The Nigerian Prince scam is one of the most infamous online schemes in the history of the internet.

You'll want to read this whole post because it won't end up where you think it will!

Despite most people understanding what this scam is, there are still people falling for this every day.  This is due to social engineering techniques it employs.

P.T. Barnum’s famous quote covers it perfectly: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Awareness of this classic trap is just as important today as ever.

What is the Nigerian Prince Scam?

The Nigerian Prince email scam is advance-fee scam. This type of scam involves a bad guy promising you a large sum of money in the future in exchange for a smaller amount today.

The Nigerian Prince scam gets its name from its elaborate story, usually involving a foreign “prince” that’s waiting to send your a lot of money. Instead, the scammer is just trying to receive money/bank information from you.

This scam often uses Nigeria, but this can also come from other countries.

It’s also worth noting that Nigeria does not have, nor has ever had, a royal family. This is often the case for most countries that are used in this type of scam.

Scam emails are often misspelled and you joke that it's so obvious you would never fall for it.   

But what if I told you that they added these misspellings on purpose and there are marketing lessons to learn from the "Nigerian Prince"

According to the book "Think Like A Freak," by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the scam's obviousness is its chief selling point.

The book refers to research from Microsoft Research computer scientist Cormac Herley, who looked at Nigerian scams from the point of view of the scammer. How, he wondered, were scammers who never sent an email free of typos earning enough money for the United States Secret Service to establish its own task force to fight them?

Levitt and Dubner explain the genius behind such an obvious scam in terms of "false positives," referring to email recipients who engage with the scammers but don't ultimately pay. Reaching out to scores of potential victims isn't much work, thanks to the ease of email, but with each reply from a gullible target, the scammers are required to put forth a little more effort.

They don't want you, someone from whom there's virtually no chance of receiving any money.

They want people who, faced with a ridiculous email, still don't recognize its illegitimacy.

They are looking for the most gullible people they can possibly find, and don’t want to waste time dealing with a smart person.

The perfect mark for these scammers is someone who can’t even spot an obvious error in the first few sentences.

Typos are a way for the scammers to prequalify their prospect (sound familiar?).

Here are 7 lessons they taught in this book that are valuable to your business.

  1. First, put away your moral compass—because it’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it.
  2. Learn to say “I don’t know”—for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to.
  3. Think like a child—because you’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions.
  4. Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world.
  5. Learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day.
  6. Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.  (When the horse dies - DISMOUNT

While the marketing lesson in here are powerful - DO BE CAREFUL with what you open in your email inbox.  It can bite you.

Our clients have 4 layers of phishing, spam and virus protection in their inboxes to minimize the risk to them. Reach out if you want us to help you too.