Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Nigerian scam emails ‘deliberately implausible’

New research from Microsoft suggests that email scammers maximise profits by entrapping only

the most gullible.

By Tom Barfield
1:00PM BST 21 Jun 2012
Machine learning expert and Microsoft researcher Cormac Herley suggests in a paper released

yesterday that “by sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets

the most promising marks to self-select.”

Herley’s reasoning is that scammers have to go to a lot of effort to successfully extract

money from their victims. “At the interface between the digital and physical worlds effort

must often be spent,” he writes. “Each respondent to a Nigerian 419 [advance fee fraud]

email requires a large amount of interaction…each potential target represents an

investment decision.”

The most profitable way to earn money through email scams, Hurley finds, is to only invest

in those targets most likely to pay out, rather than maximising the number of targets

“attacked”. This is why 419 emails contain fabulous stories that most people find laughable

– or that savvy internet users will see through with a quick search or based on their


“A less outlandish wording that did not mention Nigeria would almost certainly gather more

total responses and more viable responses, but would yield lower overall profit,” Hurley


“In our experience, the typical profile [of scam victims] is the very vulnerable and easily

confused – often the elderly,” confirms virus and spam expert Graham Cluley of computer

security company Sophos.
“There have been some heartbreaking stories of people losing their life savings to these

scams. They rely on people falling for them hook, line and sinker.”

Mr Cluley recommends exercising the same caution online as in person. “Just because

something arrives in a nicely-formatted email doesn’t mean you should believe it – any more

than if a crazy-looking person on the bus said it to you,” he said.


June 27, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. there is the people who have millions stranded in malaysia and want to build up a relationship or offer you to merry you like it was happen to me by bobby brown a 71 year old spanish man who lives in australia?and asked for 1800 australien Dollars for the customs so he can come home i meet him on tagged tagged becomes now a side with lots of scammers on it.please tell me how to post mail from bobby brown and the customs letter he send me to belief its true but i didnt send money i heared the alarmbells after being scammed ones
    merry christmas

    Comment by ingeborg fischer dvorsky | December 25, 2012 | Reply

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