Have you ever wondered why scam and phishing emails are poorly written with bad grammar and spelling; why they claim to originate from Nigeria or some other West African country; and why they are offering ridiculous sums of money for little or no effort?
A report released by Microsoft Research studied this topic and concluded that the scammers use math and historical data to determine the highest positive rate of return (people who actually give money) against the total number of potential targets.(1)
Making deliberate errors in the email remove from the potential target pool those who either immediately see the email as a scam or will eventually see the email as a scam after conversing with the scammer. The scammer does not want to spend time interacting with people who will not end up giving money and only spend time on the most gullible.
This self-selecting target pool gives the scammer a much smaller group of targets that will more likely end up falling for the scam.
As for Nigeria, the prominence of Nigeria as a place of scammers is well known to savvy Internet users. Once again, those who respond to these emails are most likely not well versed in the Internet thus will tend to believe the scam is real. The use of Nigeria and related counties plays on the old belief that the country or Western African is full of untold riches and corrupt officials, thus the need for assistance outside the country would seem more plausible.
Do these scams still work?
According to the Dutch research firm Ultrascan AGI, in 2009 9.3 billion US dollars was lost to scammers for a total loss of 41 billion US dollars(2).
If you receive one of these emails DO NOT REPLY. Simply delete it.