Scamorama: book explains how to get into scambaiting as a hobby

Discuss

92 Responses to “Scamorama: book explains how to get into scambaiting as a hobby”

  1. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    JennaB @90, it’s not possible to work the 419/Spanish Prisoner con without knowing that’s what you’re doing. I’ll agree that the operatives managing the day-to-day contact are probably less guilty than the bosses they’re working for, but those low-level operatives are still giving their assent to dishonesty and theft, and are actively working to accomplish it. That isn’t innocence.

    Jack @84, 89: You’re wrong. Arkizzle’s right.

    Earlier you were saying that

    The historical best way of eliminating scammers is to always—and I mean always— ignore them.

    Now you’re saying that educational campaigns can’t work. Those two arguments don’t work, and they don’t work together.

    1. Historically, the best way to eliminate scammers is to prosecute their frauds, and simultaneously to educate the public about the forms those frauds take.

    2. Relying on “just ignore them” as your only countermeasure requires close to 10% compliance from the general public. How are you going to get everyone to “just ignore” scammers until you teach them to recognize who the scammers are and what they’re up to? Especially how are you going to do it if, as you assert, teaching the general public about this is impossible anyway?

    3. Historically, when scammers fall on hard times, they go to ground, work on reformulating their scams, and come back to run their scams in a form you may not recognize. How then is “just ignore them” going to be a workable piece of advice?

    Finally, as Arkizzle has pointed out, imposing sanctions on Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Spain, and the Netherlands is completely unworkable. Subtract the last three countries and it’s still completely unworkable.

  2. librarybob says:

    Just noting that the book came out in 2006.

    It’s not news, but it is fun!

  3. Takuan says:

    @3
    a sword owner?

  4. Burtburt says:

    I always hate it when I see these posts on BB glorifying scambaiting, as though doing something awful to someone is okay just because they tried to do something awful to you.

    I made a comic about it: http://citycyclops.com/fun-at-home.php

  5. Jack says:

    Playing games with con artists might seem cute, but honestly does anyone want a shadow of a trail between you and someone who sees you as an income?

    Just trash the e-mails and requests and ignore them.

  6. zikzak says:

    I don’t know that there’s anything /wrong/ with scambaiting, but it does have a kind of dark feel to it. It’s like some people have been dying for the opportunity to maliciously deceive, manipulate and degrade others, and now that there’s a socially acceptable and safe target, they’re all about it.

    The enthusiasm is what puts me off, I guess. Yes, maybe there are good ways to disrupt scammers’ scams, and that’s a worthy goal. But I get the feeling that stopping scams is a distant second to the primary goal, which is fucking with people.

  7. Muscato says:

    I’ve lived in Ghana; I’ve traveled in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mali. I’ve helped run literacy and computer-skills programs, and I’ve dealt, in country, with Westerners who were in the process of being very badly scammed.

    The people who send those e-mails are skilled, educated, and choosing quite voluntarily to do something they know perfectly well is wrong. They do have choices, and free will. The bulk of these scams don’t come out of the real basket-case countries – we’re not talking the Central African Republic or the interior of the Congo here, and I can’t imagine a scenario in which your money order containing your life savings is preventing the recipient from starving in the streets.

    I don’t have any problem with anyone who wastes their time, and if that involves embarrassing them, too, well, that’s the risk they took in the first place.

  8. anthony says:

    Maddy,
    I fail to see much of a connection between hardcore racists and these ‘apologists’. I realize scam baiters are acting on a sense of social justice, but the methods produce images of humiliated people, and I think that’s where the contention sits. As I wrote earlier the side effect, however coincidental is a mirror of racism, even if it is only a reflex.
    Also, you probably shouldn’t attempt to frame an entire group’s opinion about a complex matter based on a few people you happen to know.

  9. Thinkerer says:

    I don’t agree with @6 that misleading crooks is necessarily bad, but very often the scammers at the computer are being paid next to nothing to put out the emails and don’t get any benefit themselves.

