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back to article Nigerian scams are hyper-efficient idiot finders

A Microsoft researcher, Cormac Herley, has penned a paper titled “Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria?” (PDF), and concludes the whoppers the scam includes are actually a very efficient way of finding likely targets. Herley's analysis suggests the scam works because it quickly passes BS-detection thresholds in …

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People that stupid deserve to be robbed. It's the mule scams you need to watch.

People selling something (puppies kittens are prime examples) Someone from another country wants to buy one. They put way too much money in your account and ask you to send the change to them via western union. Before you know it the police arrest you and take your money to replace what was sent via Western Union. It's a more believable scam than rich dictators and dead rich relatives

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But who gets the money?

I have no problem with fools being parted from their money - only with the damage that money does in places like Nigeria. Skilled Nigerian 419 scammers can afford to buy their way into politics. I think part of the answer is bigger and more selective taxes on stupidity. Anyone want to buy some lottery tickets?

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Re: "People that stupid deserve to be robbed."

No. They do not. You are a fuckwit if you truly believe that.

Think about it. If you are capable of thinking, that is.

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Anonymous Coward

Idiotic comment, especially when you consider a lot of victims are the elderly,, and a lot of the scams are fairly plausible.

Your comment shows immaturity.

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@Thorne re. puppies/kittens

Your story does not make easy reading and is very confusing. Is there any way you could explain this 'scam' better, because it doesn't make sense to me, not as you've written it. (Note: I'm in the UK and if I was selling puppies, there is no way I'd ship one abroad so your example had my barriers up immediately.)

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@ moron who downvoted me (was Re: "People that stupid deserve to be robbed.")

Do you really believe that robbery is valid, when you are ripping off people with less "street smarts" than you have?

You are a part of the problem, moron.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Thorne re. puppies/kittens

> Is there any way you could explain this 'scam' better,

The scammer uses a fake cheque to transfer to much money to you via Western Union for some goods/services. The money appears in your balance even though it hasn't fully cleared. They then ask for a refund of the excess amount which you pay into their account.

Western Union discovers the cheque from the scammer is fake and stops the payment into your account.

You, the victim, end up out of pocket by the amount you refunded and, if you are prompt sending the goods, you no longer have the goods you were selling.

Although the above example requires you to be selling something there are other ways the scammer can use this to get money.

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Overpayment Scam

It is quicker to post a link to this one.

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/financial_scams/financial_scams_4555.html

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Re: But who gets the money?

Who said that they're actually Nigerian? From studies and research into these, the criminals involved are almost never based in Nigeria and usually aren't Nigerian either. Often they are based in much more pleasant locations in Western Europe or the US.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nick Ryan

What studies and research? Please provide links.

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My daughter had a similar experience

She was selling something on Gumtree and sold it for £200, the guy sent her a cheque for £2000, (which I assume she was supposed to deposit in her account, send him the pram and repay him £1800. I say assume because I handed the cheque in at the local police station, which he was pretty angry about for about two emails. He wanted his cheque back (as he probably had to buy it) and was told to contact the police station I handed it in at, and never heard from him again after that.

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FAIL

Re: "People that stupid deserve to be robbed."

Well yes they do... because they do what it takes to be robbed....

Like gravity and walking off a 10th storey balcony.....

So your saying, "Falling out of the sky and dying, has nothing in common with getting $50 million dollars from Mr Senior Generel Solisitor, frend of King of Nigerea, transferred into your Bank Volt? - but only if you send them $5000 first to pay the expensiveness's."

And they don't deserve it?

Fuck me....

What's next? Living for 1000 years if you eat this magical toadstool from the ancient kingdom of Jin Wan, for only $10,000 - just send the money via a cash transfer to Mr Orinoko Womble in Bhumphuk Gnowhere, courtesy of western union...

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@Oh4FS [Re: "People that stupid deserve to be robbed."]

Any chance you could reword that in English? I don't know whether to up- or downvote you, but I assume I very much want to do one of them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Thorne re. puppies/kittens

The pet scam involves selling/giving away non-existent pets (usually pets, although I once baited a lad with an unwanted polar bear). These scammers are almost always from Cameroon for some reason. The scam involves the victim sending money to an imaginary Cameroon based shipping company.

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Re: "People that stupid deserve to be robbed."

"No. They do not. You are a fuckwit if you truly believe that.

