Microsoft: Nigerian scammers don't want to be believed

The Nigerian scam is so old and well known that you'd think almost no one would fall for it. It's been around since the early days of the internet and has been the butt of countless jokes, but it turns out that that could be just what scammers are aiming for, if a study from Microsoft is to be believed.

Hopefully our readers are well enough informed not to fall for the scam, but here's a quick refresher, just in case: you get an email from someone claiming to be a rich dude in Nigeria (or, more recently, Gaddafi's exiled treasurer) who needs your help to get to his money. Help him out and you'll get a nice chunk of it, and never work another day in your life. Unfortunately, 'helping him out' generally involves wiring along a chunk of your money, to help 'smooth things along.'

The study, by Microsoft's Cormac Herley, is titled 'Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria?' and is significantly less fun than those infographics Microsoft sometimes puts out, so we'll give you the gist of it right here.

The study places scam targets into two categories: victims (positives) and smart people (false positives). Since there are way more false positives than positives, the scammers need a way to weed out all but the extremely gullible, and what better way to do that than by making the scam look like a total farce to anyone who's been on the internet for more than five minutes?

Since each scam is not free for the scammer (it's costing them money to pay people to do their dirty work, taking up time, and there are mules to collect and deliver the funds, too), this works out pretty well by keeping them from having to deal with people who get the scam. It's actually not in their best interest to craft a more convincing scam, so they keep falling back on the same old story!

With that out of the way, the scammers are left with a 'tiny subset' of the population, the least savvy of users, and the perfect targets for their well worn scam. Even though the whole idea seems pretty silly to us, the scammers would have to be pretty smart to think things through this well, which typically isn't how we think of Nigerian scammers. If anything, it reminds us that these people do know what they're doing, and that even savvy users need to tread carefully.

Image via: Test Freaks

Via: Computerworld
Source: Microsoft Research

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27 Comments

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I was wondering why my bank account read -$350000000 I was sure it was for real when they asked me to take that money from that dying oil tycoon because I was his only living descendant oooo man buggar....... Ohwell I'm off to buy some penis enlarging pills and get that ever popular stay at home job where I can earn upto $9500 a week working part time

So if I get this right, the spammers don't want to spam, just scam...
Okay, we need an open list of addresses whose owners know how the wind blows...
So I'd sign up, basically tell those guys they shouldn't waste their and my resources and time and everyone would be happier...

Any takers?

GS:mac

onedrummer2401 said,

this might be why you're lonesome...

Yes, May be u r right , Small little diiickies like u fear to come by....

lonesome said,

Yes, May be u r right , Small little diiickies like u fear to come by....

you really only need 3 inches one in one out and one going in and out

Athlonite said,

you really only need 3 inches one in one out and one going in and out

Thanks for giving me the instructions....

recursive said,

Did they not mention that in the pills' box?

Guys like me doesn't read the instructions on the box , I like to ask for the preferences before we start.....

No. There is a website i can not remember he name of where they ended up sending a bunch of heavy things like cookers to multiple people, multiple times.

You guys are wrong, my distant friend's uncle's brother wired money to a Nigerian Prince, and got back $10 million bucks!

true story, I am a millionaire just for sending my credentials to this guy (long relative .... next of kin i never knew I had) ... so, if oyu wnat me to take a look at your next and kin and newly found fortune ... let me know

The best ones are those saying that you have won a lottery that you never entered.
Or a distant family member of no racial link to you has passed away and put you in their will.