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Why 'Nigerian Scammers' Say They're From Nigeria

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the hello-sir-madam dept.

Crime 209

angry tapir writes "'Nigerian scams' (also known as '419 scams' but more accurately called 'advance fee fraud') continue to clog up inboxes with tales of fantastic wealth for the recipient. The raises the question: Do people still fall for this rubbish? The emails often outline ridiculous scenarios but promise millions if a person offers to help get money out of a country. The reason for the ridiculous scenarios seems obvious in retrospect: According to research by Cormac Herley at Microsoft, scammers are looking for the most gullible people, and their crazy emails can help weed out people who are savvy enough to know better. Contrary to what people believe, the scams aren't 'free' for the scammers (PDF): sending an email might have close to zero cost attached, but the process of getting money out of someone can be quite complicated and incurs costs (for example, recruiting other parties to participate in the scam). So at the end of the day, the scammer wants to find people who will almost certainly fall for the scam and offer a good return."

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please ignore (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40381939)

For once in my life, I want to say "FIRST POST!"

Re:please ignore (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382055)

But you used the Anonymous Coward account so nobody will believe it was you!

Re:please ignore (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382063)

For once in my life, I want to say "FIRST POST!"

Congratulations, you have one the "first post" prize. This was set up in the year 1922 by President Nboko of Nigeria, who felt that those who posted first to Slashdot on the 20th of June each year (his birthday) should receive a million US$. However to release these funds some small charges apply....

Re:please ignore (1)

Kangburra (911213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382217)

Congratulations, you have one the "first post" prize.

s/one/won/;

Re:please ignore (5, Interesting)

relyimah (938927) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382235)

Congratulations, you have one the "first post" prize.

s/one/won/;

Surely the spelling mistake was intentional... to "find people who will almost certainly fall for the scam". Because we all know lawyers in the real world would be able to spell such a simple word. :)

Re:please ignore (5, Interesting)

Technician (215283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382555)

I've learned to bait them to increase there time cost. If everyone wrote them back, they would be overloaded with non paying contacts. Set up a bait email account and always write them back using a ficticious persona.

One to send me my inheritance asked for my details including my photo.

I wrote back and asked about the format needed for the photo. Is a family portrait needed? Would a snap at the beach last summer be OK?

They took the time to read my reply and write a personalised reply requesting a passport photo.

I wrote back saying I didn't have a Passport Photo so I need to get one taken. String them out and waste their time. Google Scambaiting for more info.

Never fake and send government ID such as a passport or drivers license. It's illegal in many locations. Find excuses to delay forever till they give up.

Re:please ignore (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382749)

You are using your (first world) time to bind their (third world) time. I don't quite see how that's a winning proposition.

Re:please ignore (4, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382917)

Suppose an hour's worth of stalling on our end costs them an hour of their time. Is it worth it? Well, if there's a million of us doing this and only (say) 50 scammers, it'll keep them busy for a couple of years. Kind of like how sending 100 HTTP requests from your computer to a website can bring a large server farm to its knees... if you have tens of thousands of other computers doing the same thing at the same time.

Re:please ignore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382981)

I don't think there are that few of them and that many of us who are willing to bind their time, but I see your point.

Entertainment (4, Insightful)

DrYak (748999) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383693)

You are using your (first world) time

Some call this "entertainment".

Lot's of people have different hobbies.
There are people who like to play the latest "Call for Warfare" on their "PlayBox"
There are people who like to hack a Linux into their toaster.
There are people who like to build an all purpose robot using a cluster of arduinos

And then, there are the people who get their kicks from baiting scamers (the whole "feeling superior by scamming the scamer"). All in all it's a rather cheap form of hobby, because it doesn't require much beyond time. But on the other side it's less healthy than going outdoor for some sports.

Re:please ignore (-1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382885)

These people are desperate and without work in their country except for criminal con tricks such as this so the most compassionate thing you could do is ignore them and continue to educate your community about the trap. Baiting them is only likely to maintain their interest in subsequent scams - 'after all I nearly scammed him there, maybe if I try again with different tactics it will work' - and possibly delays them getting a legitimate job so that they can put food in their children's mouths.

Re:please ignore (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382985)

These people are desperate and without work in their country except for criminal con tricks such as this so the most compassionate thing you could do is ignore them and continue to educate your community about the trap.

How weird. Would you also advocate compassionately letting drug smugglers through but educating people on the harm of drugs, if they come from third-world countries?