    I met a State Department employee in Pretoria, South Africa who had occasion to travel to Lagos, Nigeria frequently and that used to bait these poor people terribly. Since he knew the city very well he would propose actually meeting the scammers to conduct these transactions and then cite canceled flights etc. etc. to keep them on the hook. His sense of it was that they’d be glad just to get out of “the office” — not so far from “first world” sentiments!

  10. Squirrelmonkey says:

    If you want to read some hilarious stories about scambaiting, you should visit http://419eater.com. The guys at that site have a great collection of “Trophies”, i.e. pictures that they’ve gotten scammers to send them. I recommend “The Road to Nowhere” as they call one particular exchange of emails, which can be found here: http://419eater.com/html/martins_davis.htm .

  11. monkey1976 says:

    Poverty will drive people to do some pretty desperate things. Let’s hope that should economic misfortune ever come upon you and your family, you don’t have to engage with a bunch of mean-spirited yuppies who have nothing more creative or constructive to do than plan karma vigilante and try to ‘even the score’ with someone whose life they know nothing about.

  12. Foolster41 says:

    #26: Jack: That’s called “victomhood syndrome”. Revenge feels good, as does portraying oneself as a victem (as some scammers might), but isn’t perticularly healthy. True, spammers are generaly poor blacks, but do they really HAVE to resort to spamming? I think not.

    In my opinion, spambaiting has nothing to do with race. I don’t care who’s doing it, it’s wrong to steal and it seems a little bit of poetic justice to waste their time. Then again, I don’t really think two wrongs make a right, so I don’t participiate myself.

  13. Matthew Miller says:

    @#3 — yeah, that was someone famous. Let me think. Oh yeah, Jesus.

  14. eti says:

    How soon before we see a “Jackass scambaiter style?” Scammers tricked into hurting themselves for our amusement?

  15. Takuan says:

    so these are the starving stealing bread? Maybe they could sell their computers?

  16. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Red Leatherman, I’ll be pleased to take you up on that if I’m ever in Fort Worth. Besides, two drinks are a small price to pay for getting to hear a Texan say “prelapsarian.”

    Muscato, I have to regard that as an authoritative opinion. You’ve been there, you’ve met them, and you’ve seen it happen.

    Guys, listen up. Muscato has the drop on us. He’s got actual data.

    Maddy, I may disagree with commenters like Jack and Anthony and Burtburt, but they genuinely mean well. It’s not an occasion for a hateful screed about “liberals.”

  17. Xopher says:

    Actually it shows the value of reading a comment before posting it, and of editing in general. The second version is FAR superior!

  18. Uncle Geo says:

    Hurt themselves hopefully, but one of the first and most famous scambaiters (“The Church of the Red Breast”) actually got scammers to paint themselves.

    The entire exchange is posted online at: http://www.419eater.com/html/joe_eboh.htm . These guys even got a little play in the msm on this. The story is hilarious (if a bit long) and the pictures are just great.

  19. 100milesfrom1000palms says:

    Maddy doesn’t sound like any liberal I’ve ever known.

  20. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    I think scambaiting is great. Usually, fighting scammers is dull as dishwater. Scambaiting makes it much more fun, so more people will volunteer to do it.

    Quick check: how many of you who are wringing your hands over the plight of the poor Nigerians have done anything to help them? I’m talking about real donations to legitimate aid organizations, at minimum.

    Okay, how many of you have contributed any time, effort, or money to organizations that combat scams? (Teresa raises her hand. She has been working with anti-scam groups for years.)

    Next: Takuan’s right. It’s profoundly racist to assume that nonwhites don’t have as much moral agency as whites, and aren’t just as capable of committing evil actions. It’s very nearly as racist to assume that nonwhite scammers are only doing it because they’re desperate and can’t get any other work.

    Now let’s talk about scams.

    An article on the ethics of scambaiting. Read it and get smarter. It contains a lot of information about the people who run these scams and the damage they do. There will be a pop quiz for anyone who perpetuates errors covered in the article.

    The Crimes of Persuasion website discusses Nigerian scam victims. When you finish reading that page, there are links at the bottom to eight more pages of stories.

