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Marketplace Scratch Pad

There’s still one born every minute

Scott Jagow Sep 14, 2009

I’m not sure why Nigerians are so good at internet scams, but they are, and even after years of warnings about their methods, Americans are still getting duped. Imagine if the Federal Reserve published this:

You are again warned in your own interest not to become yet another dupe by consenting to these fraudulent solicitations or schemes…

DON’T BE FOOLED! MANY HAVE LOST MONEY!!
IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT IS NOT TRUE!!!

That’s verbatim from a Central Bank of Nigeria press release on the Nigerian Embassy’s website. There’s a reason the Central Bank is screaming in capital letters — the scams keep working. The Chicago Tribune tells the story of a woman who’d thought she found love on an internet dating site. Instead, she found herself $10,000 in the hole:.

“I sent $500 here, $200 there. He sent me a copy of a $400,000 check that he was going to bring home to me and reimburse me with,” (Betsy) Shyrock said. “He was going to marry me and take care of me.”

Gone are the days when Nigerians duped victims solely with the tale of an orphaned prince’s quest to reclaim his inheritance. The scheme has morphed into a family of scams that now include romance cons like the one Shyrock fell for, along with rental scams and even puppy sale scams.

That’s the one where people pay for animals that don’t exist because they’re told the puppy will be killed if no one buys it. The Tribune says the Nigerians are very good at adapting their scams. In the story’s comment section, I found this:

Nigeria is what happens when a country is too dependent on one industry—oil. Nigeria has so much oil wealth that their government doesn’t need to invest in any other industry. They are overrun with college-educated young people with nothing to do. Go into the average Internet cafe in Abuja and its filled with Chemical Engineers, Mathematicians, etc. all sitting in front of a PC doing scams. That’s why these scams are so successful—their best and brightest are perpetrating them.

I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s an interesting theory.

There’s very little, if any, excuse for sending money to someone you don’t know. But I’ve done enough dumb things in my life to know better than to pass judgment.

The Nigerians certainly didn’t invent the scam:

“Men would not live long in society were they not the dupes of each other.”
François de la Rochefoucauld, 17th century

“PHRENOLOGY, n. The science of picking the pocket through the scalp. It consists in locating and exploiting the organ that one is a dupe with.”
Ambrose Bierce, 19th century

“A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true.”
Demosthenes, circa 350 BC

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