“I see dead people,” whispers the little guy in the movie “The Sixth Sense.” That must be very unfortunate for the ability is of dubious utility and seeing dead people walking about certainly would scare the crap out of the normal fellow. It’s more of an affliction than a talent. My affliction is that I see stupid people.
There are many indications that there are stupid people among us. One of the most compelling proofs lies in your spam folder. They are the ones which have fascinating titles such as “You have won $300 million”, “Your Inheritance Payment from the IMF”, etc.
The senders of these emails would not bother if there weren’t enough stupid people in the population who respond to them. Seeing the hundreds of phishing and Nigerian scams, one can guess that the number of people who fall for these schemes must be non-trivial. Estimates of amounts lost to the so-called “Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud” put the figure at $1 million every day for the US alone.
The emails start off with something like the following
Confidential Business Proposal
Having consulted with my colleagues and based on the information gathered from the Nigerian Chambers Of Commerce And Industry, I have the privilege to request your assistance to transfer the sum of $47,500,000.00 (forty seven million, five hundred thousand United States dollars) into your accounts. The above sum resulted from an over-invoiced contract, executed, commissioned and paid for about five years (5) ago by a foreign contractor. This action was however intentional and since then the fund has been in a suspense account at The Central Bank Of Nigeria Apex Bank.
We are now ready to transfer the fund overseas and that is where you come in. It is important to inform you that as civil servants, we are forbidden to operate a foreign account; that is why we require your assistance. The total sum will be shared as follows: 70% for us, 25% for you and 5% for local and international expenses incidental to the transfer.
The transfer is risk free on both sides. I am an accountant with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). If you find this proposal acceptable, we shall require the following documents:
(a) your banker’s name, telephone, account and fax numbers.
(b) your private telephone and fax numbers —for confidentiality and easy communication.
(c) your letter-headed paper stamped and signed.
Stupidity, gullibility and greed. What’s scary is that these stupid people who respond to such evident scams go out and vote.
However, sometimes it is amusing to read those letters for the gems they contain. Here are a few samples lines snipped from various emails in my spam folder:
. . . My name is JANET SYLVIA BESTMAN (MRS), I am a British woman of 52 years of age married to a Nigerian JOHN EMEKA BESTMAN (MR) who is presently late. . .
. . . although we have not met or entered into any kind of contract with you before as to know the extent of your honesty, but based on the recommendation, I personally want to believe that you are honest . . .
All emails of this variety involve dishonesty and death. It is usually the widow writing about her dear departed husband who used to be a dictator or an arms dealer or a banker. One letter however upped the ante on the death front: your death.
Your name appeared among the beneficiaries, who will receive payment of your
contractual sum and has been approved already for weeks. You are requested to
get back to me for more direction and instruction on how to receive your fund.
However, we received an email from one Mr. Virgle Lee Samples who told us that
he is your next of kin and that you died in a car accident last week.
He has also submitted his account for us to transfer the fund to him we want to
hear from you before we can make the transfer to confirm if you are dead or not?
Please if you are still alive, kindly furnish us with below information: so that
I can give you the contact of the paying bank in London .
Now that’s what I call a lethal combination of death, dishonesty, greed and gullibility.
Related Post: The Indian $10 Laptop. Feb 2009.