    Leslie Fountain, a senior technician at Anglia Polytechnic University, fatally sets fire to himself on his 48th birthday after being scammed.

    Vulnerable young Chinese university student studying in UK hangs herself after being scammed out of £6,000.

    The section on consequences from the Wikipedia entry on advance-fee frauds (which is the technical term for these scams). Find out about kidnapping, murder, suicide, financial ruin, and wrecked lives. Also find out that among the “poor Nigerian” scammers who’ve been busted in connection with this fraud are people like Nick Marinellis of Sydney, Australia, and Edna Fiedler of Olympia, Washington.

    Countries that currently warn visitors to beware of 419 scammers operating within their borders: Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Spain, and the Netherlands.

    Wikipedia entry on Nigerian organized crime. The US and the UK alone lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year to these scams. Don’t think for a minute that they’re being run by small independent operators. There’s way too much money in it for that.

    “Africa’s City of Cyber Gangsters” by Uwe Buse. A fascinating closeup view of the scam industry in Lagos.

    In the UK, MI5 and MI6 are launching a major campaign against fraud and other criminal activities originating in West Africa.

    I’m not impressed by all the boo-hoo about how Nigerians are just trying to get some of their own back after Westerners took them to the cleaners. The main reason I’m not impressed is that that’s the excuse the Nigerian scammers spread when they feel like justifying themselves. Congratulations on falling for it. They don’t just target rich white businessmen. They target anyone who’ll fall for their scams, and they don’t care how badly they hurt their victims. Also, I saw my first Nigerian scam letter way back in the 1970s, when Nigeria’s fortunes were still rapidly climbing.

    The people sending these letters have computers and internet connections. They’re literate, they speak passable English, they have good banking connections, and they’re sophisticated enough to run a scam like this. These aren’t Nigeria’s poor and unemployable. They’re professional con artists.

    People who get into one line of criminal fraud can easily move into other lines as well. Anything that reduces the incidence of sophisticated, professional internet fraud in West Africa is fine by me.

    Burtburt @7:

    I always hate it when I see these posts on BB glorifying scambaiting, as though doing something awful to someone is okay just because they tried to do something awful to you.

    These guys talk lonely accountants into embezzling their employers’ money because they just need the cash for a little while, until they become fabulously rich. They snooker elderly retirees out of every penny they have. When their victims come to Africa looking for their money, they sometimes kidnap them and hold them for ransom. Sometimes they kill them. Sometimes their victims kill themselves.

    Spambaiters, on the other hand, are wasting the scammers’ time and making them look foolish. Don’t try to tell me they’re just as bad. They aren’t.

    Zikzak @9, I’ve run with a pack of scamhunters for years. They’re very nice people, not a malicious bone in their bodies. What motivates them is seeing innocent suckers robbed of everything they have and driven to despair.

    People who just like to fuck with people don’t go after scammers. They troll the internet.

    Monkey1976 @12, you may not know anything about the scammers being baited, but that doesn’t mean no one knows. The business is being run by professional criminals. Serious bad guys. Nobody’s friends. If you’re worried, donate to a fund that does aid work in West Africa.

    Santa’s Knee @21, you have real talent. Thank you for misusing it where the rest of us can watch.

    Takuan @25: You’re right. You’re bonkers about bicycle helmets, but on this issue you’re 100% correct.

    Jack @26, Nigeria has problems, but they also have a real economy. This is not people’s only choice.

    Red Leatherman @27: Nice ceiling. Walls are admirably perpendicular. Buy you a drink sometime?

    Jack @33:

    White guilt? Hilarious! I’m the first American born child of immigrants who survived the Holocaust and anti-Semitism of post-WW II Poland who came to American with practically nothing and lived in poverty most of my life.

    Yup. You’ve had it rough. Doesn’t mean you’re right, though. You have just as much freedom to be wrong as anyone else, no matter what their background.

    These scammers target colored as well as white, poor as well as rich. Read some of those links at the top of my comment. This is not the scenario you think it is.

