There are a number of elements that work in the favour of Internet scammers.
There is an old saying - A fool and his money are soon parted. Another famous saying, wrongly attributed to American showman PT Barnum is - There's a sucker born every minute. Sadly, both those sayings are very true. There seems to be an endless number of stupid and gullible people who hand over large sums of money to fraudsters without even checking up to see if they are being taken for a ride.
Despite the best efforts of law enforcement authorities and mountains of information on the Internet, such as on Hotheads, exposing how Internet scammers operate and revealing the bones of their scams, stupid and greedy people will still respond to emails from fraudsters purporting to be government officials, bank officers, financiers, dying widows, orphans and lovelorn young females. All these scams have one thing in common - the scammers offer to send vast amounts of money to people, if only they first pay some sort of fee, purportedly for clearing the funds or paying for a certificate.
Apart from sheer stupidity, the prime motivator for suckers is the lure of obtaining millions of dollars from people who just want to transfer this money to them, after the suckers fork out some money first. Of course there are no millions of dollars and scammers will try to bleed as much money from the fools who respond to them until the fools either wake up to the fact that they have been ripped off, or they simply run out of money to keep sending to the scammers.
Unfortunately, stupidity and greed are traits that are very hard to cure. There have been many people who have been conned out of millions of dollars by Internet fraudsters, yet despite being warned by police and friends that they were being scammed, those idiots kept sending more money to the fraudsters. One such idiot lost over $2 million in a cash washing fraud that is known as the Anti-Breeze Banknote Scam that no sane person would ever believe. But plenty of gullible fools have fallen for it. You can read about such scams on the Scambaiting page.
Internet scams could easily be stopped if people were not so dumb. If people did not respond to ridiculously unbelievable offers of money, did not hand out their email usernames and passwords in Phishing scams, did not click on links in emails that loaded Trojan malware onto their computers and were just a bit more savvy, most Internet fraudsters would be looking for different lines of work.
Internet scammers rarely manage to access official government, bank and business domain-based email accounts unless the owners of those official accounts hand out their usernames and passwords in Phishing exploits. All scammers rely on using free webmail accounts such as Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail and the like. Some fraudsters send their bulk spam emails using SMTP services that offer to send tens of thousands of emails from servers in Argentina and China. However, SMTP is used for sending emails, so the scammers will use free webmail accounts to receive responses.
Knowing this, virtually all Internet scams would come to a grinding halt if the providers of free webmail accounts would use stringent procedures to make sure that every account that is set up on their servers is not used for fraudulent purposes. Most free webmail providers do not seem to take much notice of reports from people advising them of scammers using their services and the scammers rely on this lackadaisical approach to keep operating with impunity.
The free webmail providers should be forced to deal with this problem by law, because they do not make much of an effort to do it voluntarily. If the nations in which these free webmail providers operate would make them responsible for scam emails emanating from their servers, as well as responses to scams going to fraudsters to whom they gave free email accounts, all backed up by very heavy penalties, scammers would have to find other ways to receive responses to their frauds and it would make life very difficult for most of them.
The operative part of any scam is getting money from suckers. That money not only has to be squeezed out of the mugs, but it has to flow to the scammers without any chance of being retrieved by their victims. Banks have policies of refunding money obtained by fraud, even though the account holders receiving such funds have been thoroughly checked out. So money transfer services such as Western Union, MoneyGram, RIA and others are the essential component of just about every Internet scam.
The problem with money transfer services is that the funds are completely irrevocable and irretrievable, once they are handed over to be sent. There is no way of obtaining a refund and essentially, once the suckers hand over the money to a money transfer service, they might as well have handed it directly to the scammers. Virtually all transactions at Western Union and MoneyGram agents in western African nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Cote D'Ivoire, Senegal and Burkina Faso are made by Internet scammers.
So what can be done about these funds flowing via money transfer services to scammers? The solution is very simple. People need to boycott all money transfer methods that are irrevocable. If people need to send funds, for instance to make on-line purchases, they should do it by direct bank transfer to legitimate bank accounts, or by services such as PayPal that guarantee refunds in cases of fraud.
It is a crying shame that money transfer agencies do not act to stop fraudsters from using their services, but at the end of the day, it is really up to people to refuse to transfer funds in any way that is irrevocable. If everybody did this, the majority of Internet fraud would dry up. However, there is another way that scammers receive their money.
Fraudsters often send emails advertising "Work At Home" employment. Essentially these are thinly disguised money laundering schemes. People who apply for these "jobs" are told that they will be collecting money from sales from various people and they would transfer it, less their percentage, to the fraudsters posing as company officials. Believe it or not, there are many gullible fools who are stupid enough to use their own bank accounts for this illegal activity until they are reported, caught and prosecuted. Of course the scammers always get away scot-free.
This sort of activity could also be stopped in its tracks, simply by banks informing every single one of their clients that if they are caught laundering money for Internet scammers, their accounts would immediately be closed, their names would be circulated to all banks in their nations to prevent them opening up accounts elsewhere and they would be reported to police and prosecuted. Cutting off all channels of receiving funds would put scammers right out of business.
There is no such thing as a totally honest police force and when it comes to third world nations, it can be safely assumed that a large percentage of police officers are susceptible to being bribed. In western African nations that are hotbeds of Internet fraud, most police seem to be in the pockets of the scammers, who have more than enough money coming in from suckers to pay off those cops to not only turn a blind eye to their illegal activities, but in many cases, those cops even work for the scammers.
This is a very difficult issue to deal with in poor third world nations and this is why Internet fraud is the third largest money earner in Nigeria. Occasionally fraudsters are arrested, but any day of the week, Internet cafés are crammed with scammers sitting in front of notebook computers hooked up to the café's Internet Wi-Fi and plying their illegal trade while the cops just look on.
Unfortunately there is nothing much that can be done about corrupt cops, but one remedy that might work is the threat of disconnection from the Internet. For instance, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) could be given the power to audit traffic emanating from Internet fraud hotspots such as those western African nations and if the authorities in those nations do not act to curtail such scams, total access to the Internet would be removed, that nation would be cut off. It would be ridiculously easy to do.
As long as suckers are born every minute and they are easily parted from their money, there will be sharks circling them and cleaning them out. Stupidity and gullibility are very hard to cure, especially when sheer greed is the motivating element that lures people into laying out their money on a promise of getting more money without having to work for it. This is why gambling is one of the largest businesses in the world, but very few gamblers ever win because the odds are always stacked against them.
If the above remedies were applied, Internet scams would come to a grinding halt. But this will not happen and fraudsters will always find ways to rip people off. At the end of the day, it's the people who need to just beware of these Internet scams and not fall for them.