Spam emails show up in my inbox every day, despite the increasing sophistication of spam filtering done by ISP’s. These emails tell me that my account at such and such a bank has been frozen and I need to click on the link provided to resolve this issue. In almost all cases I don’t have an account at the bank named. Or they tell me that my email account is being frozen because I have exceeded my spam quota. Again there is a link provided to fix this issue. Others tell of huge sums of money awaiting me in some foreign bank, or offer a fantastic job.
These emails are too ridiculous to be believable; many contain errors in grammar and spelling. We are apt to conclude that the people sending them are probably not very bright. I believe that is just what they want us to think.
You see, the spammers don’t want to have anything to do with people who would immediately go to the authorities when things go wrong. Even though the spammers are almost all offshore, their schemes could unravel if too much light was focused on them.
Their target audience is people who are not literate enough, or informed enough, to discern how ridiculous and improbable these messages are. People who have passed the requisite number of hours sitting behind a school desk, but not much has stuck; people for whom English is a second language that they have never quite mastered; older people whose mental faculties are not as sharp as they used to be, but who still have healthy bank accounts. In other words, the most vulnerable people in our society.
Phone scams are getting more sophisticated all the time. Last week a call came to my fax machine — from the phone number of my fax machine! That was odd, but not much can go wrong when a recorded message from offshore tries to talk to my fax machine. A few days later my land line phone rang and the call display said the call was from my phone line. I picked it up out of curiosity and got the beginning of a recorded message wanting to help me get out of debt. I think that if I had bit, the end result would have been the opposite of the promise.
I believe our best defence against these scams is to be aware that they are scams, and to do our part to inform others, especially those who might be vulnerable enough to take the bait. If these scams were not finding enough people to take the bait, they would stop. Automated voice messages and emails are not costly to send out, it only takes a minuscule success rate to make them worthwhile to the perpetrators. The more people who are informed, the lower that success rate will be.