If you haven't already read my post regarding Advance Fee Fraud/419 scams, read it first.
It's the one just below this one. Go, I'll wait.
Read it? Good.
Irritating, isn't it? Multi-million-dollar-a-year criminal actions, and pretty much safe for the critters doing the crime.
One of the things that restore my faith in human nature is that in reaction to these criminals, a fair number of ordinary citizens have decided to Do Something About 419 Scammers.
Individual folks -- and some loose networks -- have decided that if the 419 scammer is busy trying to scam somebody who knows what he is, and isn't going to fall for his bushwa, then the scammer is wasting time he could be using on a genuine victim.
Plus, once the scammer realizes that he's been had, he'll be that much more suspicious of potential victims, and is liable to drop a genuine victim, thinking he's about to get had again.
Using a sense of justice and outrage, spiced with more than a bit of mischief, these people who bait the 419 scammers (scambaiters) have, in recent years, caused untold losses to scammers, and have no doubt been the reason behind temper tantrums, ulcers, heart-burn, and have generally made life considerably more difficult for those who make money through 419 scams.
This is how scambaiting works:
Here is our scammer -- called a 'mugu' in the lexicon of the scambaiter, from the Igbo word for 'victim' or 'fool' -- he is sitting in a Internet cafe in Lagos, sending out the opening letter to about 1200 e-mail addresses.
Which costs him money. Internet cafes in Nigeria charge by the hour.
Anyhoo, one of those e-mail addresses just happens to be an anonymous account belonging to Your Humble Scribe.
I am bored? Mwa-haa-haa! I send an e-mail back to the critter announcing that 10 per cent of 30 million dollars is more than generous and I would be happy to help him with his problem.
The scammer thinks this looks good, but sends me an e-mail asking who I am, and would I send a telephone number?
He gets one back telling him that my name is Mr. C. Ashton Smith and that I own an aquarium supply shop outside of Dunwich, New England. Due to an unfortunate accident involving a Lesser Crested Puffer fish and a tube of Alka-Seltzer, I am deaf and thus do not own a phone.
'Bout four hours later, I receive a flowery e-mail from someone purporting to be a barrister (lawyer), who wishes me well, assures me that the money is safe, yet who would like me to send him a scan of my drivers license "for his records".
Since I have no intention of allowing any drivers license of mine to be used as aid in the scamming of future innocents, I quite happily attach a 4.5 meg download textfile of random letters and numbers to my return e-mail, titled: "Drivers License". Remembering that the scamming bastard on the other end is paying for his Internet time by the hour, I even giggle a bit.
I get a response, thanking me. He then delicately mentions that there are bank fees and penalties, which could be dealt with if I could send him $100 American.
I would be glad to help my new-found friend, although I am not clear on the mechanics of sending money over-seas, could he perhaps, instruct me?
Since his English is as murky as his scruples, it takes three sets of e-mails, before I am confident, and I still 'accidently' send him the MoneyGram form I was supposed to fill out.
That gets resolved, I send him a scan of a fake MoneyGram form with a random control number, he happily goes to the local office -- and I'll be hornswoggled! That's not a valid Control Number.
More e-mails follow, he keeps getting turned down at the MoneyGram office, and then I tell him that due to the problems we're having, the local MoneyGram Office wants him to fill out the attached Security Form, before he can pick up the money.
It uses a complex, lengthy and very confusing algorithim to produce a Control Number. The form, and the number produced are, of course, fake.
He follows the instructions, gets a number, MoneyGram turns him down. I tell him its's obviously not my fault -- he filled out the form, try again.
Still no good, I tell him I don't trust his MoneyGram company anymore, and I'll just send a cashiers check by UPS.
Unfortunately, I have erred and sent the check to an office in a city 800 miles away on the far side of a war zone. Silly me.
Apparently, the scammer borrowed a car from his Oga (which he probably paid through the sinuses for), bought the gas, bribed his way past military patrols, checkpoints and other bribable types, dodged militia gunfire...
...only to discover that the address is NOT an office building, and UPS has never, ever delivered anything there ...
...and he has to do a reverse of the trip over.
Probably wound up catching a beat-down from his Oga, too, if I know my power structures in Nigeria.
The last e-mail from the little bastard was an enraged shriek, cursing me, my family and informing me that God would do his worst to me on Judgement Day.
So, what did I accomplish? Other than walking around with a smirk for a month?
1) The time he spent trying to con me out of money, he wasn't working on conning your grandmother, aunt, or anyone else that would fall for his line of bushwa;
2) The next time someone "doesn't quite understand", something goes a little wrong with his computer, or there's any kind of hitch in progress, he's going to wonder if he's being baited again, and may drop his victim altogether just to be safe;
3) The resources he spent trying to con me are used up and not going to be available to con the next person; and
4) I cost him money that is no longer available for him to use in conning his next victim.
All good uses of my time, as far as I'm concerned.
If scambaiting interests you, I suggest going the 419eater.com. Those folks are dedicated to doing Bad Things To 419 Scammers, and will happily offer you guidance, advice, mentoring and resources if you should wish to bait your very own mugu.