Re:please ignore (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383599)

These people are desperate and without work in their country except for criminal con tricks such as this so the most compassionate thing you could do is ignore them and continue to educate your community about the trap.

How weird. Would you also advocate compassionately letting drug smugglers through but educating people on the harm of drugs, if they come from third-world countries?

The slight difference is that the drug smugglers are, in fact, illegally smuggling drugs, while the scammers aren't doing anything illegal until they take some money off their victims.

Re:please ignore (4, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384075)

These people are desperate and without work in their country except for criminal con tricks such as this so the most compassionate thing you could do is ignore them and continue to educate your community about the trap.

How weird. Would you also advocate compassionately letting drug smugglers through but educating people on the harm of drugs, if they come from third-world countries?

The slight difference is that the drug smugglers are, in fact, illegally smuggling drugs, while the scammers aren't doing anything illegal until they take some money off their victims.

I don't believe that's true, in most countries attempted fraud is an offence.

Re:please ignore (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40383257)

You're sorely mistaken. As a retired scambaiter I know quite a lot about them. Scambaiters on 419eater.com have probably scoured every article and news report on the internet about 419 scams as well as lured scammers into disclosing more about themselves in correspondence (e.g. by pretending to be a journalist that realizes that it's a scam and promising them a reward if they answer questions honestly). They are significantly better off than most Nigerians and would have better opportunities to an honest job, if they just chose to work. They have better internet access because they often own the cafes they run their scams from and despite their English being crappy, the fact that they speak it makes them more qualified for many jobs than Nigerians that don't speak any foreign languages. Sadly, scamming people out of money instead of working for it is often viewed as respectable in Nigerian culture. You're seen as powerful, if you're in a position to do that. Consequently Nigerians that don't participate in the scams themselves object to government measures against the scammers. Finally, westerners that have been lured into traveling to Nigeria with suitcases filled with cash are lucky if they only lose the money. There have been several cases where victims have disappeared without a trace.

Re:please ignore (0)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383615)

As a retired scambaiter

You make it sound like you're Buffy the fucking Vampire Slayer or Batman.

Re:please ignore (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383709)

Are you Nigerian?

Re:please ignore (2)

codefool (189025) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383883)

I highly recommend that you go to 419eater.com and read the stories - it's the best way to lose an afternoon, besides being highly entertaining, informative, and horrifying all at the same time. And, yes, the way these "baiters" operate is not unlike masked vigilantism.

Re:please ignore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40383933)

I have no sympathy to stupidity. Anybody that is dumb enough to load a suitcase full of cash and go to Nigeria simply because of an email, deserves what happens to them.

I have scammed the scammers before. Convinced them that I really want to help and that I was prepared to invest more than they originally asked. But, I refuse Western union, and insist on a Bank account and a routing number. Usually they give up, but it waste a lot of their time.

Re:please ignore (4, Funny)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383575)

I think you have too much time on your hands. You should be using that valuable work time to post on slashdot instead.

Re:please ignore (1)

somarilnos (2532726) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384033)

http://www.achewood.com/index.php?date=03052007 [achewood.com] There's a good story arc in the Achewood comic that covers a masterfully baited scam artist. Yes, it's fiction, but still a great read.

NSS (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40381959)

"According to research by Cormac Herley at Microsoft, scammers are looking for the most gullible people"

Well no shit sherlock!

Re:NSS (3, Funny)

Namarrgon (105036) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382041)

sending an email might have close to zero cost attached

Why, you're right again, Watson! This missive contains numerous self-evident truisms, does it not?

Re:NSS (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382069)

"According to research by Cormac Herley at Microsoft, scammers are looking for the most gullible people"

Well no shit sherlock!

He might have had experience in their "OEM pre loaded" department

Re:NSS (3, Insightful)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382141)

While that is obvious, I would say the fact that they are intentionally terrible is at least somewhat less obvious than it seems. I always figured they were trying to set the bar at getting as many people to bite as possible, and simply had the spelling errors and horrible stories as a result of not being bright or skilled at English. The idea of specifically avoiding people who are stupid enough to bite, but might catch on down the road, is somewhat new to me.

