Is there actually anyone out there who still believes that an email from some unknown person in Nigeria, who claims to have access to a fortune that can be shared with a timely financial partner, is true? How obvious does a scam have to be? Yet “obvious” is still the technique of choice used by hundreds of scammers.
Think about it. If you’re a scammer, you want to reach the most likely prospects as efficiently as possible. By sending an obviously phony email, those few, out of perhaps millions of initial recipients, who actually respond, have self-selected themselves as pigeons. This is important for any marketing venture to be successful, whether fraudulent or not, it is critical to identify the likeliest prospects as quickly and as cost effectively as possible. Hence the beauty of self-selection.
Fraudulent proposals can take many forms. Some seek a cash transfer, as is generally the case in the Nigerian-based scams, and some ask for confidential data such as Social Security numbers and/or bank account data that allows the fraudster to basically help themselves to your assets.
A recent scam that has been making the rounds purports to represent a “new government program” to pay your utility bills, if only you supply your SS number and bank data. Is that really plausible? Would you send critical personal financial data out into the ether in the hope that someone else will actually pay your utility bills?
If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
Walter J. Kirchberger, CFA