous scenarios involving princes/princesses or agencies and banks that do not exist. These scam artists can use the name of a legitimate bank or agency but they choose to use fictitious ones because their targets are those who do not know how to conduct a simple google search to check if these agencies exist. These less savvy people are more likely to fall for the scam.

So, the next time you receive a Nigerian scam with a ludicrous scenario written in poor english, it is simply because you are not in the target group.