Re:NSS (5, Interesting)

gmack (197796) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382225)

I'm not sure I buy it. Those emails tend to be in the same Nigerian English I often hear Nigerians I know speak with. The reason for the ridiculous scenarios is that they want it to be blatantly obvious that you are agreeing to something illegal if you go to the police. When the Nigerian authorities see an email where you are knowingly agreeing to money laundering or theft from their government it gives them the excuse to simply file the whole thing as on thief ripping off another and then the whole thing becomes too low of a priority to be worth the trouble of investigating further. The reason they need this is that
paying the police off only works if the police a justifiable reason to not investigate in case someone higher up asks about it.

Re:NSS (5, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382495)

It could be the same phenomenon that causes Intelligent Design advocates to exclaim - "My gosh, it's inconceivable that it wasn't deliberate!" ; 419 scams are just a successful phenotype (or memotype?) that happens to fit a niche. Their total incompetence selects a very particular kind of credulous idiot that previously would not have been available in such numbers, but the internet produces a global village, with a ready supply of village idiots. Interpreting it as being an intentional tactic may be reading too much into it.

Re:NSS (4, Interesting)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383057)

So this might not be intentional or planned, but evolution at work: Nigerian scammers who send out believable emails get hundred times more responses by people who want to check out the scheme more closely, but 99% of those cannot be convinced to hand over actual money, no matter how much work the scammer invests. So the scammer makes no money and gives up scamming. Another scammer whose English is rubbish gets only one percent of the replies, but all those replies are from true idiots, so that scammer makes more money and keeps doing it.

Re:NSS (2)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383653)

"According to research by Cormac Herley at Microsoft, scammers are looking for the most gullible people"

Well no shit sherlock!

I thought the point was actually quite a subtle one, namely that the scammers deliberately continued with what should be the well known Nigerian prince stories, because by definition if you've not heard of these stories, or are prepared to believe them despite all the evidence to the contrary, you immediately prove yourself to be a good potential victim just by replying.

As all good con men know, you can't con an honest, clever person. Or, rather, it's not worth the effort to.

Re:NSS (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383763)

"According to research by Cormac Herley at Microsoft, scammers are looking for the most gullible people"

Well no shit sherlock!

I'm not convinced, I think we need another study to verify the findings of the first study.

Waste their time (5, Insightful)

Martin S. (98249) | more than 2 years ago | (#40381981)

is therefore a good tactic, perhaps when we get these we should make a response, to lower their average rate of return.

Re:Waste their time (5, Insightful)

HyperQuantum (1032422) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382003)

But having to do that would also waste our time. Are you willing to do that?

Re:Waste their time (3, Insightful)

advid.net (595837) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382043)

With a 2mn quick email you can easily waste 15 - 30mn of scammer's time.

Repeat a few time. Multiply by the number of scammer's prospects.

The scammer would need a whole life to deal with each spam shot.

Re:Waste their time (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382087)

In my (limited) experience, the second email they send is more or less automatic, so 2 minutes of your time for 5 seconds of theirs.

Re:Waste their time (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382435)

The scammer may however benefit from confirming that your email is real and belongs to someone with time to spare. If you fill in some fake personal details to lead them on, they will have those to sell.

Re:Waste their time (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382861)

Considering they are scammers, I don't think they need your information in order to sell it. They can just randomly generate some authentic looking 'facts' and sell those.

Re:Waste their time (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383803)

Just because flies are annoying doesn't make it right to pull their wings off to see them buzz round in a circle of death.

Re:Waste their time (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382083)

But having to do that would also waste our time. Are you willing to do that?

Well he's posting on slashdot isn't he?

Re:Waste their time (5, Funny)

Xenx (2211586) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382163)

But having to do that would also waste our time. Are you willing to do that?

Well we're posting on slashdot aren't we?

I brought you up to spec there.

Re:Waste their time (2)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382373)

If it is entertaining, then yes. Think of all the other time wasters like watching TV, playing Angry Birds, reading Slashdot... ... I just remembered, I have to get back to work.

Re:Waste their time (4, Informative)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382405)

It's potentially entertaining, and you can win free prizes like bizarre pictures if you do it right. One guy even managed to get a dollar out of one of the scammmers. See 419eater.com [419eater.com] for examples and helpful tips (including how to avoid getting in any trouble yourself).

Re:Waste their time (3, Insightful)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383477)

"But having to do that would also waste our time. Are you willing to do that?"

People who spend their days trolling here and every other forum they visit have the time, it's what they do.

And remember people, it's not a real problem anyway, because:

You cannot con an honest man!

