Roughly once a week, I get an email like this one in my inbox:


Normally I don’t even open them — I just hit the “SPAM” button on gmail and move on. But today, curiosity tapped me on the shoulder and I opened this little gem, and thought… WHAT. THE. F**K?!?

Where do these emails come from?

What’s their purpose?

Is it some kind of twisted market research tactic?

Is it just cyber-trash?

Does ANYBODY actually respond to these? They must, right? Or they would cease to continue?

What’s the CTR on these, I wonder? Higher than normal? Lower?

Seriously, folks…. WTF???!!!!?

Now that Curiosity had me going, I decided to dig through my Spam folder to see what other treasures I might find. I found plenty.

First there was this one, which bestowed upon me the good news that some random dead guy left me $30,100,000. Not too shabby.


And this one, in which a clever businessman from Hong Kong hand-picked me to launder a mere $10.6M in exchange for a piece of the action:



Next, we have a dying woman in the Netherlands who wishes to leave me $1,500,000 to help widows and orphans—a career change I wasn’t planning on, but am now reconsidering since it is clearly quite lucrative. I also enjoy that she tells me point blank, “Do take this email as a contribution to fake (Spam)” right in the opening paragraph. Priceless!


I could go on all day with these. My Spam folder is littered with them… right alongside irresistible offers like “Lose Weight Quickly & Naturally!”, “Stay in Your Domicile to Earn 20grand in 30days”, and—my favorite—”Flush out excess pounds from your colon!”

Yes, these are actual subject lines, folks.

Which brings me back to my original question: WTF???

4 Responses

  1. It’s because something like 0.01% of humanity are hopelessly misguided enough to respond to these spam mails. There are supposed to be in excess of 100 billion spam messages sent every day – so several million get through to susceptible people. Of those several million there are probably a good handful who think they’re genuinely on to something and hand over bank details. And with the virtual zero cost of sending spam you probably only need one or two fish who bite the bait to make it worth while.

    Your blog is brilliant by the way. An ongoing inspiration. Thanks for all you do.

    It’s so good that I want to donate some money. If you can send me your bank details and credit card number and pin code, and address and date of birth then I will put $2million in to your account!

  2. As JamesB says above … it only takes a handful to be fooled to make the effort worthwhile. It also has the advantage of being self filtering since the real effort comes later on in playing the game in an increasingly personalized way to extract the “advance fee” that these scams are anchored on. By the time they get to the point of having to send more than standard stock responses, the gullible fool has already self identified.

    You’d have thought that everybody would know about these “419” scams by now. They’re the sort of thing that have been covered on TV, or your local paper, invariable about some poor person who fell for one and lost their life savings on the promise of some huge sum. Surely anybody who spends any time on the web has read at least one 419er scam bait thread? And so to my (cheeky 😉 observation – it’s 2009 and here you are, a savvy and cool social marketing genius, commenting on the diversity and amusement of 419 spam like it’s new. They’re like so 2001 ;-). Or put another way, assuming that even connected people understand all the detailed ins-and-outs of such scams and a range of other ones is mistake, and that’s why they’ll keep coming!

    Social engineering is a powerful tool, and hence the scammers and virus writers will keep trying with new twists and turns that increasingly use our own social networks to trick us. Worse still we’ll continue to occasionally fall for them!

    By the way, I’ve just found what I think is a picture of you. Click this link to see if it is ….

  3. Andy & James B — you both make good points. It’s just shocking to me that ANYONE falls for this sh*t, regardless of whether they’ve seen the TV news coverage or not. It’s just… dumb. There, I said it.

  4. I suggest you play their game, waste their time and have a laugh at their expense. I’ve done it before, it feels good!

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