Keen followers of my articles will recall a previous article named “Why do phishing email be writtened such bad english? Turns out it’s intentional…

In that article, I explored why phishing emails contained such terrible and obvious spelling and grammatical errors. But I didn’t address why so many scammers say that they’re from Nigeria. A website that catalogs scam emails shows that 51% mention Nigeria as the source of funds and a further 34% as some other West African country.

The reason for it is both complex and beautifully simple

The whole email scamming system is based on probability and effort.

The scam involves an email campaign that has an incredibly low (almost zero) cost per recipient for the attacker. It’s only when a potential victim responds does the labour-intensive effort requirements of the attacker rise beyond zero. This would include follow-up emails and sometimes a phone call to begin.

Anyone who responds to an attacker via email response is considered ‘Attacked’ and thus incurs a cost greater than zero (cost of their time, if nothing else). Of the Attacked, those who engage fully with the attacker and end up sending money are true positives, whereas those who realise that it is a scam and back out at some point are the false positives.

The scam is all in the wording

The main opportunity any of the Attacked has to be fooled is the wording of the original email. If the goal is to attack as many people as possible, then the email needs to be constructed in such a way to lure as many as possible.

It’s been proven that going for volume doesn’t maximise profit when it comes to email scams. The most profitable method is attacking only the most likely targets.

Who are the most likely targets for a Nigerian scammer?

The attacker needs to find the most gullible of people to attack. They must be people with money and must be able to send the money when requested.

Since gullibility is unobservable, the best strategy is to get those who possess this quality to self-identify.

An email with extravagant tales of money, lottery wins and love and West African corruptions will register as bizarre – except for the most gullible. These scams will be recognised and ignored immediately by anyone who has been using email systems long enough to have seen it several times.

The scam will be worked out by anyone competent enough to do a simple Google search on the topic.

The scam wouldn’t be pursued by anyone who consults friends or family, or who takes the time to read warning advice from banks.

The leftovers

It’s those who remain that are the ideal targets for scammers. They are a small subset of the over population – as low as 1 in 10,000.

So whilst a carefully crafted email that doesn’t mention Nigeria at all might garner more responses, there will be a higher likelihood of false positives (more people who will pull out of the scam at some point prior to transferring money).

For as long as there’s gullible people willing to believe fabulous tales of lost money originating from Nigeria, there will be scams claiming to be from Nigeria or some other West African country.