Sunday, June 25, 2006

Scambaiting : It's A New Sport!

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I stumbled upon last night.

This is without doubt the funniest site I’ve ever seen. If you’ve never heard of the Nigerian 419 scam, none of this will make any sense, so let me give you a rundown:

The Nigerian 419 scams are ‘advance fee’ cons. Essentially, you receive an email from someone claiming to have millions of dollars and you’ll get a nice chunk of the money if you help in a 100% risk free deal. There are hundreds of 419 ‘storylines’ so I’ll just use a classic as an example:

You get an email from someone pretending to be the Bank Manager of a large bank. There’s a dormant account with 80 million USD in it. The account owner has died and left no living relatives. If you’re willing to help, the bank manager will get a lawyer friend of his to set you up with all the documents to ‘prove’ you’re the dead millionaire’s heir. They’ll then transfer the cash into an account you’ve set up, and you get to keep 25% of it for your trouble. Oh, and just in case you need a little more convincing (Direct quote) “If this money is not claimed it will be used by corrupt officials to further the war in Africa and across the world.”

Wow, all you have to do is give them an account number to transfer the money into, and you’ll get 20 million, and stop terrorism and war in the process! Where do I sign up?

This is the standard script, only sometimes the money is being smuggled out of the country because some corrupt government murdered a guy and the widow wants to escape persecution with the cash, or corrupt bankers are demanding a bribe to release the cash, etc, etc. The main point is that there’s lots of money, and with a little effort from you, a large portion of it can be yours.

(As an aside, some of these scams are truly evil. People have been scammed out of thousands while trying to adopt a fictitious child whose mother died of AIDs/was murdered etc).

So how do they get cash out of you?

Well, this is where the ‘advance fee’ comes in. Once you’ve been hooked, you’re informed of a last minute snag. Those papers you need are going to cost money and you’re contacted by the lawyer explaining you need to send them anywhere from $500 - $5000 dollars to get them.

Well, why can’t they spend this cash? Oh, well you see, the papers cost $10,000 and they’ve already put $5000 to it. They can’t afford any more right now, so you have to make up the difference. After all, it’s not too much to ask when they’re going to be giving you 20 million, is it?

So, you send them the cash (usually by Western Union). Then, once that ‘snag’ has been overcome, they just keep bleeding you. Every time you make a little progress there’s another hurdle. Paid for the lawyer’s docs? Now you need a transfer certificate. Paid for the certificate? Now the corrupt bankers want a bribe to release it. Paid the bribe? Well now the security company that are transporting the cash need paying.

Basically, the idea is to get as much money as possible, and almost paradoxically, the more the mark pays, the more he is likely to pay. It makes the mark feel like he can’t afford to stop handing over cash. By this point, he’s likely sold his car, his house and got multiple loans from banks and friends. Unless he keeps forking over cash, the ‘deal’ will go south and he’ll be out all that cash with nothing to show for it.

In short, if he pays this ‘last’ amount, he’ll get his millions, and everything will be fine. If he doesn’t, he’s totally screwed.

A classic part of this scam is that eventually they’ll ask you to fly out to Nigeria to collect the cash. Finally! It’s payday!

The mark arrives, and is shown two huge lock boxes and are given a glimpse of the cash, but guess what? The security company won’t release them until ‘unpaid fees’ are collected. So you give them yet more money.

Then you get the boxes but find that they have been marked by the bank for ‘security’. Your scammer is ‘devastated’. The money is unspendable in its current condition. The money looks like little black pieces of paper.

Your contact has an idea; he asks you for $500, leaves and when he returns a day or so later he shows you a bottle of ‘secret chemical’ used by the bank to dissolve the marks. He even shows you how it works.

He takes a bill, washes it in the ‘chemical’ and the black stuff comes off! He even gives you the note, and tells you that you can take it to the bank to check it’s genuine.

Of course, that bill is genuine, it’s the other 50,000 pieces of black paper in the box that are worthless! Basically, that note is a regular bank note covered in a highly washable ink. The ‘secret chemical’ is actually water.

Then comes the next sting. To get enough chemical to wash the currency is going to take another $50,000. Your 50 grand to be precise.

If you can raise the cash to buy this, you’re taken to where the money is held and an ‘associate’ goes off the wash the money while you celebrate…when suddenly there’s an explosion! You investigate and find your associate on the ground with a badly burned hand! The chemical exploded.

Uh-oh, now you have to buy more.

Of course, the truth is that from the start, there’s never been any money. If you’re lucky, once your cash has completely run out, they won’t kidnap you and hold you for ransom.

In short, whatever the scam, whether you’ve won a lottery, are ‘liberating’ cash from a corrupt government, or paying fees to adopt a poor third world orphan, the script is the same. They offer you money, but you have to pay them money to get it. Once they get their original score, they just bleed you dry for as long as possible.

Now many people ask who could be stupid enough to fall for a scam like this. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter. If you can mass mail your original scam letter to a few million people, chances are someone is going to fall for it.

Also, not all scams are this complex, and many scams don’t offer you cash at all.

For example, there’s a scam going around about orphans in third world countries. You’re sent a letter asking for help, a letter that has links to official (real) websites about natural disasters etc. You’re asked for a donation and given an email to contact if you are interested in adopting one of these orphans.

