Nigerian email scam (also known as the 419 scam, a reference to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code that such activities violate) are by now so common that they should ideally be identifiable on first look. Yet, they continue to dupe unsuspecting people into financial losses amounting to millions of dollars – disrupting their lives. Examples of such scam e-mails are countless; so much so that it has retained its place on the list of top ten internet/email scams for 2012.  Some published examples can be found on Websense Security Labs' newly published blog, titled – “You may be  surprise too receive this letterfrom me…”

Instead of being more believable to be able to dupe people, as one would come to expect of such scam e-mails; a recent research by Microsoft found that having an e-mail full of misspelt words, grammar errors actually work in their favour. It found that, “Although it may appear counter-intuitive, it seems that the more implausible the bait, the better the chances the scammer has of actually collecting some money.” To put forth an example, the post cites a particular e-mail, which is quite ironic in its disposition. The e-mail, as you can see in the image below is a typical Nigerian e-mail scam attempt, and it infact even contains a thing or two about how you should 'stop dealing with those people that are contacting you and telling you that your fund is with them, it is not in anyway with them,' and how 'they are only taking advantage of you and they will dry you up until you have nothing.'

The post further analyses that many would delete such emails as soon as they'd see them, and that will only leave the less savvy as being the potential preys to such scammers. This way, adds the blog, the scammers successfully keep those with doubts about the credibility of the e-mail out. Interestingly, the Nigerian e-mail scams have gotten so popular, that it has been found that even non-Nigerian scammers are using it as a ploy to dupe unsuspecting users. It adds, “Like legitimate businesses, scammers are also looking to optimize their operations, and don't want to waste time on unproductive activities.”


An example of a scam e-mail

The post then speaks of scambaiters, who they say “pose as potential victims and lead scammers in a merry dance. Some pretend to misunderstand the scammer's instructions, leading to repeated communications from increasingly frustrated scammers, while others send receipts for non-existent airline tickets to prove they are on their way to Africa with the money. Their only concern now is recognizing their contact at the airport arrivals hall. “Could you kindly send a photo of yourself holding a sign with my name [insert name with humorous or indelicate double meaning] to ensure we are able to meet?” They can and they do.”

Image credit: Getty Images

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