The Brilliant Way Scammers Find Their Best Marks


A few years ago I got an email that claimed to be from my friend Mark.

It said, “Hope you are doing well? It takes me great pain to write this email to you and I feel so devastated. My family and I had a trip visiting Manila,(Philippines) unannounced some days back for a short vacation, unfortunately we were robbed at the park of the hotel where we stayed.”

“Mark” asked me to reply to the email so he could give me instructions to wire some money. 

Sometimes, I’m a little slow on the uptake. But this email clearly was NOT from Mark. 

I knew he was not in the Philippines. And I knew Mark would never begin an email to me with “Hope you are doing well?”

I saw through the scam – easily. 

Which got me thinking…

…​​If these scam artists are so darn smart (they’re making millions of dollars conning people into wiring money to “friends in need”), why can’t they write fake emails that don’t sound fake?

Fast forward a few weeks. I’m sitting in my kitchen watching the Today Show. Dr. Phil is telling Savannah Guthrie about his adventures hanging out with Nigerian scam artists. 

He said…

Scam artists purposely write emails that are easy to spot as fake… 

…because they only want to hear from the people who are stupid enough not to see through the scam. 

A well-written email might attract someone who is too smart. 

Smarty-pants might initially respond but then sniff out the con later…

…before the scammers collect any money…

…but after the scammers have wasted time on conversations with a skeptical target.

The smarty-pants-proof email disqualifies those who will never do the deal, before their time-wasting nibbles.


Marketing great Perry Marshall calls that racking the shotgun. 

On his website, he shares this story to explain the phrase:  

“In a noisy club in Las Vegas, a professional gambler pulled a sawed-off shotgun out of his jacket, racked it, and looked around to see who recognized the ratcheting sound and turned their heads. He said to his protege, ‘John, the people who turned their heads are not marks. Do not play poker with them. Gamble with everybody else.’ Every time you ask an audience to do anything – and some people respond and some don’t – you’re Racking The Shotgun. Everything you do in marketing racks the shotgun.” 


Speaking of brilliant, I’m reading “Detox, Declutter, Dominate – How to Excel by Elimination” by Marshall and Robert Skrob. 

It outlines seven steps to grow your business 4X faster by eliminating 80% of your wasted efforts. 

Step 2:

Make your business
2X more profitable
with 80/20 focus. 

From page 15 of this tiny-but-mighty 36-page book: “Not only does 80% of your money come from 20% of your customers, but 80% comes from 20% of your 20%.” 

Substitute “email targets” for “customers” and you unlock the strategy behind the poorly written scam emails. 

Racking the shotgun:  Looking for those 20% who are stupid enough to respond, those 20% who will be ideal marks, those 20% who will generate 80% of the revenue. 


“Detox, Declutter, Dominate…” is this month’s selection for the Mastermind Book Club. And we’re meeting tomorrow at 1 p.m. EDT, 12 p.m. CDT to discuss it. 

It’s only 36-pages long. So you can plow through it in under an hour. 

Every month, Ted Prodromou and I choose a book for club members to discuss. The club is free to join. Here’s a link to join.

You can read the book – but only IF YOU WANT TO. 

In the MBC community, members will share short videos, blog posts, and other conversation-starters. 

You can comment and participate in any conversation you choose…

…or you can start your own post/conversation. 

On the fourth Thursday every month (tomorrow), we gather online for a Book Club meeting.

The idea: 

✓ Share insights drawn from the book.

✓ Discuss how to apply those insights to improve your business.

✓ Celebrate success as you or other members implement 

✓ The key word above: IMPLEMENT.

Don't go away yet..

p.s. Coaches, authors, and consultants hire me to power-up their creative content and storytelling to captivate prospects, stand-out and book more business.

Whenever you're ready, here are several ways I can help you become a storytelling stand-out so you'll land more clients without pitching and prodding:

1) Get the Story Power Profit Pack -- 52 Strategies, Tips, and Tactics  to Transform Your Content from Ignored to Adored.

2) Watch the free, 7-minute Micro-Training: “The 3 Most Important Storytelling Keys to Captivate Prospects and Inspire Them to Act -- Without Pitching and Prodding.”

3) Become a Story Power VIP: Master how to discover, assemble, and deliver business-building stories. Twice-monthly live masterclasses. Members-only content. One-on-one feedback and consulting sessions. And more… If you'd like to learn more about our VIP program, just reply to this email and put "Story Power VIP" in the subject line. I’ll contact you with more details.

4) Work with me one-on-one: If you’re interested in working directly with me -- to discover, assemble, and deliver powerful, business-building stories -- simply reply to this email and change the subject line to "Private Client." Tell me a little about yourself, your business, and what you'd like to accomplish, and I'll reply to discuss options.

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.