(This column was first published on Value Research India.)

Usually, there’s some good news and some bad news. But what I have for you here is weird news and very bad news. The weird news is that there is something like the “World’s Most Successful Scam”, and the very bad news is that India is one of the most gullible nations on the globe. We’re directly responsible for making this particular scam the most successful scam of all time. Read that line again to comprehend how fleeceable we are!

The scam I’m referring to is the Advance Fee Frauds. I’m sure all of us have received emails from Nigerian princes and bankers telling us about winning lotteries or inheriting wealth. These emails then ask us to deposit a certain amount in their account as an advance fee, to supposedly help them verify our identity or something like that. Now, that sounds ludicrous; but what’s even more ludicrous is that Indians keep sending money to these fraudsters. This scam has been running for ages, and instead of being aware and sceptical about them, we keep falling for it more and more. Get this – in 2013, Indians sent $870 million to these fraudsters. 870 million dollars! Whew!

And you know why? The lure of easy money, as the title suggests. There have been enough MLM schemes and chit fund scams locally and nationally as well that prove how easily we’re lured by the promise of free riches. And this, despite each and every one of us knowing that there are no free lunches, especially when there’s money involved.

Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to go into a tirade of the moralistic value and importance of working hard for the money you earn; you know that already. But it really is a wonder how easily we fall for these scams. This particular scam isn’t even as uncommon as some others. And it probably is the most unbelievable scam ever run. And yet, $870 million in 2013!

I guess it’s only a matter of time before this scam runs out of steam. But then, knowing the world the way it is, the death of one scam will lead to the birth of many others. There is no shortage of fraudsters, or of victims. The only sensible thing for anyone to do is to not get lured by the prospect of earning easy money. If it sounds too good to be true, it won’t be true. Especially when it comes to Nigerian princes and bankers, the best thing to do would be to send them directly to your spam folder.