Theresa Nielsen Hayden attempts a comprehensive analysis of fraud into a small number of categories, like the basic fairy-story motifs. It may be some comfort to know, the next time you get a spam email about $30 million in a Nigerian bank account, that the basic scam is called “The Spanish Prisoner.” But it gets really interesting when she suggests — with much more plausibility, in my view, than most such suggestions carry — that the scams are believed because they’re analogies to real social conditions that allow powerful people to get something for nothing.


Kieran Healy also has some thoughts to add.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: