Sponsor Robert Siciliano as he runs the Boston Marathon for Miles for Miracles, Children's Hospital Boston
ROBERT SICILIANO is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds.


Check here if you're human


Ode to the Nigerian Scammer

Pin It

Most of us would never fall for a Nigerian email scam. The obvious “scammer grammar” and outlandish requests would tip us off, as would the supposed Nigerian origin of the message, since we’re probably familiar with the typical claims about Nigerian royalty. So you might wonder why these scammers persist in such an obvious ruse, rather than tweaking their stories to make them more believable.

According to a recent study by Microsoft researcher Cormac Herley, the Nigerian scam is designed to tip off all but the most oblivious recipients. The intended targets are people so unaware of common online scams that they must have been living in a cave without Internet access until, like, yesterday.

In Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria? Herley explains, “Far-fetched tales of West African riches strike most as comical. Our analysis suggests that is an advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage. Since his attack has a low density of victims the Nigerian scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives. By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible, the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.”

In other words, scammers are disqualifying the majority of potential victims in order to pinpoint the most gullible as quickly as possible. Anyone naïve enough to respond to such ridiculousness is far more likely to willingly empty their bank account.

Unfortunately for consumers, the #1 method of prevention is education—knowing when something looks too good to be true, not accepting friend connections from people you don’t know, not publishing your personally identifiable information (Teens: please stop posting photos of your freshly-printed driver’s permits and licenses on Facebook), and of course, changing passwords often and not sharing them with others. Installing anti-phishing technology on one’s computer or other device is also known to prevent many of the messages from reaching you in the first place.

On the business-side, banks, retailers, dating sites and social networks help prevent scams by identifying known scammers and spammers the moment they touch their website. By using iovation’s device identification service, ReputationManager 360, which shares the reputations of more than 975 million devices from all countries in the world, they not only know a device’s rap sheet (which could include online scam solicitations, spam, identity theft, credit card fraud and more), they know about devices related to it, and are alerted to other forms of suspicious behavior in real-time as well.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses identity theft  in front of the National Speakers Association. (Disclosures)

About the Author
ROBERT SICILIANO, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds. His "tell it like it is" style is sought after by major media outlets, executives in the C-Suite of leading corporations, meeting planners, and community leaders to get the straight talk they need to stay safe in a world in which physical and virtual crime is commonplace. Siciliano is accessible, real, professional, and ready to weigh in and comment at a moment's notice on breaking news.

Similar Posts

  • Top 5 Scams to Watch Out For
    #1 Nigerian Scams: According to a Dutch study, victims of advanced-fee scams, which are also known as 419 scams or Nigerian scams, lost more than $9 billion in 2009, almost 50% more than the previous year. (This PDF contains the statistics from the study.) While these types of scams are generally understood to be Nigerian in
  • Device Intelligence Helps Stop Scammers Targeting Social Media Sites
    We’ve heard this story before, but unfortunately it happens over and over again. Social media and dating sites are overrun with criminals who pose as legitimate, upstanding individuals, but are really wolves in sheep’s clothing. In Florida, a man named Martin Kahl met a 51-year-old woman and they developed an online romance. A quick search for
  • Telemarketing Scams Target the Elderly
    We hear it over and over how the elderly are often targeted by scammers. Elderly are simply “elders” and no smarter or dumber than anyone else. If anything, they are wiser. However, as we age we often get feeble, weaker in the mind. That slightly weaker state of mind is when the scammer strikes. You
  • 419 Scams Double, Over $9 Billion in Profits
    Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert A recent study by Dutch investigation firm Ultrascan shows we are half as smart (or twice as dumb) as we were in 2008 as advanced fee scams doubled in losses to over $9 billion. 419 Advance Fee Fraud Statistics 2009 (PDF) It is believed that while the scams are known to be
  • Inside The Nigerian 419 Scam
    The Nigerian 419 Scam is a form of advance-fee fraud, a confidence trick in which the target is persuaded to advance sums of money in the hope of realizing a significantly larger gain. “419″ refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with fraud. Almost everyone has been targeted by this type of scam

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Xtreme School

Featured in

Anderson Cooper John Stossel Robert Siciliano Featured in
Browse by Month

Browse by Category