Think about it. If you are capable of thinking, that is."

I agree, but consider most of the scams are of the type:

if you help me launder money, I will give you a cut.

The responders are willing to commit a crime for their wad of cash. I guess some are too dumb to figure out its a crime though. Poor bastards.

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Do you work for Wall Street ?

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Re: Please provide links

How about the article? The point, as I read it, was that these people deliberately choose to advertise themselves as Nigerian not because they are Nigerian and wouldn't dream of mis-representing themselves (!) but simply because it will scare off the non-gullible.

So rather than asking for evidence that they aren't Nigerian, surely you should be asking for evidence that they are.

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Re: "People that stupid deserve to be robbed."

In most civilised societies, anyone with sufficient mental damage that they are likely to walk off a 10-storey building will normally be placed in care.

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Stop

Re: Anyone want to buy some lottery tickets?

I get asked every time I go grocery shopping, and my standard answer is:

"I do not believe in paying a 'STUPIDITY TAX'", which is what I consider the lottery to be. I work too hard for what I get, and I would rather keep some of it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Please provide links

Re: Ken

Nick Ryan stated "From studies and research into these ...". All I asked for was links to the research and studies because I would like to see them.

It isn't coincidental that it is called the Nigerian 419 scam. Lagos (the capital city of Nigeria) used to be widely considered the cyber scam capital of the world because of the number of these (and similar) scams originating from there. I don't know if this is still true but I would like to know., hence the request for links

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Holmes

Such a Christian attitude. Oh, wait.

Well, I'm sure that "fools" includes your own children, so you have no problem if I swindle them, right? Oh wait, I bet you get upset if YOU have to pay the piper. Or maybe you are ideologically consistent enough and insist it's really your own fault for failing to keep the kids locked up tightly enough, eh?

Or maybe you're kids are old enough and smart enough to have already disowned you? That would probably be the best win-win outcome, eh?

Actually, I certainly acknowledge that I am not responsible for ever fool out there. The problem is that the scammers and spammers see every success as proof of their business model. In many cases, they even use their ill-gotten gains as seed capital to go for bigger and more vicious scams. Therefore I conclude that ALL of us would benefit and the Internet would have more value for EVERYONE if the spammers were reduced. I'm not saying that we could convert them into decent human beings. I'm just saying that lowering their profits would cause some of them to move under less visible rocks.

In this particular case, think about the numbers. There are LARGE numbers of people who hate the spam and only a small supply of suckers for the spammers to find. Why not leverage the big number against the small one? I'm also not saying that everyone has to fight spam, but if it were easier to do so and even a small percentage of the LARGE number took an occasional shot at the spammers, they could cut the scammers off from most of their suckers.

What I'd like to see is something like SpamCop on steroids. Rather than one round of analysis with a tepid report to the ISP and webhost, there should be several rounds of increasingly refined analysis and targeting. I'd be glad to volunteer a bit of my time and thought if it would help disrupt ALL of the spammers' infrastructure, bother ALL of the spammers' accomplices, and protect ALL of the spammers' victims. Not just the direct victims who send money, but the indirect victims like the companies whose reputations and credibility are destroyed and even the rest of us who would benefit from a more valuable and less-spam filled Internet.

You don't have to help, but such a system were integrated into the major email systems, then I'm sure that some people would use it. You'd even think that would improve the value of those email systems--but if you think you can convince me of any positive value created by spam, then I'd be interested in your explanation. (Of course I think that would really mean you're a spammer or stupid enough to be a spammer's victim, per the original article.)

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Re: "People that stupid deserve to be robbed."

I'm a disposed nigerian dictator who stole millions of dollars. Please give me your bank details so I can rest my money in your account.

People that stupid often end up in the Darwin Awards, often cause their so stupid they fly to Nigeria to get their money back end up missing a couple of kidneys.

Nigerian scams are good at filtering out the REALLY stupid people so they can be REALLY ripped off.

How do you help people that stupid other than take their money off them cause they can't be trusted with it?

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Re: @ moron who downvoted me (was "People that stupid deserve to be robbed.")

And the other part of the problem is stupid people.

The problem with the world is stupidity. I'm not saying there should be a capital punishment for stupidity, but why don't we just take the safety labels off of everything and let the problem solve itself?

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Re: "People that stupid deserve to be robbed."

