I recently received the usual e-mail asking me to help some African official move millions of dollars through my bank account. I was obviously selected carefully, because he had 30kb of names in the “to” field. The interesting twist on this scam was that it was supposed to be gold, not US currency, and the e-mail had links to several stories about commodities markets and the gold standard.
The gold-sellers who are trying to steal your account information through phishing e-mails are often insufficiently sophisticated. Some are very good, with copies of real companies’ sites and artful URL deceptions. Most seem to rely on bulk, making a token effort and sending it to as many people as possible. If you get a 0.01% hit rate when sending a million e-mails, that’s not bad money for the effort.
The 419 scammers are intentionally being unsophisticated. Many of them really do speak better English than that, or at least have access to someone who does. The ruse has two purposes in the scam. First, the kind of person they want to take advantage of is more likely to respond to an unsophisticated request. Either you are charitable, and therefore feel sorry for them, or you are predatory, and therefore think you can put one over on them. Either way, you are drawn in. Second, assuming you are drawn in, if they manage to get money from you once, they can plausibly claim a misunderstanding and try again on the same victim. He does not look bright, and his English certainly is poor, so he has a convenient excuse for whatever goes wrong; come on, give him another chance.
As ever, don’t click the links, don’t give out your info, yaddah yah.