I recently received this phishing email, with the subject “Thinking about the giving pledge…”:
Good Day to you,
This email may come to you as a shock but you should pay attention to my words.
My Name is Mackenzie Bezos, Below is a Link of me and what i do.
I have no doubt that tremendous value comes when people act quickly on the impulse to give. No drive has more positive ripple effects than the desire to be of service. There are lots of resources each of us can pull from our safes to share with others — time, attention, knowledge, patience, creativity, talent, effort, humor, compassion. And sure enough, something greater rises up every time we give: the easy breathing of a friend we sit with when we had other plans, the relief on our child’s face when we share the story of our own mistake, laughter at the well-timed joke we tell to someone who is crying, the excitement of the kids in the school we send books to, the safety of the families who sleep in the shelters we fund. These immediate results are only the beginning. Their value keeps multiplying and spreading in ways we may never know.
I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.
I recently gave $1.7 Billion to colleges around the United States, read below.
My approach to philanthropy has changed and it will continue to evolve as i see fit, Just as the United States Government sent $1200 to americans who may have been affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis, I decided to do something similar but in a bigger way.
I decided to contact a few people at random after i spoke to a consulting firm and give cash directly to the lucky individuals chosen, If you are reading this email, You are one of the people chosen to benefit from this philanthropy project.
This email is the email of my personal attorney (Baker McKenzie) who will handle the disbursement of the cash donation, So provide your full names and address. My attorney will provide you with further instructions on how you will be paid.
It was sent to “YOU <firstname.lastname@example.org>”, which is nothing like my email address, but what’s a small thing like that between complete strangers?
What interests me is the psychology of the scam. Mackenzie Scott (formerly Bezos) became an extremely wealthy woman when Jeff Bezos divorced her a year ago. She actually was a wealthy woman when she was Jeff Bezos’ wife, too, but her decisions, being part of a marriage would not have been so free. Moreover, there was reason to keep the Amazon stock in which consisted most of their wealth, rather than selling it, so at the time there was not so much to give away. (Stocks are a complicated subject, but the short version is that they are normally worthless until sold except for the control that they give.)
The basis of the scam is that she has decided to give away some of her money at random. I think this relies on the idea that it is psychologically plausible that it is easier to give away what was, basically, just found. That’s not actually an accurate description of Mackenzie’s wealth from her point of view—since she worked and struggled with Jeff all throughout the time of building Amazon, and moreover had some reasonable amount of control over the money as his wife—but it does fit with what somebody who had never heard of her until she was divorced from Bezos would think. Never having heard of her, it’s like she sprang into existence and the divorce settlement was then handed to her. This plays well into the supposed capriciousness of randomly disbursing money to people as one among several ways that she’s trying to give. (She also did, in fact, sign a “giving pledge” which made the news, providing another anchor for this scam.)
It’s by no means the best scam I’ve ever seen, but compared to the Nigerian oil princes of the early 2000s, it’s pretty impressive. I wonder what that makes of the notion that the Nigerian oil scams were intentionally unbelievable in order to pre-filter-out the people with enough sense that they’d cotton on to what was going on before they had been ripped off.
Oh, as a side note, I find it funny that the scam says that “This email is the email of my personal attorney (Baker McKenzie)…” The email purports to come from “Mackenzie Scott Grant <email@example.com>“. That’s a very odd email address for her personal attorney to have!