    LGagnon @35:

    …you don’t have to live in a world where ethics have to be violated just to survive.

    Oooh, drama.

    Read up on Nigeria a little. I have it in for scammers, but I have a much higher opinion of Nigerians in general than you do.

    By the way: one of Nigeria’s biggest problems is endemic corruption. Do you think these professional scammers have nothing to do with corrupt officials and bankers? They’re in thick with them. They have to be, to run this scam properly. You’re speaking in support of a class of people who also rob and oppress poor Nigerians, and hamper their country’s attempts at legitimate prosperity.

    You want to support poor Nigerians? Give money to aid organizations. Failing that, buy indigenous Nigerian products.

  21. anthony says:

    s’cool, Teresa. I realize you are coming at this from the inside, and I’m weighing in from out here. I don’t have any real experience with either baiters or scammers, except at a glance.

  22. zandar says:

    #11:

    What you said.

  23. Takuan says:

    my simple statement of fact remains. To take what is not freely given is wrong. Rich or poor alike should not do this. I do hope those making assumptions about my blunt moral truism and my personal experience reconsider their recklessness.

    (as for bicycle helmets, they remain Satan’s Mitre and I will have no truck with them)

  24. Burtburt says:

    For the sake of argument, let’s all pretend for a moment that there’s some magical we know – can definitively prove – that the person on the other end of the email is well educated and has many other financial op

    Why do their actions give one the moral right to treat them this way? Would you feel comfortable doing the same thing to a grandmother in Ohio? A homeless guy in NYC? A prisoner on Death Row?

    I think this is where the real disconnect is. I think it’s wrong to do bad things to someone regardless of what kind of person they are.

  25. acb says:

    Which makes me wonder: how long until the scammers wise up to the scambaiting phenomenon, and strike back (perhaps infiltraiting scambaiting message boards and/or tracking down the instigators for some sort of retribution)? It takes place in the open, and the scammers stung by this are career criminals.

  26. Ugly Canuck says:

    I regard all of this as a form of play.
    Not harmless play, though.
    Play on!

  27. Burtburt says:

    The other day some guy tried to shoot my dog. That gave me the moral right to shoot his. And I did! Check it out on my awesome website: awesomedogshooters.com

  28. Crunchbird says:

    If a grandmother in Ohio, a homeless guy in NYC, or a prisoner on Death Row is sending out scamming emails, they would absolutely deserve the same treatment.

    You act as though these people are somehow randomly having these scams sent from their email addresses. That they agree to jump through hoops because they “don’t know any better,” not because they’re trying to further the scam and steal the recipient’s money. You can’t equate them to these other classes of people unless you really believe that there is nothing morally wrong about trying to dishonestly scam money out of people via email fraud.

    You’re basically asking, “How do know that the person punching you in the face doesn’t have a perfectly valid reason for punching you in the face?” You may be pacifist enough to turn the other cheek every time, and if you’re sensitive enough that you believe no one should ever be humiliated or shamed, that’s your business. What upsets people is when you try to create an easy moral equivalence between wasting a criminal’s time and stealing large sums of money from gullible people through dishonesty and (sometimes) violence.

  29. buddy66 says:

    But they can’t punctuate for shit. For the want of a comma a score is lost.

  30. Red Leatherman says:

    I am disturbed that someone would think that occupying the time of a con artist to keep the con man from taking advantage of a gulible person is wrong.
    and these con men are not in poverty, they have the resources to scam people.
    is it dangerous to be a scambaiter? it can be if precautions aren’t taken. so if your gullible enough to be taken it’s not a good idea to be a scambaiter. for myself I have fallen on hard times in the past and never accepted the idea that I needed to scam someone to support my good or bad habits, I’m not saying that I’m perfict but I have a concience.
    Not all scammers come from Nigeria and not all scammers are black, just take a look at ebay scams or many other scams being reported daily on the news ie.. Enron, Countrywide, a recent nursing home scam, Blue Cross ect..,
    point is, I love what scambaiters do.

  31. Burtburt says:

    Are you actually equating getting punched in the face to receiving an email?

