My eyes were opened to the brilliance of the “Nigerian email scam” by my friend Ian Percy via a post in SpeakerNet News. I have known for many years that this scam collects close to $1B annually from people who choose to believe, or are simply naïve and gullible (that may be redundant). I had no idea the reason they succeed is because that is who they purposefully target. It really is all about targeting.
Now you may say, wait a minute, I get those emails and I am not naïve or gullible. Ok, I’ll accept that statement. But I did not say they only sent it to the naïve and gullible, just that they were targeting those people. Since email is essentially free and it is pretty difficult to buy a list of naïve and gullible people, the scammers email “everybody” while targeting the right people via their message.
According to an article The Week, citing CBS News, Microsoft and The Slate as sources, these scammers are brilliant in their targeting and messaging. The article cites a Microsoft researcher, Corman Herley who states: The emails virtually cry out: “This is a scam!” As a result, says Herley, only the most gullible people will actually contact the scammer and inquire about the vast reservoir of gold or the millions of dollars in oil profits being advertised. The vast majority of people will delete the email or report it as spam. “By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible,” says Herley, “the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.”
The goal is to cut the number of respondents to those few most likely to “buy.” Thus allowing the “seller” to focus his/her limited resources on the most promising prospects and avoid wasting time on people too smart to be duped. And there is clearly a large enough target market to generate a lot of revenue. (A fool and his money are soon parted, as the saying goes.)
The lesson here is simple. Targeting works. How’s yours?