A small revelation. The fact that there are people who fall for the Nigerian 419 “advance fee” scam does not mean that humanity is plagued by naivety, greed and stupidity after all. In fact, if you look at the facts closely, the reverse would seem to be true.

This realisation came to me when reading an article from the LA Times that looked into the roots and culture of the infamous scam in its modern birthplace, Nigeria.

If you think of this type of con as something that died out in the early days of the Internet, you can read our more detailed comments of its prevalence here.

The LA Times article explores the background and personal circumstances of the 419 fraudsters in fascinating detail, something few have bothered to do. Apparently, the scammers even have their own hit record doing the rounds, “I Go Chop Your Dollars", the work of a recording artist called Osofia.

The 419 scammer’s profession is one of daft promises made via email, backed up by weeks or months of persuasion, all to make sure that money is levered out of the gullible at long distance.

The favourite targets are Americans, because they are seen as particularly greedy and easy to dupe with these ludicrous tales.

Despite making a decent living out of the business, the number of successes is miniscule in relation to the numbers targeted. That a tiny number of people do fall for a con-trick that you’d assume everyone has heard of is actually the point. The vast, vast majority of people who receive these messages delete or ignore them.

The 419 fraud actually demonstrates how difficult it is, statistically, to con people. That won’t stop people from claiming precisely the opposite, because that makes the sort of headlines with which the sophisticated can flatter themselves.

Idiocy is always amusing as long as it’s not your own.