    Everybody likes to call it “wasting their time” as though one’s time has no value. That’s why I asked the grandmother question, but I should have been more clear in that.

    Would you scam someone who had done nothing to you? Convincing somebody to put effort into something in the hopes of winning something when you know they can’t is in fact a scam.

    I ask again; Why does the actions of one person (which are harmless, regardless of their intent) give another the right to scam them?

  32. Jack says:

    @#88 POSTED BY ARKIZZLE

    NO. No they are not. They are con artists. They are criminals.

    And rape is not sex, but without sex there is no definition of rape.

    Sales is not inherently an evil trade, but there are tons of criminals conning people of their life savings in the western world of sales.

    A boiler-room salesman pushing stocks on a short-sell or *cough* bogus mortgages *cough* is just as bad as these scammers. Get them all in a room together and I think you’d be shocked at how well they’d get along.

    We need to publicize the problem in our own countries, and get our citizens to stop sending them money.

    Well, I did say my idea of blocking is extreme, but blockades have worked… The problem is that once set in place, there is the temptation to keep them in place. And that’s ridiculous. Communism is dead, but the U.S. still has sanctions on Cuba in 2008? Insane. But in the case of exports from China that were tainted, threats of blocking imports of their items—and the desire of Chinese manufacturers to retain business—forced them into shape.

    But “educating” is ridiculous. It will never work. The reason is the entry level of getting online nowadays is painfully old, and most people barely understand the difference between RAM and a hard drive. So you’re asking to educate people who have no practical reason to be educated.

    For example, for all of the paranoia and fear about identity theft and all of the awareness of cyber crime in the U.S., I’ve stumbled across more unerased hard drives tossed on the street than otherwise. Seriously. I’m not a dumpster diver, but if come across a trashed machine and I can easily pull the drive out, I do. And I have NEVER come across a drive that has been erased ever. So I laugh when I come to Boing Boing and other blogs and read about people advocating 7 pass erases and such; most people don’t even do a basic wipe! So now we’re going to take these folks who think the Internet is magic and suddenly make them “aware” of scams? Never will happen.

  33. Santa's Knee says:

    Sorry, Burt – that was me. I was actually aiming for your kid, but that damn dog went for his Popsicle. My bad.

    BTW, I was dog sitting for my client – that was the mayor’s dog you shot in its kennel. I don’t have a dog, as my career won’t accommodate pets due to my need to travel to targets locations.

    Be seeing you.

  34. buddy66 says:

    I usually read them; some are hilarious.

  35. Eduardo Padoan says:

    I’m afraid that the next spam that I’ll receive will have “WIN $$$ SCAMBAITING ON THE NETS!!!” as subject.

  36. lgagnon says:

    @#42:
    “Quick check: how many of you who are wringing your hands over the plight of the poor Nigerians have done anything to help them? I’m talking about real donations to legitimate aid organizations, at minimum.”

    I’ve donated to several charities for the poor. Granted, I haven’t given to Nigeria yet, but you seem to not understand that my argument is about the poor in general as well as poor Nigerians.

    Worse still, this is a non-sequitor, which is a logical fallacy. As mentioned above, you’re pulling the same fallacy that soldiers pull to tell anti-war protesters to STFU.

    “Next: Takuan’s right. It’s profoundly racist to assume that nonwhites don’t have as much moral agency as whites, and aren’t just as capable of committing evil actions. It’s very nearly as racist to assume that nonwhite scammers are only doing it because they’re desperate and can’t get any other work.”

    No, Takuan is technically wrong. Not that his statement on moral agency is wrong in itself, but that his inclusion of it in this discussion is. If you had read what I said earlier, you’d realize that he had made a strawman fallacy, because he was accusing me of saying something I never even said. By supporting his fallacy you are only doing likewise and dragging down your own argument.

    “Now let’s talk about scams.”

    I’m not going to relist everything you said for the sake of brevity, but it comes off as little more than an appeal to emotion. Ya, I and pretty much everyone else here know scammers are hurting people; they wouldn’t be scams if they didn’t. But this doesn’t justify turning them into a minstrel show for middle-to-upper class white Americans.