Thorne, do you really enjoy, and think it's OK, to rip off the mentally deficient?

Seek help. Twat.

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Re: @ moron who downvoted me (was "People that stupid deserve to be robbed.")

I have a funny feeling, Thorne, that you have absolutely no clue about RealLife[tm] ... how old are you? Gut feeling is around 13-14, or thereabouts.

Do give yourself a chance to grow up before opining on this kind of thing.

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Re: @Oh4FS ["People that stupid deserve to be robbed."]

Hmmmmm why?

Caring if or which way you vote?

I don't care if you continue to even breath.

Reword that in English?

Not for you, because you don't even know the subject.

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Happy

Re: "People that stupid deserve to be robbed."

They DESERVE to be ROBBED because they are MORONS.

"Yessssssss - I'll hand over copies of my drivers license to people I have never met, along with my personal history, along with the $10,000 sent via cash transfer, to some one I have never met, in some country somewhere, without even making any effort to check that Mr King Frend of Nigeria Royal Bank Volt, is department of Oils and Richenss, is in fact a real person, in a real department...."

"Better than that, I will post them my drivers license, and my bank book with my signature in it as well..."

"Oh nooooo I have been robbed!!!!"

"Oh fucking Duh!"

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Unhappy

Percentages of percentages of percentages of positives

We are all different. We are all a mix of things we have and a mix of things lacking. Enough people lack basic caution that scams are a real hazard for them.

Before you start prating about IQ and the wisdom that anyone should have, think on Williams Syndrome. It is an identified genetic defect, a gross deletion of multiple genes. The aspect that I think on is described at WP like so:

People with Williams syndrome are often affable and hyperverbal, demonstrating the decreased inhibition ability that stems from dorsal-frontal deficits.

That is, they're an "easy mark". Hrmph!, you say, that's a specific medical condition, what about all those other fools?

Indeed, I have to wonder, what are their lacks, from what do they stem, and are they *all* *completely* to *blame* for them? You may be at the far other end of the bell curve for 'simplicity', but can you claim absolute credit for your good fortune? Maybe you were innately equipped for exhibiting caution. Harrah for you!

Now think on those you would blame for their lacks. Do you know, absolutely, the origin of those? Do you know where your blame comes from? Perhaps, it is... something lacking?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williams_syndrome

(And yes, I've had the privilege of being called by my spouse's department chairperson, who was just about to press send, but thought wellll maaaybe they ought to ask.... No, professor, that's one of those scams... just close the email program and go hug your dog/kids/etc.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Percentages of percentages of percentages of positives

>Before you start prating about IQ and the wisdom that anyone should have

IQ, wisdom, nor common sense can save the victims of these scans. The one charateristic they all have is greed and that greed overrides all the things that should tell them they are being taken for a ride.

As such I would disagree that 419 type scams are idiot filters. They do not want to target idiots as generally they do not have enough money to make the scam worthwhile. I would say they are greed filters.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Percentages of percentages of percentages of positives

On one hand, I have compassion for people who are limited by their genetics.

On the other hand, I have no compassion who simply will not be bothered to think -- e.g., people who are willfully stupid.

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Re: Greed filters

"I would say they are greed filters"

Hmm, yes and no. "Not that bright" does not equate "not enough money in the bank" (well, for now, that can, of course, change when they come across a scammer), but in another context you're right. Programs such as BBC's Hustle and "Leverage" go out of their way to state that "you cannot cheat a honest man" - a tad too moralistic for my taste, but they are right in that greed can indeed overcome common sense.

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Re: Percentages of percentages of percentages of positives

The victims of these scams are idiots but they're still victims. These scammers are parasites and criminals that deserve to feel the force of the law. In many instances operate from jurisdictions outside of Nigeria where more could be done to catch and prosecute them.

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Re: Percentages of percentages of percentages of positives

Actually, it's "idiot with access to some money" filter.

A lot of those who 'bite' on these scams rob the company they work for, take up big personal loans, borrow from friends...

The worst?

Here in Norway, most of these transactions are flagged by the bank and the customer alerted and/or the police notified, but still there were AT LEAST 16 still sending money abroad to what was believed to be scammers, even after the police had talked to them about the situation.

They've borrowed so much that they CAN'T AFFORD the possibility that it's a scam! They cling to the very, very, very small hope that it might be true and that 'any day now' the money will appear and they can pay back all that money.

