A report released by researcher Chatham House yesterday in the UK estimates Nigerian 419 advanced fee fraud costs the country’s economy $284 million a year, with the average losses per greedy dupe, er victim clocking in at $58,700.
Sounds like the UK has lots of people who are eligible for the Darwin Disk.
What’s the Darwin Disk? Why, it’s our solution to the spam problem. First proposed in 2002, the yet-to-be-implemented Darwin Disk is a theoretical co-op database of people who, by responding to certain kinds of spam, have identified themselves as so stupid, they should be naturally selected out of the legitimate marketing universe.
Using the Darwin Disk, spammers could have a file of all the idiots stupid enough to respond to their garbage and the rest of the e-mail universe would be mercifully clean of offers from online bottom feeders—thieves, of course being one type of online bottom feeder we’d like to see eradicated.
Not surprisingly, people who respond to 419 scams are prime candidates for the Darwin Disk.
Nigerian 419 advanced-fee scams—so-named after the relevant section of the country’s legal code—typically begin with someone receiving an unsolicited e-mail from a stranger purporting to have an astronomical sum of money. The would-be scammer promises a sizable chunk of the money to the recipient for agreeing to help spirit the money out of the country.
If the potential dupe responds, the scammer usually asks for some up-front fee to bribe officials or pay for some other administrative nonsense before the transaction can take place. The money, of course, never materializes and the scammer will concoct new fees until the dupe either runs out of money or stops responding. People who are taken in by these scams reportedly tend to keep sending money because they don’t want to lose what they’ve already spent.
Also, the scam often goes unreported because the dupe is usually too embarrassed to tell anyone about it. But some obviously do report these scams to the police, otherwise we’d have no numbers.
Today, we would like to nominate everyone who loses money in a 419 scam and then reports the incident to police for a special place on the Darwin Disk: the “Not Just Stupid, but Brazenly Dishonest” file.
And before anyone protests this idea as callous, think about it: Respondents to 419 scams typically think they’re taking part in a scam themselves. They believe they’re helping spirit millions of dollars out of an impoverished country. And the ones we know about had the gall to call the cops. No pity here.
Imagine the data-card description of this file: “Not Just Stupid, but Brazenly Dishonest consumers will respond to anything that taps into their sense of getting something for nothing. They’ll fork over whatever disposable income they have in multiple payments to the first e-mailer who can get to them with a grammatically tortured, implausible offer: the more implausible, the better. We recommend the “dead-banker’s-daughter-orphaned-by-rebels” ploy and spelling the monetary amount out in all capital letters—as in TWENTY FIVE MILLION US DOLLARS. They always seem to respond to that one.”
People on the disk could also be rated according to how dupable they are. Each name could get, say, from one to five drool buckets: one bucket being “somewhat dupable,” five being “will respond to scams that aren’t even in their language.”
Yeah, yeah, we know. Harsh.