Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New and Different Spam: "REPLY OR YOU WILL BE ARRESTED, INTERROGATED AND PROSECUTED"


I received this piece of spam email the other day, and it struck me because it is so wildly different than any spam I've received in the past. Instead of trying to entice me to action through some positive benefit ("You Won the Lottery!", "A Dead Relative in [Nigeria, England, Ghana, etc.] You Never Knew About Left You Lots of Money!", "Enlarge Your P3N1S!", etc.), it's trying to compel me to action through fear of loss ("YOU WILL BE ARRESTED, INTERROGATED AND PROSECUTED").

Have spammers been studying behavioral economics, and have they decided to try their hand at implementing prospect theory in their spam emails? Perhaps so - since most people value losses about twice as much as gains (i.e. losing $100 you have now would make you twice as sad as finding an extra $100 on the street today would make you happy), people might respond better to threats in spam rather than promises of riches, even if those threats are as transparently fake as the below letter. Any maybe it is more effective - it got me to read the below, rather amusing letter, at least. But, it's been more than 72 hours since I received the letter, and I am very much not arrested.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering - if you're ever going to be arrested, subpoenaed, interrogated, etc. by any government agency, they'll either deliver the summons or come arrest you in person - you won't get an email about it beforehand.

So, for your reading pleasure, here's the email the "FBI" sent me the other day.

My favorite part is the reference to "SECTION 229 SUBSECTION 31 OF THE 1991 CONSTITUTION IN MONEY LAUNDERING" - where can I find that provision, exactly? My high school government class must have skipped the 1991 Money Laundering Constitution of the United States.



Federal Bureau of Investigation
Intelligence Field Unit J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C.



URGENT ATTENTION: BENEFICIARY


I AM SPECIAL AGENT JOHN EDWARD FROM THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) INTELLIGENCE UNIT, WE HAVE JUST INTERCEPTED AND CONFISCATED TWO (2) TRUNK BOX AT JFK AIRPORT IN NEW YORK, AND ARE ON THE VERGE OF MOVING IT TO OUR BUREAU HEAD QUARTERS.

WE SCANNED THE SAID BOX, AND FOUND IT CONTAINS TOTAL SUM OF $4.1 MILLION AND ALSO BACKUP DOCUMENT WHICH BEARS YOUR NAME AS THE RECEIVER OF THE MONEY CONTAINED IN THE BOX, INVESTIGATIONS CARRIED OUT ON THE DIPLOMAT WHICH ACCOMPANIED THE BOX INTO UNITED STATES SAID HE WAS TO DELIVER THIS FUNDS TO YOUR RESIDENCE AS PAYMENT DUE YOU FROM THE OFFICE OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA AS UNPAID BENEFICIARY.

WE CROSS-CHECKED ALL LEGAL DOCUMENTATION IN THE BOX, AND WERE ABOUT TO RELEASE THE CONSIGNMENT TO THE DIPLOMAT WHEN WE FOUND OUT THAT THE BOX WAS LACKING ONE VERY IMPORTANT DOCUMENT WHICH MAKES US CONFISCATE THE BOX.

ACCORDING TO SECTION 229 SUBSECTION 31 OF THE 1991 CONSTITUTION IN MONEY LAUNDERING, YOUR CONSIGNMENT LACKS PROOF OF OWNERSHIP CERTIFICATE FROM THE JOINT TEAM OF THE IRS AND HOMELAND SECURITY, REPLY FOR DIRECTION ON HOW TO PROCURE THIS CERTIFICATE WHICH WILL ENABLE YOU RELIEVED OF THE CHARGES OF MONEY LAUNDERING WHICH IS A PUNISHABLE OFFENSE UNDER SECTION 12 SUBSECTION 441 OF CONSTITUTION ON MONEY LAUNDERING.

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO REPLY THIS LETTER WITHIN 72HOURS, OR YOU WILL BE ARRESTED, INTERROGATED AND PROSECUTED IN THE COURT OF LAW FOR MONEY LAUNDERING.

ALSO, YOU MUST NOT CONTACT ANY OTHER BANK OR PERSON IN NIGERIA OR UNITED KINGDOM OR ANY PART OF THE WORLD FOR ANY PAYMENT, BECAUSE YOUR PAYMENT HAVE BEEN CONFISCATED BY THIS BUREAU HERE IN THE UNITED STATES..


YOURS IN SERVICE
AGENT JOHN EDWARD
REGIONAL DIRECTOR

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