Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Long Con

I read a great piece by Mitchell Zuckoff in the current issue of The New Yorker where he provides an account about how a psychotherapist got taken in by a Nigerian e-mail scam. You can read the article here. This is not an "it could have happened to you" story. Everyone who has received Nigerian e-mails with promises of shares of ill gotten riches and ignored them would not have gotten into trouble.

However, it shows how much trouble you can get into through both greed and bad luck (in the form of checks being cashed that shouldn't have cleared). It is a gripping tale. The victim in this case became the fraudster and ended up paying dearly for his crimes.

I used to enjoy the narrative of these e-mails. The story behind them and the attempts to give the reader a central role. I also enjoyed the potential returns. The early ones promised a few million but I once received one that promised half a billion dollars. Now that has a really gets you to think.

The message here is that zero (being a probability of any legitimacy) times a very large number is still zero.

No comments: