Archive for Thursday, June 2, 2005

From the Editor’s Desk

Scam probability needs to be explored

June 2, 2005

I received an e-mail Wednesday from Kansas Attorney Phill Kline's office telling me -- or rather the editor of The De Soto Explorer -- to beware of any notice from a foreign country informing I've struck it rich through some lottery I'd never heard of. I can be pretty dense, but I've always found it difficult to believe I won a lottery without buying a ticket.

In something of a coincidence, another e-mail soon followed from another state office informing me someone had won a $25,000 cash lottery prize.

There are scams and officially sanctioned scams. The difference is that the state-run lottery scam does actually pay off in some kind of predictable way while taking the money of the foolish and eternally optimistic (yes, I know, it's entertainment).

Well, let's just say the attorney general's notice wasn't lost on me. I get those lottery scam notices among the 50-plus e-mails that show up in my queue every day. In there, too, are offers for fabulously low-interest loans and opportunities to take advantage of some screw up with a Nigerian bank account, which the attorney general's office tells me are also suspect.

The Nigerian scam predates the Internet. I remember covering a meeting years ago at which three county commissioners scratched their heads about a letter on paper with an impressive-looking gold seal paper offering to the county a great opportunity. A few chuckles, consultation with the county attorney and a call to the state association of counties convinced them it was worthless, but darn the paper looked official.

The scams are so transparently an attempt to get financial information that I'm amazed anyone would fall for them. But of course they do or the e-mails wouldn't keep appearing. Still, whoever is sending them must feel like someone continually casting into the driest fishing hole in the lake.

A twisted curiosity has me wondering if a single scam e-mail has a better chance of success than a Kansas cash lottery ticket. There has to be a graduate thesis in what return makes the scams worthwhile.

The attorney general says to call his consumer protection division at 1-800-432-2310 if you get an e-mail or letter from one of the scammers. So there it is. I anticipate a flood of calls that will make the division the busiest and biggest in state government.

It doesn't seem likely to shut down any of the foreign scammers or have any chance of recovering money. But people will tactfully be told to wise up.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.