AdSense Secret Feature: Protects Vs. 419 Scams

    May 12, 2006

Don’t like those ads in your Gmail inbox? Well, stop complaining, because they might be protecting you.

As this image, uploaded by a Digger, shows, an email from a Nigerian scam artist featured advertisements that warn you that you might be getting scammed.

(click to enlarge)

For the uninitiated, a 419 scam is when you get an email saying that someone needs to move millions of dollars, but needs your help to do it. The scammer always inevitably asks for you to send him money to cover fund transfer fees, claiming that it is in order to deposit millions in your account, a percentage of which you can keep for your troubles. This scam is called a “419″ because it usually comes from Nigeria, and 419 refers to the portion of the Nigerian penal code that addresses fraud.

I’m not sure what is causing the ads to appear, as I couldn’t reproduce it based on the email text, but it is clear a few smart advertisers are targeting common terms from 419 scams. The ads are relevant, informative, and they could possibly save your ass.

If you’re interested in learning more about 419 scams, check out 419 Eater, where they write back to these emails and try to scam the scammers. Nothing beats, in my mind, The Tale of the Painted Breast, where they convince the scammer to join a fake religion, paint circles around his man-boobs, and actually send them money!

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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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