Re:Waste their time (5, Funny)

phonewebcam (446772) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382013)

Microsoft did the research - if this is the answer they can solve it too. "Upgrade" their PC's to Windows 8 and watch them take 10 times longer trying to do the same thing under Metro.

Re:Waste their time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382111)

You could trick them into acting out the dead parrot sketch... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-XeFuBGvqs

Re:Waste their time (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382255)

I saw a comical series on TV (in dutch!) that did just that. They answered the scams as if they were interested and tried to get as much response out of them a possible.

In the end they invited a contact person to a fake company HQ to finalize the whole thing. There they had a number of pranks for them (like a dwarf on a pony delivering a message) culminating in a fake police raid for aleged fraud of the company.
"You can go about your business. You're an honest business man!" the (fake) police officer assured our Nigerian scammer.

The contact person tried to defend his business partner but to no avail!

Re:Waste their time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382971)

Never heard of 419 eater? That's exactly what they do, including persuading the scammers to perform ever sillier tasks with the promise of money at the end if it.

Re:Waste their time (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383259)

Some people do that, and even manage to get pictures of their scammers by asking for a proof that they do exist by making a picture of them with a sign spelling the name of the sender (And sometimes senders are called Iam A. Dick) http://www.419eater.com/html/hall_of_shame.htm [419eater.com]

Finding they right people (5, Interesting)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382029)

They found my neighbours* - a couple whom my mother (a psychologist) took one look at and said "adult mental health" - and they thought they'd won £450,000 in the lottery. It's a funny story.

They knocked on my door and asked if they could use my computer to register with the bank as they couldn't register on their phone. The first red flag was that URL he typed in sounded incredibly long, but not reason enough to say anything. Anyhow, when he was done, they mentioned they were looking forward to getting a laptop & television like mine as they'd just come into some money, $450,000 to be precise.

I was too dumbstruck to say anything, so called a mate and started the conversation with "you're going to laugh, but it's not funny", he wasn't helpful so I called my mum as she's had plenty of experience dealing with people like this. My main concern was that they'd think I was making fun of them when I told them, or that they'd want to shoot the messenger - they'd already started spending the money mentally.

The next morning I knocked on their door and told them that my computer flagged that I'd visited a dodgy site - they one he went to - and that before they do anything they should talk to their bank, thus absolving me of not telling them the previous evening. And that was the end of it, so I though.

However, they told the police - fair enough. They also told the scammer - they'd got a call from him after entering their details - and told him they knew it was a scam and that they'd informed the police - fair enough.

Then, about a week later, I bumped into them and they showed me an email they'd received. it read:

I am the man sent to kill you. I have been watching your house for two days. I will be paid £1,200 for this job, but if you pay *me* half I will not kill you.

So they tell the police again, they also tell the council who then have to send out a risk assessment team to determine whether they have to be moved.

In short, there are always people that will fall for these scams, and they tend to be the lowest common denominator, or just greedy and unethical. However there's always a cost, even if you catch the scam before any money changes hands.

* These are the same people who asked if they could use some of my weed killer (enough for 400 sq m) and used it neat on their garden (20 sq m)

Re:Finding they right people (3, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382123)

or just greedy and unethical.

As I understand it, those Nigerian scams always tell a story where the large sum of money is obtained illegally and the recipient of the mail would know he would be participating in illegal activities. This helps to keep the scammed silent, because if they report it to the cops, they'd have to admit trying to help traffic illegal funds.

Re:Finding they right people (1)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382251)

I'd assume* that anyone so gullible as to fall for a Nigerian scam isn't going to realise that the money will be obtained illegally. The reason I'd included "greedy and unethical" is because I vaguely remembered a story about a lawyer suing a bank over a cheque he sent to scammers. It turns out it was this story [abajournal.com] which didn't involve 419 scams.

* Though we all know what assumptions are the brother ^H^H^H^H^H mother of.

Re:Finding they right people (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382713)

* Though we all know what assumptions are the brother ^H^H^H^H^H mother of.

I don't know what assumptions are the bromother of. Indeed, I don't even know what a bromother is.

Re:Finding they right people (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383579)

My guess is that it's the MILF of a friend.

Re:Finding they right people (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#40384081)

> As I understand it, those Nigerian scams always tell a story
> where the large sum of money is obtained illegally

Not always. Sometimes the story is that the sender is a well-intentioned but naive fool whom the recipient will have an opportunity to swindle.

Re:Finding they right people (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382173)

Out of curiosity; are your neighbors also very religious?

No I'm not trolling.

I have a neighbor who is very religious (Fundie Baptist Christian), reasonably educated (BS Business) and he is very gullible. I'm just wondering if it's a pattern .....

Re:Finding they right people (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382337)

Yes there is a pattern. They tend to believe in fairy tales.

p.s. I'm not trolling either.

Re:Finding they right people (2)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382365)

Not that I know of. Though I kind of trust my mum's opinion about them being a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Besides I've heard (through a concrete floor no less) him roaring at his missus - one gem I remember:

M: You owe me for that broken [console] controller.
F: I didn't touch it
M: You distracted me, you know what happens when you distract me (obviously he smashed it up when he got distracted from a game and died)

Re:Finding they right people (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382849)

M: You owe me for that broken [console] controller.
F: I didn't touch it
M: You distracted me, you know what happens when you distract me (obviously he smashed it up when he got distracted from a game and died)

So he was talking to her from the afterlife? Or was he resurrected?

Re:Finding they right people (0)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382643)

Note the switch to £ signs (and the poster's explanation of that in another posting). This was in the UK. Stupid Brits are much less likely to be religious that stupid Americans.

Re:Finding they right people (1)

dsvick (987919) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383713)

My brother in law is pretty religious as well and was actually in the process of trying to borrow money from family member to send the to the girl he had been "dating" online so she could buy a plane ticket to here from, I think it was South Africa. On more than one occasion he asked me if I thought it that the email he got about the lottery winnings, the deposed dictator, or poor young girl stuck overseas was legitimate. This after I told him repeatedly that if it looks too good to be true in an email it is a scam.

I don't know that the religion makes them more gullible or more trusting (which might be the same thing), or maybe more willing to right the perceived wrong.

Re:Finding they right people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382275)

So they received emailed scams and death threats but had to use your computer to register with the bank. ? That does not add up.

Re:Finding they right people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382295)

Yes, and they won "£450,000", or is that "$450,000"?

Re:Finding they right people (2)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382375)

Typo, it was $450,000, bah I just noticed that I got the dollars mixed up. The email threat was in pounds however as it had been personalised.

Re:Finding they right people (1)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382303)

Reading comprehension fail, not surprising really for an AC:

.. asked if they could use my computer to register with the bank as they couldn't register on their phone

They check their email on their phone, but couldn't access the site using a mobile browser.

Re:Finding they right people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382383)

Why did they have to use your computer, as presumably they'd got one of their own (which would be how they received the original scam-mail)? Clarified when you mention the hitman's email to them. ...nice story, fictional, but nice.

Re:Finding they right people (1)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382443)

Sweet Jesus, have ACs never heard of smart phones? I despair.

Re:Finding they right people (1)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383307)

I would have replied to that email saying

"If I pay you half, the man who hired you to kill me will use his money to hire someone else to kill me, and I'll be out the money I need for booze and hookers to live up the time I have left."

Re:Finding they right people (2)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383487)

I once saw an old lady get scammed with this type of stuff but with one glaring exception - it wasn't over the internet.

It was over the phone and fax. I don't know how they got ahold of her initially but the phone number she had to call and fax was in Puerto Rico. To call PR isn't an international number from the US but certainly is long distance.

So instead of visiting dodgy websites and so on they had her doing it by fax. They faxed her a document with a very cheesy looking bank letterhead and so on.

It was quite sad. I worked at a place for a while that had a fax service and she was coming in every day looking for her fax from her benefactors. She was doing this for weeks. I tried to get her help, even called the local police and they talked to her, but she was insisting that it was real.

We asked her "Did you send these people money?" and she refused to answer.

Sad.

People still fall for it (3, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382037)

For whatever reason, people do fall for it. Big time.

Other than by pure greed, I don't know WHY people would really fall for it, especially if one gets many of those mails a day (easily a dozen or more a day for me - it's about half of the spam that makes it through greylisting). If you get just one such mail, then I can imagine: the first one I got, well over a decade ago, also made me wonder: is this legitimate, is this real, it certainly sounded quite real but the whole thing was just too unlikely to be trusted. Why trust a random strange contacting me by e-mail? At the time I had never heard about such scams.

But anyway, yes, people do fall for it. And there must be quite some people that fall for it. If not, it would die out quickly: that is pure economics. This are relative expensive scams to carry out, time and effort wise, and if they do not get any response on their mails (or no return on those responses) the activity would stop.

