Are those Nigerian email scams ridiculous for a reason?

I’ve sometimes wondered why those Nigerian emails are so ludicrously unbelievable. There’s an interesting article about this on
Those Nigerian Email Scams Are Ridiculous For A Reason

It goes on to talk about how the most successful scammers are like celebrities and rake in millions of dollars.

What it’s saying is that, when you can automatically send many millions of emails at little or not cost, rather than going for a high response rate, the best strategy is to select for the tiny percentage of extremely gullible people because that tiny percentage will still be a sizable group.

It’s an interesting theory. I’m going to theorize a little more beyond what the article says.

Maybe the article is correct in that the more ludicrous letters work better because they appeal only to the small most gullible minority. But I’m skeptical that the scammers purposely designed these emails with that in mind.

My theory is that, over time, the only scammers who were successful were the ones who wrote the most ridiculous letters. In a way, the most stupid criminals were the most successful because they appealed to the most stupid victims.

Of course, over time others copied the letters of the most successful, so now they’re just repeating the success of their barely literate predecessors.

Interesting idea. I’m always amazed at the obvious spelling errors (and sometimes grammatical ones)…these seem harder to explain by the reasoning you mentioned, unless there is some advantage (for the scammer) in snaring not only the gullible, but also the dumber-than-rocks – or those without a full grasp of English.

And all this time, I’ve been trying to improve my English in order to make money! :smack:

There’s probably a direct correlation between “dumber than rocks” and “gullible”.

It is interesting that this is coming from Microsoft Research who clearly used the BSOD(*) to self select those who thought computing was best performed as a casual, best-effort function. All the rest went to Unix and/or Apple.

(*)Blue Screen of Death

It’s an interesting theory, however, from my experience of dialogue with these scammers, I’d say a lot of the reason they are ridiculous is that the lower-tier scammers (the ones doing that actual emailing) just aren’t very good communicators and don’t have a very good command of the English language, and/or the social conventions of the people in the countries they’re targeting.

My favorite part of the last few I’ve gotten is the

<put English name here>

Thanks for clearing up why the letters are so bad. In never thought of it as a screening tool. It makes sense.

One thing I have noticed is the use of British phrases and conventions, when language elsewhere in the email indicates a targetting of USA victims.

Because of course Britain has no colonial history in Nigeria.

Well yes I know that, in fact the place I live has oddly surviving snips of British evidence(lets go the chemists for condoms).

My point was that they aren’t doing targetting very well.

Which adds to my hypothesis that the targeting isn’t intentional, but a result of something like natural selection. The better written letters drew responses from too many people who were only somewhat gullible (enough to respond, but not enough to send money), causing those scammers to waste too much time on dead ends and therefore eventually give up on the scheme.

Well there is also the fact most Americans would probably not think twice at akward english from a Nigerian or Iraqi, or Lebanese. But like I have seen a few that use the storyline that the email writer is American.

Lately, I’ve been getting letters purporting to be from my sysop claiming I have overused my allotted disk space. Aside from the fact that my sysop would sign his name (and always assures me that he has loads of spare disk space), the return address comes from strange places, such as Russia, France, Japan. Can the above explanation explain that?

True, but the correlation coefficient isn’t as high as 1.0.

I, for one, like to think of myself as a bit smarter than rocks, yet I’m probably more gullible than most in many realms of human interaction (not Nigerian email scams, though.)

Have any native-born Nigerians ever posted on the board about this problem? Whether they knew any spammers, how they’re regarded, and any difficulties they have when trying to conduct legitimate business?

Which is exactly my point. The bad communicators are inadvertently doing things in a manner that selects for the dumbest and most gullible responders. They get less responses but those responses are “higher quality” so they don’t waste time on less gullible respondents.

They are incompetent at the art of convincing people but, in a world of automated cost-free mass mailing, this incompetence ends up inadvertently selecting for the small number of the most easily convinced.

It seems counterintuitive but, in this environment, the worst communicators may actually be the most successful at the goal of bilking gullible people.

And sometimes they email the Ebola Monkey Man.

This would also explain why the storylines are still so often set in Nigeria. Yeah, yeah, I get that that’s where the scammers actually are, but it’s really, really easy to make it look (at least to an unsophisticated user) like an e-mail is coming from somewhere else, and it’s even easier to just lie and say you’re in some other country in the body of the e-mail. You’d have thought that sometime before it got to the point where the free association from “Nigeria” is “e-mail scam”, that the scammers would have changed to a new setting.

Actually, I have seen a few that purport to be coming from American servicemembers in Iraq or Afghanistan, which mix in faux-patriotism with the other sorts of string-pulling, but only a few.

Since the ultimate goal is to obtain money they almost have to give Nigeria as their location since at some point they’ll be asking the mark to wire them some money.

Most gullible also likely equals the one that thinks they are smarter than the person writing the email - so easy to spot mistakes also let the gullible one feel ‘smarter’ than the scammer.