For today's edition of the NPR News program "Day to Day," I speak with the mastermind behind that video and others -- "Shiver MeTimbers," UK resident Mike Berry.
He's one of many so-called "Scambaiters" who make a sort of online sport out of humiliating and wasting the time of email scammers. This handsome wooden bust and fake dead squirrel were part of his complex counter-ruse, too...
About six months ago, Mike received a scam e-mail from a man in Nigeria who claimed to be rich and dying of cancer. The scammer wanted Mike's help, and of course, Mike's cash, distributing tens of millions of dollars to charity before he died.- - - - - - - - -
But the man from Lagos wasn't dying of cancer, and his story wasn't true. Through a complicated chain of e-mails that lasted more than six months, Mike persuaded him to re-create the Monty Python parrot sketch, promising to enter it in a phony film contest with a cash prize. The resulting video shot to the top of YouTube's hit rankings, and has become an instant Internet classic.
Mike Berry has been scambaiting for five years. In that time, he has posed as a priest, a pirate, a scientific researcher –even an adult-video impresario. He has published the long and often hysterical e-mail chains between him and the scammers he taunts on his Web site, and some are collected in his book: Greetings in Jesus Name! The Scambaiter Letters. But Mike insists that the site has become more than just a good joke for him; he sees it as a way to keep criminals harmlessly occupied, so they won't be able to scam real victims.
Archive of previous NPR "Xeni Tech" features, with narrated image slideshows and transcripts, here. (Special thanks to NPR News producer Nihar Patel!)
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