Re:People still fall for it (0)

HornyBastard (666805) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382181)

In the majority of cases, it is greed.
In a some people, greed can override common sense. IMHO, these people deserve to lose everything.

A few years ago, there was a South African man (CxO of some company) who lost a few million in a 419 scam. He went to Nigeria to try and get his money back, but got killed instead.
Good riddance.

Re:People still fall for it (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382193)

Makes me wonder how someone like that could ever become a top-ranked manager to begin with.

Re:People still fall for it (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382639)

Makes me wonder how someone like that could ever become a top-ranked manager to begin with.

really?

Re:People still fall for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382227)

It's the modern-day publisher's clearing house deal. How many housewives received those packets two decades ago and thought by filling out a form, licking a few stamps, and buying some subscriptions would make them millions?

Trick question (5, Insightful)

hairyfish (1653411) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382039)

The real answer is because they are actually from Nigeria. I think the researchers are over-thinking this problem.

Re:Trick question (1)

_merlin (160982) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382535)

Nah, these days most of them are actually operating out of Europe. Nederland is a big base for them for some reason.

Re:Trick question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382629)

Well then hopefully they learn proper Dutch language soon.
I'm getting a bit tired from the strange googledutch texts.

Re:Trick question (1)

heypete (60671) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383135)

Oddly, Belgium has a large number of the "Russian romance" scammers. Go figure. /answers the abuse desk for a medium-sized email provider

Re:Trick question (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382559)

False. There's been plenty of reported cases of westerners running these scams from within their own country. Or did you think there was some kind of money making scam, which clearly works, which has all rights reserved for criminals living in only one little chunk of Africa?

Summary does not answer title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382045)

The summary does not answer the question in the title. Why Nigeria? Why not Congo, Ecuador, Brazil... ? Didn't RTFA. Does it answer the question at least?

Re:Summary does not answer title (2)

Radres (776901) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382091)

It would take you less time to skim the article and find the solution than it does for you to post and read my response, but basically the summary almost captures the answer: the scammers are looking for the most gullible people possible, and that would include anyone who hasn't already heard of the Nigerian scammers.

Re:Summary does not answer title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40383975)

So, why did they choose Nigeria in the first place again? Because everybody heard or because nobody heard of Nigeria?

Re:Summary does not answer title (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382143)

Top of page 11 in the Microsoft PDF, there is a graph of email volumes by claimed country of origin. Nigeria leads the charge.

Yet another horrible summary (1)

mister2au (1707664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382073)

So ... it told me why they send crazy emails but didn't say why they purported to be from Nigeria.

After a read of the attached article, these are perceived to be crazy email because of the low likelihood of anyone in Nigeria having substantial wealth.

Makes sense being 177th in per capita GDP, although 31st in national GDP.

But I don't see why that rule them out from saying they were from Congo or Liberia or Somalia or Niger or Malawi or Uganda or Kenya or Cameroon or ... well, you get my point !

Re:Yet another horrible summary (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382267)

FTFS: "scammers are looking for the most gullible people, and their crazy emails can help weed out people who are savvy enough to know better."

If you've heard of the Nigerian scams, you are not the victim they are looking for.

Re:Yet another horrible summary (1)

mister2au (1707664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382677)

So they use Nigerian scams because they are well known ... and Nigerian scams are well known because they use them

Anyone, see the problem there?

A self reinforcing cycle ... but why Nigeria ... perhaps because they are from Nigeria

They question is why don't hide they fact the are from Nigeria despite Nigerian scams being well known - this is what the story really relates to

Den of Scum and Villainy (4, Interesting)

TythosEternal (1472429) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382081)

Interesting analysis, particularly the original paper. It's almost like a two-step optimization problem--very much a game theory topic.

I happened to marry into a family of Congolese immigrants. My in-laws have told me in no uncertain terms that Nigeria has a strong reputation among central & west African cultures for being, if you will, a den of scum and villainy. If there's a scam, theft, or petty crime that involves an African individual, one of the first thoughts is, 'they must be Nigerians.'

Of course, this strikes me as a strong stereotype. I've met several Nigerians at family events (I've even attended the wedding of a real, bonafide Nigerian prince, I kid you not), and they're pretty much normal people. Surprise! (That doesn't change the fact that the Nigerian restaurant down the street ripped me off last Sunday... On the other hand, I've never had spiced goat larynx before, so I guess I came away from the experience with something new.)

