Nigerian legit email hard to distinguish from 419s

If you received an email with the subject line "NIGERIA PARTNER," from "Mr. John Richard" and it opened with "This email may come as a suprise to you but I am very glad to make your acquaintance" you'd probably assume it was a 419 scam and hit the delete key in a second.

But in this case, the email is a legit message to Mako, a prominent Debian developer, from a Nigerian who wants to pitch in on a free software project that Mako is involved with. Mako ruminates interestingly on this: made me think about the impact that these 419 scams must be having on legitimate Nigerian mail. I've heard it said that most 419's were, at least historically, are actually run by Nigerians although I don't know if this is still the case. In any case, it seems that many people have come to associate Nigeria and Nigerian email writing styles as indicative of scams.

It seems possible that Nigerian Internet cafes are full of emailers with names like Mr. John Richard who use yahoo email addresses and who come from a culture where it is common to write subjects in ALLCAPS. When they write to people they don't know, they -- quite sensibly -- start mails apologizing for the fact that they may have surprised their readers with an unannounced missive. Spammers and scammers put all these more upstanding folks at a real disadvantage when it comes to getting their message out.


(Thanks, Seth!)