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Why Nigerian Scammers Don't Say They're From New Jersey

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Did you just delete another email from a stranger in Nigeria claiming that millions are waiting for you halfway around the world? It seems more people than we thought are responding. For a small, lonely segment of the population, the words “Nigeria” and “wire money” don’t raise any red flags -- or automatically end up in a Gmail (GOOG) spam box. Gizmodo examined the thought process behind Nigerian scams and why those behind them don’t change their game and say they’re writing from Turkey, Portugal, or New Jersey.

Cormac Herley of Microsoft Research (MSFT) says those behind Nigerian scams or “advance fee frauds” are looking for the most gullible. Sticking with the format they’ve used for years quickly eliminates those not worth pursing, leaving the least tech savvy and lonely easy prey. The inclusion of popular businesses like Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Shell (RDS-A) are even more disarming to victims, leading companies to add scam alerts to websites.

Herley’s recently published paper Why Nigerian Scammers Say They Are from Nigeria, describes a typical victim:

"Since gullibility is unobservable, the best strategy is to get those who possess this quality to self-identify. An email with tales of fabulous amounts of money and West African corruption will strike all but the most gullible as bizarre. It will be recognized and ignored by anyone who has been using the Internet long enough to have seen it several times. It will be figured out by anyone savvy enough to use a search engine and follow up on the auto-complete suggestions [of search engines]. It won't be pursued by anyone who consults sensible family or fiends, or who reads any of the advice banks and money transfer agencies make available. Those who remain are the scammers ideal targets."

Note to self: Check in on reclusive neighbors to see if they have any new overseas pen pals.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.