Re:Den of Scum and Villainy (1)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382447)

The same could be said for Sicilians, for that matter. Or any other ethnic group/nationality with a reputation for corruption and/or organised crime.

I think the main reason is that Nigeria is chosen is because it is known for two things: having incredible wealth in natural resources (mostly oil) yet at the same time it's seen as one of the poorest nations in Africa. That disconnect suggests that a lot of corruption exists, thus setting the stage for believing that there really is someone trying to smuggle out millions in ill-gotten gains. It also sets the stage for believing that local officials are corrupt enough to let this happen. Something else I just thought of: ill-gotten wealth from skimming oil profits is also something I imagine sounds less risky than profits from selling, say, blood diamonds - less suggested risk of violent criminals looking for where the money disappeared to.

Re:Den of Scum and Villainy (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383961)

That's like saying that all stupid Europeans are Polish.

Why 'Nigerian Scammers' Say They're From Nigeria? (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382155)

It's all about standards compliance. They've simply implemented RFC 3514, only a bit differently.

The paper uses Google NOT Bing. (2)

incubuz1980 (450713) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382307)

It seems that Microsoft Research uses Google and not Bing. (Just like everyone else)

Easy To Make Them Go Away (5, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382341)

All you have to do, is tell them that you are not available to meet them personally, but you have a friend who lives nearby and can meet them (wherever they suggest). This will result in immediate cessation of contact on their part, because they suspect they will be meeting authorities instead.

It worked for me, when I received one of these scam letters (this one ostensibly from the Netherlands) and I replied to them just to find out how far they would go. They wanted me to meet them in Amsterdam to seal the deal (which they claimed was worth millions).

I told them that rather than travel many thousand miles, I had a friend who lived a few miles away, just outside of Amsterdam, and she would meet them to talk about it.

I never heard another word out of those people.

All you have to do is pretend to be interested in their offer, then propose something other than THEIR plan, but which is perfectly reasonable. They will back down every time.

Re:Easy To Make Them Go Away (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382361)

By the way: it's also fun to do.

Maybe I missed it but... (5, Insightful)

Dave Emami (237460) | more than 2 years ago | (#40382425)

The article didn't explain why Nigeria, instead of (say) Kenya or Uganda -- or Sri Lanka or Bolivia or Uzbekistan.

Re:Maybe I missed it but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382969)

why Nigeria, instead of (say) Kenya or Uganda -- or Sri Lanka or Bolivia or Uzbekistan.

Because Kennya, Ugaanda, Srii Lannka, Bollivia, and Uzbbekistan are all typoes of the non-hilarious kind.

Re:Maybe I missed it but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40383287)

People know about Nigera-scams. Only the incredible gullible types don't know about Nigeria scams. It's a bigger chance that they get money out of the subject if they go full retard in their e-mails.

My Hobby? Replying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40382791)

I like replying to these. It's a bit of game that entertains me endlessly. I pick a style and use it to respond. Mostly recently in haiku and in iambic pentameter. I usually get replies from them for a few iterations. When they start asking for details I usually just ask more questions until they give up. All prep work for a bot to do exactly the same thing. Believe it or not I do have a day job - I'm just an insomniac.

Stupidity can not be underestimated. (1)

Ateocinico (32734) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383087)

Those emails succeed for the same reason that sellers and politicians do: we humans are stupid.

419 payback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40383331)

Well, sometimes the scammers get screwed as well... http://419eater.com/html/letters.htm

Exactly (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40383665)

And time is their biggest cost, this is why I like to fuck with one now and again. Respond, play dumb. Play real dumb.

In fact, preferably play real dumb, and out for a quick buck yourself.

I strung one of these assholes on for weeks after he replied to an ad for a room claiming to be a hot spanish girl moving to the US. My favorite part was, after he was good and invested, I told him I knew it was a scam (even told him I had seen better fake money orders before...I had...from the previous shithead who tried to pull this crap)... he spent hours over the next 3 weeks trying to recruit me to help him.

Every minute they spend on someone who knows the deal is a minute they are not scamming someone else.

String them along; make them spend time and money (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 2 years ago | (#40383817)

I do this all the time with phone solicitations...string them along as long as possible and waste their time. It really, really pisses them off when they finally find out. I wonder if that would also work with Nigerians scammers
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