Too Good Not to Share

Last week, I received this e-mail, quoted in its entirety:


So, being the helpful citizen that I am, I decided to write back.  I mean, really.  The poor guy (or girl) couldn't even write a convincing scam letter.

Dear Toyota.UK3,

Thank you for your recent e-mail, which I filed in my "How Stupid Do You Think I Am?" folder.  As an English teacher, I think I can help you be more effective in future scam attempts.  Read on:

1) Know your audience.  When attempting to scam English teachers, avoid the passive voice.  It sounds more personal, anyway, to say "We're giving you money."  When targeting Americans, use the more accessible "DOLLARS" instead of "POUNDS."  Most Americans are very image-conscious, and the thought of collecting pounds makes them feel fat, not rich.

2) Make an attempt to address the person more specifically.  A name is best.  "Dear Valued Customer" will do in a pinch.  No greeting at all seems a little suspicious, not to mention just plain lazy.  How do you expect to make any money this way?

3) Abbreviations are unprofessional.  "TEL"? "PROMO"?  Like I said, lazy.  If you were really dedicated to scamming, those extra letters would be a sheer pleasure for you to type.  If you're not dedicated, perhaps another career path would suit you better.  The Motor Vehicle Administration of Maryland, for instance, specializes in hiring associates with exactly your level of experience and dedication.

4) Rethink your premise a little.  Toyota might be giving away free USB drives, chip clips (you'd call them "crisp clips") or even an environmentally-friendly Prius.  But 750,000 pounds?  With no accompanying explanation?  Even the most desperate debtor would probably be dubious about such an offer.

5) LEAVE CAPS LOCK OFF.  It makes people think you're shouting at them, which makes them a little bristly and even less likely to suspend disbelief for long enough to send you their "NAME, ADDRESS, TEL."  Unless, of course, you're attempting to evoke the image of a low-budget car commercial, whose windblown speaker is shouting at the top of his lungs.  In which case, I admire your subtlety, but it may be misplaced in such a forum.

I could say more, but I don't want you to think I'm picking on you.  I understand that you're just trying to make a dishonest living.  For future tips, please refer to the Chicago Manual of Style, which is available online to paid subscribers.  Hey, maybe you could wrestle a free pass out of them if you get good enough at this gig.  Here's hoping.

Emily Lowe