Nigerian Style e-Mail Scams Earned $9.3 BILLION Worldwide In 2009, And Gross Increases By 5 Percent A Year As More Morons Are Getting Internet Connections

June 23, 2012

WORLD – You open your inbox, and a familiar message pops up:

DEAR SIR, I am Prince Kufour Otumfuo the elder son of the late King Otumfuo Opoku ware II whose demise occur following a brief illness. Before the death of my father, King Otumfuo Opoku ware II, I was authorised and officially known as the next successor and beneficiary of my father’s property according to African Traditional rite. …

“Seriously?,” you mutter. Since you are not (presumably!) a total idiot, you immediately recognize this for what it is — an Internet scam. Someone’s claiming to have untold riches and they just need you to wire them some money so that they can airlift said riches your way. It’s the most crudely obvious Internet hustle in the history of Internet hustles.

So why don’t Internet scammers try to change up their tactics? Everyone knows about the Nigerian prince. It’s tired and cliched. Why don’t more scammers try to dupe us with the fake inheritances of a Kazakh prince instead, or with Greek bonds or fancy credit default swaps or something clever like that? Something we haven’t seen before?

A fascinating new paper (pdf) from Microsoft researcher Cormac Herley actually tries to answer this question. He notes that 51 percent of all e-mail scams still originate from Nigeria, even though this is the most obvious scam known to mankind. And Corley argues (with math and graphs) that it’s not because scammers are stupid. Most of them are actually quite clever. Rather, they’re explicitly trying to weed out everyone but the most gullible respondents:

Our analysis suggests that is an advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage. Since his attack has a low density of victims the Nigerian scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives. By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.

Scamming people, after all, costs time and money. Herley notes that everyone who responds to a scamming ploy “requires a large amount of interaction.” The worst thing that can happen, from the scammer’s point of view, is that a savvy person starts responding and toying with the scammer. (Teddy Wayne, a writer for The Awl, recently conducted an amusing three-month Facebook correspondence with a man from Malaysia pretending to be a beautiful woman — this is a nightmare for scammers!) Better to keep the e-mails predictable and tired. That way only the most unsuspecting suckers respond.

At any rate, the scammers must be doing something right. In 2009, these “advanced-fee fraud” efforts managed to pry $9.3 billion out of unwitting victims around the world. And the business is growing at a 5 percent rate each year — especially as more people in developing countries get connected to the Internet.

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American Traffic Solutions Created Scam Nonprofit “National Coalition for Safer Roads” To Promote Their Red Light Cameras

September 17, 2011

US – Last month, a group alling itself the National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) obtained a great deal of exposure for red light cameras through the “National Stop on Red Week” publicity campaign. Several police departments around the country participated, with most news reports treating the issue as a public service announcement. Documents show the group coordinating this effort, NCSR, is controlled exclusively by the photo ticketing firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS).

As previously reported, NCSR is the creation of David Kelly, the head of the public relations firm Storm King Strategies, and ATS is just one of Kelly’s many clients. According to congressional records, Kelly has received at least $580,000 since 2009 to lobby in favor of ticketing for the National Safety Council; for legislation mandating ignition interlocks on behalf of interlock manufacturers; and for reduced CAFE standards on behalf of Jaguar-Land Rover.

Documents incorporating NCSR Inc as a nonprofit entity in the state of Missouri confirm that NCSR is anything but the independent campaign of “victims, parents, medical professionals and first responders” as the group’s publicity material suggests. NCSR’s board of directors instead consists of three individuals: James D. Tuton, ATS president; George J. Hittner, ATS General Counsel; and Charles Territo, ATS spokesman.

While NCSR’s website does mention that it is “supported by American Traffic Solutions,” it fails to disclose the complete control ATS has over the entity’s operations. Matt Hay, former city councilman for the city of Arnold, Missouri and creator of the WrongOnRed website, suggests NCSR is, in effect, misusing public funds.

“In Missouri, we had public officials on the public payroll filming commercials and participating in other advertising for the National Coalition for Safer Roads,” Hay told TheNewspaper. “With the revelation that these two entities, American Traffic Solutions and National Coalition for Safer Roads, are the same, it raises real concerns over the legitimacy of what amounts to propaganda they produce as well as the ethical issue of public employees advertising for a private firm on taxpayer time.”

For Stop on Red Week, NCSR released a glossy, 18-page manual for elected officials and police chiefs to use to celebrate the benefits of red light cameras. It included sample letters to the editor, press releases talking points and city council resolutions. Those playing ball with the effort have been rewarded with highly lucrative jobs. John Wintersteen, the former chief for photo radar pioneer Paradise Valley, and Ron Reagan, the former state representative responsible for legalizing cameras in Florida, both are now part of NCSR-ATS.

Each new city that signs up for a photo ticketing contract represents millions in revenue for ATS. In 2005, the firm attempted to trademark the phrase “Safety Pays.” A copy of NCSR’s incorporation filing is available in a 550k PDF file at the source link below.

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