Why do Nigerian scammers say they are from Nigeria?
We’ve all gotten them—the ones that slip past even the best designed spam filter. They generally start something like My dearest one! or Esteemed Sir/Madam! They go on to claim some fabulous sum of money is just sitting there in Nigeria waiting for you to claim it. The stilted language, odd punctuation, incredibly improbable offer, and origin in Nigeria all scream scam.
So why do scammers send such obvious teasers? It isn’t that they are stupid. Few now originate in Nigeria. Many are actually sent by US citizens perfectly capable of wording an email in ways that wouldn’t be so obviously an attempt to defraud us. If you’ve ever wondered why the scammers use such thinly disguised ruses in hopes of extracting your life savings, you might enjoy reading this article in Slate Magazine. The article draws upon a research paper published by Cormac Herley, Principal Researcher in the Machine Learning Department at Microsoft Research.
For more in depth coverage, you may wish to read the original research paper, upon which the article is based. It explains the statistical science in the scammers’ seeming madness, and provides food for thought on other promotional efforts aimed at finding the rare gem scattered in the abundant rubble of no value to the searcher (in this case, the scam artist).