Sad, really.

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Re: Percentages of percentages of percentages of positives

No, I agree with the initial assertion.

They filter for people gullible enough to complete the process - the actual sums involved are less important than finding the few people involved you can lead through to the completion of the process so selecting for gullibility (the relevant form of idiocy) is the right thing to do even if it does also select for people who achieve less (and I do not subscribe to the view that idiocy and success are mutually exclusive in any way).

Greed works both ways, yes greedy people (is there another kind?) and to obtain all they can but also they are reluctant to let what they have go.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 21st June 2012 12:24 GMT & Fred Flintstone

>(and I do not subscribe to the view that idiocy and success are mutually exclusive in any way)

>"Not that bright" does not equate "not enough money in the bank"

Now tell me which bit of "They do not want to target idiots as GENERALLY they do not have enough money" you failed to understand. I don't recall saying you can't have a greedy idiot, however greed is still the major factor.

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Re: Percentages of percentages of percentages of positives

"On one hand, I have compassion for people who are limited by their genetics."

People limited by their genetic shouldn't be in control of their finances for these very reasons. Quite often they will ask someone else so don't get caught anyway. It's the ones who think their smart when their actually village idiots that get caught and deserve to.

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Fucking DUH!

Shotgun out a couple hundred million spam emails, you're bound to hook a few idiots. The "lads from lagos"[1] only need to hook one idiot to make well over a decade's wages ... at the standard wage in that neck of the woods, anyway.

My mother had a 90YO friend who lost over $200,000 to these scum. Yes, she was an idiot, bought into Amway & the like, etc. Still doesn't make it right.

Why various .govs don't go out of their way to stop spam email in general, and 419 scams in particular, is beyond me ...

[1] Yes, I know, Nigeria isn't the only source of these things ... To be honest, most of the ones I've caught in my filters in the last decade or so seem to originate in Russia.

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Re: Fucking DUH!

Why various .govs don't go out of their way to stop spam email in general, and 419 scams in particular, is beyond me

I would really not like spam filtering done by *any* government, because they would *love* the ability to censor your email under the pretext of spam filtering. No thanks..

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Re: Fucking DUH!

If you've got a foolproof method that will allow someone (including .gov) to stop spam without affecting legitimate emails, a fortune awaits you. The only realistic proposals that I've seen involve microcharging (tiny fractions of a penny) for each recipient - but this isn't too popular with freetards.

Existing filters certainly aren't (and can never be) 100% effective, but still suffer from false positives blocking valid emails. I personally haven't seen a 419-type spam for years, they seem to be mostly about 'job opportunities' and fake Rolex at the moment.

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Re: Fucking DUH!

419 spam is super easy to filter. With zero false positives. I've been doing it for about a decade and a half. I'll be happy to share my methodology. For a price.

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Re: Fucking DUH!

"My mother had a 90YO friend who lost over $200,000 to these scum. Yes, she was an idiot, bought into Amway & the like, etc. Still doesn't make it right."

90, gullible and has a spare $200K lying around. Yes it's terrible but on the bright side she won't ever be that stupid again. A valuble life lesson learnt. Money well spent.

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Go

I always thought they used Nigeria because some first world countries (not naming names...) are incredibly useless at geography and world events...

I mean I had a three hour debate with one guy who refused to believe me that Timbuktu was a real place!

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three hours eh?

Did you consider using Google Maps (or whatever) to show it to him, on the map?

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Three hours, tkioz?

I'd have bowed out after fewer than five minutes.

Arguing with idiots is kinda pointless. Even if they are buying the beer.

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Re: Three hours, tkioz?

"Arguing with idiots is kinda pointless."

Agreed - they bring you down to their level then beat you with experience.

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Why Nigeria?

They first started using Nigeria, back when the scam was faxed, because it is an oil rich country so the idea of some corrupt public servant amassing millions is not a far fetched as if they used Mauritania.

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Meh

Re: google maps

He claimed it was a "google joke like the 42 thing" when I showed him google maps and he claimed the wiki page was a joke as well...

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Anonymous Coward

We can all get caught on the hope, right place, right time, not paying attention. Although as you get older and assuming you still have your faculties, you get scammed less as you learned the hard way that if something is too good to be true, it is. Not probably is, it is!

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