Why conmen send out such far-fetched scam emails

Emails sent out by confidence tricksters often seem so far-fetched that one wonders who could possibly fall for them.

Now researchers have come up with a rational explanation.

Far from being stupid, online con artists only want to engage the most naive and gullible internet users in the hope of cheating money out of them later down the line. Con artists deliberately frame their emails to put off people with even the slightest degree of internet savvy.

This is why Nigerian-based con artists often admit to being Nigerian, despite the country being known as a hotbed of many of these frauds.

Cormac Herley, a Microsoft researcher who has analysed so-called "Nigerian scams", believes blatancy is the most profitable and time-efficient tactic for conmen.

He wrote: "It is entirely obvious that adding false positives [those who are attacked but yield nothing] reduces the attackers' return."

He argues that to help ruin the scammers' business model, people should intentionally lure them into time-wasting conversations, to destroy their profitability and solve "a problem that has vexed multiple communities for decades".