Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wow! I win again!

I received an email the other day. Another one of those emails. What kind of email? Those which inform me that, for some reason or other, I am about to come into a large sum of money. According to some of these, I have won a lottery that I did not enter. According to others, my telephone number (or, perhaps, email address) has been randomly drawn and I have won X million dollars or pounds. In other cases, someone, often in an African nation, needs to offload into my bank account, for obscure reasons expressed in barely intelligible English, huge amounts of money. A lovely couple today, apparently from Great Britain, want to share with me £1,000,000.00 from their huge Jackpot win. At least, I think it’s £1,000,000.00; the placement of the decimal point after the “1” has me a little concerned. Here is the generous offer in full:

Hello ,
My Name is Adrian Bayford, I and my wife won a Jackpot of £148 million GBP August 2012, and have voluntarily decided to give out the sum of £1.000,000.00 GBP to you as part of our own charity project to improve the life of others in your country, We are given 5 million to 5 unknown around the global so if you receive my mail, then you one of the lucky one, all you have to do is contact us back for details. You can also verify our winning £148 million pounds on the below link.

How wonderfully generous of them. Apparently, they believe that Australia is a poor, third world nation. Some might think it is on the way to becoming one. I only think it’s a shame that, you know, being from Britain and all, these people seem to struggle with English. But then, many English people do. Perhaps they should be investing the money into the British education system. Perhaps I should suggest that they give my £1,000,000.00 to that cause?

There are two things about these kinds of emails that amaze me. First, you think they might take the time and effort to actually get the grammar and punctuation correct. But perhaps that’s just the poor, unfortunate proofreader within, cringing.

Even more astonishing is the fact that, somewhere in the world, there are people who actually fall for these scams, er, accept these offers. Apparently there are enough people sucked in, er, smart enough, that it continues to be worth the effort to generate this crap, er, these generous offers. If news and current affairs shows are to be believed, the people who do accept these offers otherwise look quite normal. You know, like you and me. So why is this, if it’s not the plain and simple fact that these people are morons?

Two things occur to me. The first is the dreaded “what if”. I suppose some people are tormented by these two little words. What if, just this one time, the offer is actually genuine? This is a bit like the gambler who believes that this time he is on a sure thing; or the person with an obsessive compulsive disorder who thinks that she should check just one more time to make sure that the iron is turned off, in case, just this one time, it isn’t. The temptation of “what if” may be too much for some people. And, after all, what could possibly be the harm in replying? To be honest I’m not sure. I have no idea how these scams work. But I am not about to tug on that thread of the spider’s web to find out.

The second thing is that perhaps some people are just so desperate that they will try anything. I am less convinced about this. Those who fall for these scams do not appear particularly desperate. They do not live above a deeper and blacker pit of despair than the rest of us. It might have more to do with the fact that many are seeking shortcuts in life, like winning Lotto (or the unanticipated generosity of the Mr and Mrs Bayfords of the world), to lift them out of their particular patch of despair.

I suppose as long as some people fall for these scams, you and I will continue to receive similarly generous offers. But, you know, what if...?


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