Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Con-men and Human Nature

I have generally believed that con-men have a deep understanding of human psychology. A recent email made me sit up and wonder about it even more.

Here is the email:
Hello My Dear,

I am Melissa Pascal now undergoing medical treatment for Cancer. I was married for Sixtheen Years before my Husband (Professor Phillip Pascal ) died on September 15 2006. Well I will only try to let you know who Professor Phillip Pascal is by stating his philosophy of life. "Life is worth living only if lived to the service of mankind" and "You make a living by what you earn, but you make life by what you give" This will give you an insight of the spirit behind what I believe and what I live for.

My Doctors has confirmed to me that I have less than Three Months to live, so I have decided to donate my funds (US$8.6 Million) to a trustworthy individual who will utilize it to assist the poor and the needy in accordance to my instructions.

As soon as I have received your response, I shall give you further directives on how you are to go about the claims of the said funds.

Best Regards,
Mrs. Melissa Pascal.
Notice a few things:
  • The "My Dear" phrase
  • The few very deliberate spelling errors (she is human, after all, eh?)
  • The theme of mortality: Cancer, widowhood
  • The goodness of both her husband (who was a Professor Philip, a gentle and educated man) and herself (they were married for sixteen years, presumably not too unhappily since she respects her husband still)
  • The astonishing generosity of both her husband and herself (the two aphorisms).
  • Pleading to the recipient as being a good person ("Trustworthy"). Note that for most people, the brains will feel good at being called "trustworthy", and our neural circuits automatically switch on the "trusting" aspect as well. Since we are trustworthy (or so we are being so generously told), how can we be so mean to not consider her trustworthy as well? (This line of thought is for the "good" people.)
  • For the "bad" amongst us, the naivete of the sender will provoke a desire to cheat her. "Yeah sure - I will assist the poor! Just wait and see!"
  • The ambivalent might want to help the poor a bit, and also help themselves a little.
Have you come across any good cons in your life?


Anonymous said...

Come on nobody (except the extremely naive) is going to be fooled by this letter. You are over-analyzing.

Anonymous said...

I just got this email today myself,the only thing change was the greeting to just hello.

The sad thing is some fool is going to answer this con and who know what they are in for their after.

Never the less I would agree, unless you are out there with no common sense you would not belive that a ill woman who seeks to give away millions sends out a email...I guess she to naive to know about a trust or will for that mater.

Anonymous said...

I Just got the e-mail myself and it looked very fishy to me so i looked up the Dear Professers name, and discovered how rite i was.