Why Nigerian Scammers Still Say They’re From Nigeria

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If you use the internet, you’ve received an email from a Nigerian prince who wants you to help him get his hands on his money. He just needs a little deposit! You will, of course, be rewarded handsomely for your assistance.

It happens so frequently that most of us wonder why the scammers even bother – the Nigerian prince routine is so tired, so hackneyed, that you’d have to be a complete idiot to think it was valid for even one second. Which is exactly why the scammers keep doing it. Complete idiots, after all, are what they’re looking for.

Some interesting analysis from Microsoft explains why the scam emails we receive trend towards the ridiculous and trite – why what seems like a weakness in the strategy is actually a strength. By allowing anybody who’s heard it all before to opt out immediately, a scammer is able to get the biggest stooges on the internet to self-select for exploitation.

Since his attack has a low density of victims the Nigerian scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives. By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.   I had always wondered why I kept getting ridiculous stories in my inbox, but looking at it through this lens makes sense. I’m not the target audience, and I never was. Scammers would rather not deal with the vast majority of people on the web, and so they use strategies like this to whittle down to the whales.

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