Why Nigerian Email Scams Work

Friday, August 31, 2012


When Nigerian prince scam spam hits our inboxes, most of us know to politely decline requests for assistance. One might wonder why scammers don’t come up with something a bit more believable. But according to a new paper (pdf) by Cormac Hurley of Microsoft Research, the email’s overt scaminess helps identify the biggest suckers. Psychology professor Daniel Simons, who wrote about the phenomenon in the Wall Street Journal, explains.


Daniel Simons

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Brooke Gladstone

Comments [4]

Jack Adams from Arizona

Anyone who even reads any of this Nigerian crap - needs their head testing!!!

Just how stupid can people be - to believe this nonsense???

PT Barnham was right....there is a *SUCKER* born every minute!!!

Jan. 24 2014 06:58 PM
Frank McManus

This piece reminds me of a similar potentially effective technique for stopping copyright violators on torrent sites: increase the "noise" so that potential downloaders have to do more work to find the "good stuff." For example, if publishers hired a few people to upload thousands of torrents of public domain books every day to the pirate bay, but made them look like "retail" books, then pirates looking for the latest romance or science fiction novels would have to spend hours instead of minutes combing the listings to find them. This would dramatically reduce the number of illegal downloads, and thus limit their spread to other download sites. (Downloaders could still find a book they wanted by searching for it, but that's not how most downloads occur; and since the overall number of downloads would be reduced, seeding time would also be reduced.)

Thus "encouraging" torrent activity would actually work to reduce it, just as "encouraging" Nigerian scam artists would work to reduce their effectiveness.

Okay, that was OT. Sorry.

Dec. 03 2012 12:13 AM

Thanks for this piece. Always wondered about those "Nigerian" money scams.

Sep. 02 2012 06:13 PM
Hugh Sansom

Finally, an explanation!

Sep. 01 2012 07:51 AM

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