“The money’s the same, whether you earn it or scam it.”
–Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
Recently, Microsoft conducted a study of Nigerian scam e-mails to determine why the e-mails are so blatantly, obviously illegitimate. If you’ve read one of these e-mails, it’s pretty clear that the son of a Nigerian oil baron doesn’t have $53 million to give to you. The typos are rampant, and these “barristers” and “diplomats” readily admit that they are not from the United Kingdom or the United States. Everything about these e-mails screams out “SCAM” to common sense.
Yet, as the study shows, the scammers aren’t appealing to those with common sense. What they are trying to do, although undoubtedly few, if any of the scammers realize (or know about) it, is reduce the incidence of false positives. A false positive, in this case, is someone who would respond but would then later on catch on that the offer was a scam. The scammer will have wasted time and resources trying to get money from someone who will not give him money. It’s much simpler to go after the easy mark, the person who will readily run to the Western Union and ship away thousands of dollars after two e-mail exchanges than to work for months trying to convince the dubious with an uncertain payout at the end of the line.
If you’re in sales, you’ve probably experienced the same thing. You’ve done endless calls, dinners, meetings, and presentations with a lead who always seems on the fence but can never commit. What are Nigerian 419 scammers doing right that you’re not?