Friday, 16 December 2005

419 Eater

Last February I posted a note about the now famous website of a man who works hard—and has a lot of fun—in wasting the time of the crooks who are still making millions from internet scams. It is extraordinary that there are so many people with money who are stupid and greedy enough to believe that the widow of a Nigerian cabinet minister only needs a bit of help from them to get hold of her $120 million inheritance and that she will let them keep 20% of it for their trouble.

I had another look at the website the other day and it is still going strong. The scam-baiter who publishes it has stopped using his skill to con money from the con-men because although they richly deserve to be cheated there are legal risks even if you are giving the money to charity. He has developed a variety of approaches by email and telephone which give the scammers hope that their appeal is going to be successful and then leads them on to make expensive phone calls and compose long emails before they realise—or he tells them—that they have been fooled.

In a recent example, the scambaiter didn’t really want to be bothered with one scammer so he just replied to the first email by telling him that he was a liar. However this scammer wasn’t put off and returned with further lies, which has led to a very lengthy and enjoyable correspondence. The scammer was persuaded to have himself tattooed and to send a photograph with the promise of a large grant from a fictional charitable foundation.
This all began early in October and in mid-November he was still making every effort to carry out the increasingly difficult tasks being set him.

The account of all this is illustrated with the photos sent in by the scammer, in which he looks a harmless lad, but do not feel sorry for him. The scammers browbeat others into having their photos used; they themselves are evil and sometimes violent men. One particularly despicable trick they pull is to appeal for funds to aid victims of some major disaster.

When they spend time responding to spoofs that means that they are distracted from other attempts to rob gullible people, so tricking them is a praiseworthy activity. However, this salutary website warns that it can be a dangerous game and calls for great care to avoid getting into a nasty situation.

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