You can trust me: a multimethod analysis of the Nigerian email scam

Timothy Rich at Western Kentucky University was interested to see if appeals in Advanced Fee Fraud emails for the recipient to trust them were effective at all.   To do this he surveyed a large number of advanced fee fraud type emails to develop models of standard email text.   These texts were then modified to include or omit appeals to trust and the amount of reward promised was varied between 3 million and 30 million; creating 4 sample emails.  These were then provided to 240 American Mechanical Turk workers who provided answers to a survey related to the emails.

The results indicate that that appeals to trust and the amount of money at best only have a minimal influence perceptions of the offer. However, previous exposure to such offers greatly reduces positive perceptions of the email. This suggests that only those who have not received a similar email offer would be the scammers’ ideal targets.

This research offers us some hope in that it suggests that awareness of scam emails has the potential to reduce victimization, but it also hints at the need for efforts against fraud to work in tandem.  If spam filters are effective enough that only the best fraud letters are very infrequently delivered to recipients this could lead to a group that have not had the opportunity to learn from the experience of poorly formulated scam mail receiving highly polished and professional requests.


Rich, T. (2017). You can trust me: a multimethod analysis of the Nigerian email scam. Security Journal. doi:10.1057/s41284-017-0095-0