MFG 2.0

The Sunk Costs of Spam Scams

I have to admit, even being as cynical as I am about the rank stupidity of the human race, that reading a story like this one -- about a registered nurse who sent nearly $500,000 to internet spam con artists -- dropped my jaw.

The story begins like this:

Janella Spears doesn’t think she’s a sucker or an easy mark.

They never do. It goes downhill from there.

"Spears fell victim to the "Nigerian scam," which is familiar to almost anyone who has ever had an e-mail account.

The e-mail pitch is familiar to most people by now: a long-lost relative or desperate government official in a war-torn country needs to shuffle some funds around, say $10 million or $20 million, and if you could just help them out for a bit, you get to keep 10 (or 20 or 30) percent for your trouble. . .By this time, not many people will fall for such an outrageous pitch, and the scam is very well-known. But it persists, and for a reason: every now and then, it works."

And of course, these gems:

It turned out to be a lot of money up front, but it started with just $100.

When Spears began to doubt the scam, she got letters from the President of Nigeria, FBI Director Mueller, and President Bush. Terrorists could get the money if she did not help, Bush’s letter said. Spears continued to send funds. All the letters were fake, of course.

. . .(people like Spears) are so desperate to recoup their losses with the big payout, they descend into a vicious cycle of sending money in hopes the false promises will turn out to be real.

As the Consumerist reports, she didn't stop of her own accord:

Only after Department of Justice investigators happened across her $144,000 Western Union transfers while investigating a different money laundering did she stop. She only stopped because the DoJ told her if she sent any more money they would charge her with a crime.

Tune up those spamfilters, boys -- the scammers just got paid.

TAGS: Innovation
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