Of course, these people have nothing to do with any charity. If you contact them about adopting one of these poor orphans, you’re contacted, charged out the ass for fees, admin costs etc…then they run with your money. For example, there have been plenty of fake charities and scams where people donate money thinking they’re helping the recent hurricane victims in New Orleans.

Look at it this way, if you got an email asking you to send some cash via paypal for a charity…would you think twice or instantly suspect the charity was fake?

In short, these people are scum, the lowest of the low. They make money by fooling people, a lot of the time by fooling people into thinking they are doing a lot of good.

This is where 419eater comes in.

This site is run by a guy who has made it his hobby to screw with these scammers as much as possible.

Now, if you’ve ever received one of these scam emails, there’s a chance you’ve screwed with them a little bit yourself. You tell them you’re interested, you build up their hopes…and then tell them to go screw themselves.

This guy has it down to an artform. Some of the hoops he makes these guys jump through is amazing.

Here are some of my favorites of his anti-scams:

Pretending to be the rich Art Dealer: He tells the scammer that he can’t help with that project, but if he knows of any local artists who would like to apply for a ‘grant’ to contact him. He then has these fools sending him ‘example artwork’ at their own expense. One scammer (Who wrote from the same IP address the scam email came from, claiming to have heard of the program ‘on the internet’, despite the fact this fake program isn’t mentioned anywhere on the internet) replied and sent two really bad carvings at a cost of $250 dollars.

He also got one guy to carve a replica Commodore 64, I’d like to buy that from the guy.

Another is pretending to work for a hand-writing recognition research company, using the same MO as the Art scam. In one, he actually managed to get a scammer to write out ‘Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone’ by hand…and has the emails and scans to prove it. He’s also had scammer spending weeks copying street maps by hand.

My personal favorite is the “Church of the Tattooed Saint’ scam. In this one, after a scammer has contacted him with a standard 419 scam, he states that he’s a Priest in the ‘Church of the Tattooed Saint’. If the scammer joins the church, He’ll be awarded a sum of $20,000 to help build a church and inform more people about the church of the Tattooed Saint.

Of course, the scammer starts slavering at the mouth. He has a perfect opportunity to scam a church out of lots of cash. Unfortunately, to join the ‘church’, you have to have the church’s logo tattooed on your body…and supply pictures of the tattoo and the actual tattoo being done to qualify.

That’s right, he has the scammers tattoo themselves with “Baited By Shiver’ (The guy’s screen name is ‘Shivermetimbers’).

Now, at this point people may think he’s going a bit to far. Scamming someone into tattooing themselves?

Well bear in mind what he says on his site. These guys have scammed people out of millions of dollars. While it may seem a little mean to make a guy get a tattoo that basically says “I’m an idiot.”…bear this in mind. The only reason this guy got the tattoo is because he thinks he’s currently scamming a church out of twenty thousand dollars!

Another great one, by a different scam baiter, sends emails to known scammers, pretending the email reached them accidentally. He pretends to work for ‘Ass Clown Football Club’, a Football club that donates large sums of cash and equipment to needy African football teams. His mails usually read something like:

“Dear Mr. Odeki,

Your money is ready for release, just send back those forms as soon as possible and our donation of $20,000 to your football club will go through”

The scammer replies, pretending to be the other guy who the fake email was ‘really’ intended for. He asks for more copies of the form, fills them in, and sends the required picture for the newsletter (Himself and his team all holding the teams logo, which just happens to be ‘Ass Clown’)

This guy has even got these scammers to drop their passports at the British Embassy in Nigeria, care of a fake name.

Think about this. A scammer who thinks he’s about to screw a real, struggling and deserving football team out of twenty thousand dollars, traveling a few hundred miles to an embassy, giving away their passports (which inevitably get lost or sent to England), then going to the trouble of finding 14 other people to have their picture taken holding a sign saying ass-clown…usually fellow scammers who are helping out for a cut of the profits.

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it.

Now, you may feel a little guilty when you visit Some of the shit he puts these people through is degrading, evil and downright mean. However, bear in mind that the people he does this to are people who deserve it. The only reason these people do all this stuff and get put through all this, is because they believe that they are currently screwing the anti-scammer out of a lot of cash.

It’s simple. If they weren’t trying to scam the guy out of cash, they wouldn’t be falling for his tricks. Feeling sorry for these people is like feeling sorry for a burglar who gets mauled by a guard dog. If he didn’t break in in the first place, the dog wouldn’t have attacked him.

Anyway, I’d better explain the attached picture at the top of this post.

This is a ‘trophy picture’. Like the tattoo anti-scam, these scambaiters like to get pictures of their scammer in ridiculous poses or holding a sign with a stupid comment. They get these by demanding a picture of the scammer to ‘see who they are dealing with’, or to make sure the scammer’s picture matches the picture in the scammers (obviously made up) passport.

In the above picture, the scambaiter told the scammer that his lawyer had demanded a picture, and requested one so ‘out there’, that the scammer wouldn’t be able to just find a picture off the internet. So he got a guy crouching, holding an umbrella, with a sign that says “It’s Raining Men”.

It’s amazing how stupid these scammers can be.

Check out….even if it’s only to check out the trophy picture gallery.


MC Etcher said...

Clicking that picture opened 5 pop-ups... No more pic clicking for you!

Paulius said...

Oops, Sorry Etcher. I guess it's time to stop using Image Shack to host pictures.

I used Firefox, which blocks pop-ups automatically, so I didn't even notice.