Wandering Thoughts archives

2011-12-19

An advance fee fraud spam aphorism

Here's an aphorism:

Any tragedy or political turmoil will be immediately seized on by advance fee fraud spammers as part of their come-on messages.

Be it the invasion of Iraq, a tragic tsunami, a big airplane crash, or the overthrow of the despotic Libyan government, you can be confident that soon your email will have messages from, say, the relative of a former regime member who needs your help to get some money out of the country.

This is a fine aphorism except that once I started actually looking at it, it looked less and less true. While it's true that this sort of thing happens quite often in reaction to world events, not any old tragedy and turmoil will do. For example, take Japan's Sendai quake and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear events. Under normal circumstances, this would be advance fee fraud gold; you could use it to spin all sorts of tragic tales to hook in marks. But I don't think I've seen a single English language spam that talks about it. My guess as to what makes the Japanese tragedy bad for advance fee fraud spammer is pretty simple: Japan is a prosperous first world country. It's pretty implausible that a person in Japan would need to reach out to someone outside their country for help, implausible enough to make potential suckers wake up and realize something's wrong.

Another recent tragedy that I haven't seen show up in advance fee fraud spam (at least not yet) is the flooding in Thailand. My theory here is that these floods are not big and well enough known to make good advance fee fraud bait. If your targets have never heard of the tragedy you're trying to exploit, it's not really helping to engage their sympathies and their belief.

So for the purposes of the aphorism, it's more that any sufficiently large third world tragedy or turmoil will be seized on for advance fee fraud come-ons. But, as usual, that makes the aphorism less sharp.

(On that note, I wonder if we're about to get a rush of North Korean related advance fee fraud spam in the wake of Kim Jong-il's death.)

spam/AdvancedFeeEvents written at 00:25:50; Add Comment

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