The Sum Of 3,500,000 Has Been Donated To You

I thought these spam emails went out of style in the early 2000’s.  Perhaps they’re making a comeback? Most spam filters weed out 99% of emails like this. This one made it through.

It’s a simple email. Inside are instructions to retrieve my 3.5 million dollars.  I had the good sense to pass up the opportunity.

Sorry, Mr. Bernald. I shan’t be contacting you.

I know what you’re thinking. Bad grammar and an absurd claim. Why would anyone fall for this?

Scammer History Lesson

You may already be familiar with the famous story of Count Lustig who tried sold the Eiffel Tower to scrap metal dealers (twice). If not, here are the cliff notes:

Lustig portrayed himself as a government agent. His job was to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal. The decision to sell the tower had already been made, but not yet made public. He invited the top five dealers to submit bids. A week later the winning bid was selected. Lustig walked off with a one million dollar down payment. The sucker realized he fell for a con a week later. He was so embarrassed to have fallen for such a scam, he did nothing. Lustig later repeated the scam on another victum.

There are differences between the simple email scams of today and the grand heist of Lustig. Lustig went to great lengths to make these sophisticated businessmen feel like it was a legitimate transaction. Modern scam emails appear amateur by comparison.

There are two similarities worth mentioning. In both cases, victims are embarrassed when they realize they’ve been conned. This prevents many from going to the police. The thief takes enough money to sting but not enough for the victim to seek revenge.

The other similarity is the boldness of the lie. In the email scam, a promise of $50 might seem more believable. But then these scammers would be inundated with requests. By claiming $3,500,000 they assure themselves of only getting a few responses. Lustig’s claim was so ludicrous, you would never expect someone to make it up.

Lessons From Scammers

What’s the takeaway from scammers? Are there any lessons we can use for legitimate purposes? There are two takeaways.

The Bold Beat The Timid

I’m not suggesting the outlandish claims that scammers perpetrate. Boldness takes many forms. The benefits can be bold. In some cases you simply cannot promise bold benefits due to the nature of your product. You can offer a bold guarantee. Lifetime money back guarantees are bold. If you sell a support heavy business you can make bold promises about that. Get creative about what you can do with your offer and make a bold promise.

Niche Down

Scammers don’t try and scam the entire world. Lustig wanted just one sucker – a rich scrap metal dealer. The email scammers want only a handful of respondents. As an entrepreneur on a budget, I know I can win by focusing on a small slice of a large pie. I can create a more laser-focused message that appeals to their individual wants.


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