Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Scamming the Scammers

When you receive an email from the nephew of Botswana's former Prime Minister saying that he is sitting on $30m and that half is yours if you provide your bank account details so that he can smuggle it out, don’t you sometimes want to say (to quote Woody Allen), to go forth and procreate, although not exactly in those terms? Or when a supposed English barrister asks, in broken English, for your bank account details to flick $20m that would otherwise go to the Crown on an intestacy.

These scams are known as advance fee frauds and also as 419 scams after the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code which deals with obtaining money by false pretences, Most of such scams have originated from Nigeria although scams are now originating from Russia and the Ukraine.

Sometimes a victim of the scam is contacted again by the scammers, this time posing as law enforcement officials offering to assist to get back the victim’s losses. The victim is then duped a second time.

There are people who scam the scammers. This is known as scam baiting or counterscamming. The purpose of scam baiting varies, from wasting the scammer's time and embarassing them to causing them to reveal incriminating information which can be passed on to legal authorities.

The main website is known as 419 eaters and can be accessed at:

The site was founded by Michael Berry, who goes by the name of Shiver Metimbers. Members scam the scammers into wastimg time and resources, sometimes having them prove their identities by photographs meeting various stipulations, such as above. Although in the past, scammers were tricked into parting with money, which was then given to charity, this is now frowned upon and against the 419 eater rules.

The scam baits can be read in the section on the site marked Letters Archive. Some of my personal favourites:

The tale of the painted breast
The Incredible shrinking artwork
Do you smell fish? (The above pic is from this scam bait)
I don’t know about art but I know what I like
I don’t know about art but I know what I like: the sequel
The fish is amiss

Warning: Scamming the scammers can be a dangerous pastime. Leave it to those who know what they are doing and who have non-traceable email addresses.

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