Skip to comments.'Internet's first blood sport' (getting even with Nigerian scammers)
Posted on 07/12/2004 12:08:08 PM PDT by Liz
Scambaiters lure fraudsters by pretending to be victims
The messages with their fractured syntax and wild promises are a familiar sight in e-mail inboxes. Sent primarily from Nigeria, they promise recipients up to tens of millions of dollars if they agree to take part in an arcane banking scheme.
Naive victims spurred by promises of vast wealth that always remains tantalizingly out of reach endure a constant drain of money as the scammers invent an endless series of fees and commissions, which will only end when the victim pulls out of the scam or is penniless. It's often referred to as the 419 scam, after the section of the Nigerian penal code it violates.
In turn, the scam has spawned a growing Internet subculture of people who decided that they wouldn't just hit the delete key when they are sent the lure: They'd get even, and have fun doing it.
They invented "scambaiting": faking interest in a 419 scam artist's scheme and wasting his time with drawn-out, bizarre e-mail exchanges than can go on for months.
In the process, they created what has been called "the Internet's first blood sport."
If a scam artist's time is wasted, scambaiters reason, it's time he can't spend on genuine victims. And if the swindler is misled by surreal e-mail exchanges that never deliver what they promise, that seems more a case of just deserts than injustice.
Last year, 166 Canadian victims were known to have lost $6.2 million to the scam, according to Phonebusters, a joint unit of the Ontario Provincial Police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police that tracks fraud cases. But those figures may represent as few as 10 per cent of the true number of victims, explains Detective Constable Gus LaForge of Phonebusters.
"A lot of people don't report it," he says.
"They don't want to let people know that they've been scammed."
Scambaiter culture has birthed several sites where participants show off their successes and dissect failures. The largest are scamorama.com and 419eater.com, which has more than 1,500 members.
Artists Against 419 takes a different approach, orchestrating denial-of-service attacks bombarding a site with an unmanageable number of page requests to crash it against fake bank sites used by scammers.
Aware that their hobby involves tormenting potentially violent criminals (an American fraud victim, lured to Nigeria, was murdered in Lagos in 1995), none wanted their full names used in this story.
"At the moment, I'm baiting one of these guys, posing as Alex from A Clockwork Orange," says Stuart, a Winnipeg man who is a moderator on 419eater.com, referring to the Anthony Burgess novel of a futuristic society whose main character speaks in a slang the author partly conceived from Russian words.
"He doesn't quite understand what I'm saying, but he writes back, and it's been going on for about a month now. There's a lot of humour in that. He keeps trying to hit me up for $500, $1,000 to pay for lawyer's fees, that kind of thing. I keep promising to send him the money, it never arrives, he keeps writing me back, so it just keeps going and going," Stuart says.
Tim, an undergraduate at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., invented a character who is very superstitious and keeps having dreams that delay closing the deal.
"The scammer's psychoanalysis of the made-up dreams is truly hilarious," he says.
"Most wouldn't put up with as much as this one does."
John, a Waterloo-area man who took up the hobby while surfing during downtime at work, once strung a target along for six weeks. His characters include "the multiple-personalitied Goofus N. Gallant and burned out '80s metalhead Reo Speedwagon," he explains.
Part of the game is seeing what the person on the other end of the e-mail exchange, who thinks he has a victim on the hook, can be talked into doing.
The 419eater.com site has pictures, sent by the scam artists in response to demands made by their "victims," of people kissing a large fish, stoically showering in a brown suit, and holding an endless variety of signs. ("Gracious in Defeat," "I'm a Pest" and "This is not a scam" are some of the more printable. The first in the series says, "Welcome to the Trophy Room.")
The scam itself can be very lucrative, as the police statistics reveal, so the scammers can often be persuaded to go along with fairly bizarre demands, if they're made stridently enough by someone who seems hooked.
Scambaiters say they have no pity. For instance, to see how low his targets would go, John once responded to a scammer's e-mail by claiming to be a man who had worked at a Chicago airport for 35 years and was about to retire.
"I wanted to portray a hard-working, African-American character who had saved up for his retirement, just to see if they would continue the con once they learned about my character's back story," he explains.
"They continued to try and convince me to bring my life savings over to Amsterdam and give them to the security company. Any doubts I had were removed. They are criminals who would try and take money from anybody."
Scamming the scammers is probably a safe hobby, so long as baiters keep their distance, police say.
"It's certainly not going to hurt any ongoing investigation," says OPP Detective Staff Inspector Barry Elliot, who heads Phonebusters. "I just would not recommend that they meet these people personally. I've seen some sites where they've taken pictures of people that they've met. I wouldn't recommend that. But if they want to have some fun talking back and forth on the Internet, I can't see how that would hurt anybody."
Nothing better to do?
Didn't you see the anti-scammers post here on FR?
Who is the Freeper who strung along one of these Nigerian scam artists for weeks, and eventually got her to send photos of herself with signs that said "Freepers Rule!" and "DU Sucks!" ?
I'm laughing out loud! Just desserts, indeed!
Yeah, EbolaMonkeyMan is a funny site. Sister Anita Hanchob!
Link please..PRETTY PLEASE???..
Don't blood sports usually involve more, well, blood?
This is about as silly as "Crank calls: the telephone's first blood sport".
Tonight's BIG QUESTION...is it better to spend one's time trying to scam Nigerian scammers, or to go on DU and try and have a rational discussion?... (I rest my case)
Either way you're likely to get a belly laugh.
Which works out to an average of just under $40,000 per victim. That's a hell of a lot of disposable income for a stupid/greedy person to have (and give away). It's one thing to be conned in person or over the phone, but what kind of person gets conned by one of these absurd email frauds?
As for the "fun & games" of hoaxing the hoaxers, if people can develop this level of intimate correspondence with the criminals to the point of actually meeting them, then why can't law enforcement agencies shut these guys down? I realize that Nigeria probably has no interest in enforcing their Penal Code 419, but it sounds like the scammers are working in other countries as well (Amsterdam was mentioned in the article). Where is Interpol?
That would be "lowbridge".
go to http//www.scamoroma.com
for examples of this artical
And probably 2 or 3 times as many victims and dollars lost here in the U.S. I say good for them, the stupid idiots. Anyone that would fall for this crap deserves to get soaked.
WARNING: Go to the bathroom before you go through this thread -- I nearly peed in my pants as I read through all of these stories. The story in which he poses as a "Dr. Marcus Welby" is particularly hilarious . . . over the course of several weeks, the 419 scam is put on hold as Dr. Welby is first arrested for molesting children, then dies in a horrific car accident after he escapes from jail and is involved in a high-speed chase.
For later reading.
I just got one from Japan:
MR. WANG QIN
HANG SENG BANK LTD.
DES VOEUX RD. BRANCH,
CENTRAL HONG KONG,
I am Mr. Wang Qin credit officer of the Hang Seng Bank Ltd.I have a concealed
business suggestion for you.
Before the U.S and Iraqi war, our client General. Ibrahim Moussa who was
with the Iraqi forces and also business man made a numbered fixed deposit
for 18 calendar months, with a value of Twenty millions Five Hundred Thousand
United State Dollars only in my branch.
snip....blah, blah, blah, ......snip
Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.
Many thanks..just took a quick glance..I've bookmarked it to read during Ted Kennedy's speech at the DNC...
You should write him back ASAP..tell him you'll pay $25 million in gold for WMDs..maybe THEY can find the stuff..
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