Remember those scam emails that would show up in your inbox every now and then, where some down-on-their luck prince or princess is asking for your help to recover their fortune? Sure you do, we all do. These messages, usually from Nigeria, were always from shady looking email addresses, and littered with grammatical errors. I haven’t gotten one in a very long time, and I kind of miss them.
Since the first one hit my inbox years ago, I have been fascinated and confused by them. They must have worked, at least a small percentage of the time, otherwise these emails wouldn’t have been sent by the millions. The idea that anyone has ever fallen for them, ever, is almost enough for me to give up on humanity entirely.
Seriously, how was this scam successful?
Aside from the elderly that fell victim to this, who I actually feel sorry for, it is targeted directly at our sense of self-importance. These poorly educated princes and princesses must have known we were people of integrity, who were smart enough to lend them the money to release their fortune in exchange for a small percentage. These are the folks who have bought into the idea that they are special, and special people get lucky, stumble-into-a-million-dollars lucky.
Now, I have no doubt that the Nigerian entrepreneurs behind these schemes knew nothing about the Self-Esteem Movement, but they knew that playing into a person’s ego is one of the easiest ways to manipulate them.
Self-esteem has long been used to manipulate people, this just happens to be a hilarious and recent example of it. Since deciding to focus on increasing self-esteem beyond healthy levels, we have become a culture that jumps at any opportunity to validate the notion that we are a special snowflake. This is the type of thing that happens when validation is more important than reality.
You aren’t all that special, and you definitely aren’t special enough that a disenfranchised royal will give you millions of dollars for no reason at all. But don’t beat yourself up, I’m not that special, and neither is anyone else.
There is very little else to say about this, but I do have a relatively hilarious/horrifying anecdote about this.
After breaking up with his girlfriend a few years back, one of my good friends shared with me that his ex quite nearly fell for one of these scams. She apparently said that the person emailing needed help, and she felt obligated to be a ‘good person’ and help them out. I mean, at least it wasn’t exclusively about the money, but benevolent stupidity is still stupidity. He was able to show her that it was a scam, and she didn’t fall for it in the end, but he had to live with this knowledge.
They broke up, she moved away, and he has a better girlfriend now, so it all worked out. I’ve heard that shes getting very involved in state level politics. I’m sure she will make a fine politician.