On any given day, I can find in my mailbox emails from international dignitaries, prominent figures in the financial world, and numerous attorneys. Is it because of my career in the comic book business or some other notable thing I have done?
No, they all write to tell me that I have won an international lottery based solely on my email address... or inherited a fortune from a long-lost relative (mostly in countries in which none of my ancestors have ever lived)... or need my help smuggling out a fortune that they have "appropriated" from the deposed government of some African nation. Of course, I am not the only one who receives these. I'm sure everyone reading this has gotten their share. But you have to wonder, why does anyone actually fall for these scams?
Some months ago, there was an article in The New Yorker (if I recall correctly; if not, I'm sure Laurie will know, as she is the one who found it) about a doctor who got sucked into one. He just kept sending more "handling fees" to the scam artists, somehow convinced that the millions he was going to receive were just one more email away. We were amazed by this story of a seemingly intelligent and well-educated man who was apparently so overcome with greed that he could not see through the scam.
I can understand people getting caught in some of the phishing scams; the scammers have become quite good at faking emails from banks that advise customers of changes in security. Of course, when you get one from a bank you have never even heard of, it should be a heads-up that it's a fake. And there have been enough warnings by now that you wonder why anyone would blindly click on a link that will allow you to "easily update your information."
Recently, I did a tally of just how much money I had "won" or would receive in exchange for helping to smuggle funds out of Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, et al. Seven different lotteries, most of them in Europe, with a grand total of $9.75 million. Plus my share (ranging from 30% to 50%) of another $14.5 million just sitting in secret places around Africa. One man claimed that he was waiting for me at Kennedy Airport with "a cheque for $1 million." Clearly, there is no need to work if I would only take advantage of all this money that is just out there waiting for me.
Perhaps my favorite was one that came from a young woman in England. Seems that her father, a prominent banker, had died and left her several million pounds. His only stipulation for her receiving it before her 30th birthday -- she claimed to be 22 -- was that she had to be married. And of all the people in the world she could have, she chose me. (Let's just ignore all the inherent problems with this.) Now, really, if all it takes to collect her inheritance is to get married, isn't there a guy down the block who'd be willing?