Scamming on social media for no profit. Give me a Nigerian prince any day!

If you go on any type of social media, and in particular Facebook, on a semi-regular, regular or frighteningly frequent basis, this has probably happened to you:

You see that one of your friends, probably someone you haven’t heard from electronically for a while, has posted something on your wall. You go to check it out and take a step back. “Wait a minute, why is my anti-corporate activist friend posting a link to skin cream?” Then it dawns on you, their profile has been hacked by some spammer.

As you race to delete the post from your wall, pausing only to read the joke comments followed by the obligatory, “dude, you’ve been spammed” you wonder if something like this could happen to you. Later, when you read the “uh, yeah, don’t click on that link” status update from your now embarrassed friend, you sigh and think, “oh, so the spammers have finally come here in force.”

The important thing we should all be asking our selves is, just who are these spammers? This isn’t the same “Nigerian prince” who emailed you and everyone else five years ago.

People on sites like Facebook aren’t generally the web-illiterate suckers who fall for just about anything that sounds good, and even if the scam is particularly clever in that it looks like a link that your friend may actually post, the chances of you then entering your cellphone number and paying for a text message to take a stupid quiz is, uhm, very small.

Essentially, these hucksters are hawking products to a market that won’t buy, or at least not in the numbers that would make it anywhere near a profitable venture. This begs the question, why?

Are they stupid? Well, if they possess the programming skills necessary to make an app do something you’re not expecting it to, then probably not. Is there some other motive besides instant financial gain at play? Sadly, I think so.

The real gain in annoying this many people, I feel, is the annoyance itself.

The net in general and social networking sites in particular are really changing the paradigm of power on our media landscape and in our culture in general. If person-to-person communication continues to dominate our global communication apparatus, then some people, namely those who run our huge corporate media, stand to lose quite a bit.

I wouldn’t put it past them to use spammers to discredit the validity of social media, even if only a bit at a time. Every little bit helps make people turn away from a media where they may be vulnerable to spammers to one they know all too well and every time they don’t check their Facebook or Twitter, it’s one more missed opportunity for a fledgling, unknown or underfunded media source to promote their content.

It’s a scam so simple that I’d be impressed if it wasn’t so damn evil. Honestly, if this is what’s happening, I’d rather spend my time with a Nigerian prince.

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  • uhhhhhh. You’d rather spend your time with a Nigerian prince? You’d be lucky to!

    I know that this is not entirely relevant to the theme of the post, but enough of tarnishing Nigeria’s name! Enoooouuugh!

    Those email scammers are not even all Nigerians okay… many other crooks from many other countries pull this scam and yet it remains linked to Nigerians.

    Moreover, even in the initial years of this scheme, many were not Nigerians, but Ghanaians and those from other smaller, surrounding countries claiming to be Nigerians so as to add monetary credibility to their claims.

    And either way, Oyibo be greedy so whoever feel for that scheme deserved it!

    Keep Nigeria’s name outyamouth!

    As always, with love,

  • *feel = fell

  • Wow, that angle didn’t even occur to me

    If you google ‘Nigerian prince’ the entire first page and then some is all about email scams, including this link from Urban Dictionary. I think this meme has permeated our lexicon to the point that the term itself has become synonymous with the scam.

    When trying to think of an example of email scamming that people would instantly get, it’s the first thing that popped into my head. The thought of actual princes from Nigeria wasn’t even a consideration.

    In fact, I always thought the ‘Nigerian princes’ of email scam fame were probably, for the most part, from somewhere in North America and used Africa as both a ruse and a way to transfer money a great distance then a great distance back to make the paper trail hard to follow.

    I guess I got scammed by a stereotype that has unfortunately become an all too accepted meme.

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