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Why are scam emails so poorly written?

It turns out that some scam emails are poorly written on purpose in order to weed out people who are less susceptible to the scam.

By Austin Blessing-Nelson (Blessing)Published 3 months ago 3 min read
Why are scam emails so poorly written?
Photo by Lindsey LaMont on Unsplash

Unfortunately, scams are everywhere, and even though they have been around forever, they are becoming increasingly common, especially due to the rise in the internet. It is therefore important to understand how scams work and how to spot them. With this knowledge, we can hopefully prevent ourselves and others from becoming victims.

I previously published a piece about the origin of infamous Nigerian Prince scam. During my research for that piece, I had to learn a lot about scams in general and what goes into them. As it turns out, there is quite a bit of science behind scams and how they work, and there is quite a bit of method to the madness. They can be more complex than you might think and often follow well-thought out playbooks. This includes how scam emails are written. Turns out more goes into them then you may have thought!

All of us have made fun of those stereotypically poorly written and typo laden scam emails. We have all wondered to ourselves “Did they even proofread this? Was it written by an idiot? Who would possibly fall for this?!” The reality is that this is often the case, but sometimes the bad writing is a feature, not a bug.

As it turns out, those poorly written emails are sometimes written that way on purpose. Of course, some of the mistakes in scam emails are not intentional. Sometimes they just contain inadvertent mistakes or are written by someone who may not have the best grasp on proper English, possibly due to being from a different part of the world and not being a native English speaker. However, not all of the mistakes in scam emails are accidental and a lot of scammers actually write their emails like that on purpose. Those "typos" and grammatical errors are sometimes intentionally included to serve as a test of sorts.

Basically, those typos can act as a type of social engineering that is designed to weed out people who are unlikely to fall for the scam. Scammers don’t want to lure you in and waste time on you only for you to later realize it is a scam and back out. Instead, it is more efficient for them to weed people out early. The scammer figures that if someone reads a typo laden email that purports to be from the government, a major corporation, or a Nigerian prince, and they are able to look past the many typos and take the email seriously, then they are likely to fall for the scam. In essence, the mistakes serve as a filter designed to only let past those that the scammer deems "gullible" or "an easy target."

It is important to note that, according to IT Governance, some types of scams, such as phishing schemes, don’t need a filtering system due to the way they operate and the way the select targets. A filtering system is more necessary for scams that involve a somewhat extended interaction between the scammer and the target wherein the scammer has to trick and convince the target to go along with the scam. Although, phishing emails do often contain typos and grammatical errors for other reasons, such as the people writing them not being native English speakers.

As always, it is important to know how to spot scams and to help lookout for our friends and family who may, for one reason or another, be more susceptible to scams. There are many reputable organizations, such as the AARP, the FTC, the FBI, and more, that compile information on scams and provide guidance on how to spot and avoid them.


About the Creator

Austin Blessing-Nelson (Blessing)

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Comments (1)

  • angela hepworth3 months ago

    Fascinating stuff here!

AB(Written by Austin Blessing-Nelson (Blessing)

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