Brains, people. Brains. Keep them turned on at all times.

From the mailbag:

Dear Mr. Berman, I recieved a notice from you at “Lotto NL” with a winning reference number TYM-101/8231 (Your Email Won). Did I really win, or is this a scam?

Now, I hope this is just one of our readers writing to tell us about the scambaiting they’re about to begin. (Scambaiting is when someone plays along with the scammer’s game to keep them busy. Read our scambaiting experiment here.) But we have no indication that’s the case. If it isn’t, please tell me I’m wrong about the series of events that is unfolding:

  1. Mr. Victim gets an unsolicited email message from a guy he’s never heard of, “Mr. Berman,” aka, Scammer.
  2. “Mr. Berman,” in broken English, tells Mr. Victim that he was won a lottery he did not enter.
  3. Mr. Victim, suspicious, says, “Waaaaaait a minute! Something doesn’t smell right.”
  4. Mr. Victim writes to the scammer that sent the spam and asks if it’s a scam.
  5. “Mr. Berman” assures him it is not. All we need is a $1,000 service fee and your bank account number and we’ll transfer the $10,000,000 to your account.
  6. A couple of weeks pass, Mr. Victim is out $1,000 plus whatever cash was in his account, and then he goes Googling about online scams and “Mr. Berman.”

These kinds of scammers are the scum of the earth. They prey on people who are vulnerable because of financial stress. People who badly want to believe that they have won a lottery, or inherited money from a distant relative, or can get paid for helping a rich African woman access her vast fortune.

The only reason these scams continue is because they work—to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. And did you know some version of this scam been around since the 1920s? (Source: So keep those synapses fired up. It’s the best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

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