Seems like email scams have been around for a long time.  But scams themselves have been around even longer!  From Greek insurance scams in 525 BC to selling people the Brooklyn Bridge, trashy people have always been looking for ways to take advantage of other people.  But now with the Internet, scammers can reach out to more people more often than ever before.

The OG Scam

The Spanish Prisoner scam dates back to the 18th century, where a wealthy man in jail sends you a letter

 He has a fortune but is unable to access any of it due to being imprisoned.  If you could send him a small amount of money to bribe the guards, he can escape and would reward you with a generous portion of his fortune in return.  Lots of people fell for this, and guess what they got in return? (Hint: nothing)

The “new” Spanish Prisoner

Well it’s the 21st century now, and we’re way smarter and more technologically advanced, right?

Sure, but the scammers have gotten smarter and more tech savvy too.  Maybe you’ve heard of the Nigerian prince scam (also called the advanced fee scheme)? It’s been around for decades, but according to CNBC, the Nigerian prince scam still brought in over $700k from just the US in 2018! 

But it doesn’t have to be a Nigerian prince, it could be you’re looking for a house to rent and see an ad on Craigslist, so you email the listing address.  Then the seller replies “Oh hey I’m sorry, I’m out of town but if you can wire me a $500 deposit, I can send you the key.”  Want to guess what you’ll get in return?

And that right there is the reason you get so many spam/scam emails all day every day:  Because some small fraction of a percent of people will fall for it/click the link/open the attachment.  It costs the scammers almost nothing and requires no effort from them other than to create the email and have a computer automatically send out millions of emails.  As long as we keep rewarding this behavior, the avalanche of phony emails will continue… so I don’t think it’s going to stop, ever really.

Be sure to check out the next few articles to learn about other ways scammers try to take advantage of people, what to watch out for, and how to protect yourself!