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Email Spam History

By November 19, 2013October 21st, 2021Blog

Holmes had Moriarty, Batman had the Joker and at Sendio we have email scammers. When you consider such a vast and varied group your nemesis, you tend to have certain… fascination with them. That’s why we’re always interested to learn more about the history of email fraud.

Recently, Robert Whitaker wrote about the longstanding heritage of the “Spanish Prisoner Scheme.” A centuries old scam that involved a fictional imprisoned Spaniard, a dupe and a required sum to have an exorbitant amount of money released from customs. Sound familiar? That’s probably because it’s the same general storyline used in the now meme-worthy “Nigerian Prince” email scam. For those newcomers to the internet, the updated version involves a Nigerian Prince who fears that danger may befall him. Fortunately, he’s secured an incredible sum of money in an off-shore bank account, unfortunately he cannot access it while still in his home country. But if you were to fund the price of an airplane ticket to safety…

You know the rest.

It’s remarkable that something that we consider to be intrinsically linked to the widespread use of email could be such an antique. In Whitaker’s article, he notes that these types of confidence schemes (also known as 419 scams, purportedly after the section of the Nigerian Penal Code referring to fraud) have been around for over a century, with one of the most interesting cases dating back to 1905. In a reply to Whitaker’s article, Consumerist’s Laura Northrup even pointed to a 1898 article in the New York Times that called the “Spanish Prisoner Scheme” an “old swindle.”

Despite its apparent age, the 419 Scam hasn’t become any less effective with age. While it’s difficult to pin down hard statistics on the subject, it’s certainly has not seen a decline over the years, instead morphing and changing to keep from becoming too predictable.

The impact of fraudulent schemes like the “Nigerian Prince” and other advance-fee and 419 scams is part of the reason we take such pride in Sendio’s ability to block unwanted mail. Instead of just filtering out junk and malicious mail based on keyword recognition like some filters (we’re looking at you Barracuda…) Sendio focuses on only the mail you want, utilizing our Sender Address Verification as the last in a series of safeguards that ensure you’re protected from junk, whether it’s malicious or simply annoying.

As for our nemesis? Bring it on little guys, because perhaps Sendio isn’t the hero that your inbox deserves… but it’s the one it needs.