    “Read up on Nigeria a little. I have it in for scammers, but I have a much higher opinion of Nigerians in general than you do.”

    You took my statement out of context. I was talking about poor people in general, something a middle class person like yourself can’t understand a priori. And no, I don’t have a low opinion of Nigerians; I simply have an education about the struggles of the poor and what happens when people are forced into poverty.

    “Bad guys exist.”

    The world does not work like Manichean fiction. There’s no Joker or Lex Luthor, and not everything is black and white (likewise, I doubt any of us can claim to be an absolute good, even though we’d like to think we are). I suggest dropping the epic fantasy (or whatever Manichean fiction you prefer) for a while and reading some realist literature. Or, better yet, study up on why poor people commit crime. You’ll find that it doesn’t follow the overly simplistic, bourgeoisie friendly morality of the old-time comic book world.

  37. Jack says:

    @#42 POSTED BY TERESA NIELSEN HAYDEN:

    First you say:

    Nigeria has problems, but they also have a real economy. This is not people’s only choice.

    Then you say:

    By the way: one of Nigeria’s biggest problems is endemic corruption. Do you think these professional scammers have nothing to do with corrupt officials and bankers?

    So basically you’ve contradicted yourself; on the one hand anyone saying the scammers have “no choice” is being pedantic. But then saying the exist in an environment rife with “endemic corruption”.

    Look, I am not defending these scammers at all. Never have. Never will. But I do think scam baiting is a bit disturbing and twisted and the divisions can be drawn down race lines. Western denial in this case is just a knee slapper.

    Yes, the ultimate goal is to fleece money from whatever shill they can get, but the sheer idea that someone thinks there’s a racial equality issue here is hilarious. Heck, are they targeting Chinese and Asians? Nope. They are not.

    And frankly, how can one even broach the topic of Western colonialism contributing to the history of strife and corruption in Africa without some “genius” slapping the tag of “white guilt” on a person?

    Where do you think that “endemic corruption” and the cynical worldview that fuels this mess comes from? Just simple greed?

    Scammers should be stopped, but scam-baiting is not something I think will change this mess.

  38. lgagnon says:

    #39, they don’t always have to resort to scamming, but there is little else to resort to, and a lot of what’s left for the poor is illegal. What’s available in the legal category is a bunch of underpaying jobs that won’t give them enough to survive on (again, this tends to be true in the US as well). As I said before, that does not make what they are doing right; it simply makes it necessary.

  39. lgagnon says:

    The Boston Phoenix had an interesting article about the ethics of scambaiting:
    http://thephoenix.com/boston/Life/47350-White-hunters-black-hearts/

    Honestly, scambaiting comes off little better than a minstrel show when you consider the fact that it’s generally 1st world white people using and abusing poor 3rd world black people for their own entertainment.

  40. Jack says:

    @#42 POSTED BY TERESA NIELSEN HAYDEN:

    Quick check: how many of you who are wringing your hands over the plight of the poor Nigerians have done anything to help them? I’m talking about real donations to legitimate aid organizations, at minimum.

    A canard of a point if there ever was one. It’s the equivalent of complaining that someone who has not served in the military should not criticize it’s misuse.

    How exactly do you suggest anyone contribute any money in any way to poor Nigerians given the level of corruption in the government there? Sure, I can toss $20 to Unicef or Oxfam for example, but what percentage of that money will actually end up in the hands of people who need it? Will $2 get there? And $18 get “lost” in bribes/cuts/skimming/etc?

    You know what was amazing here in 2004 when the Tsunami hit near Sri Lanka? How many small local groups were collecting money not to wire or send via proxy to Sri Lanka and Thailand, but how many of them were EXPLICITLY coming out and saying “Look, we’re collecting this money and going their ourselves to distribute it because the government there is incompetent and corrupt.”

    So please, don’t chastise people who understand how screwed things up are over there. There’s no magic solution, but I can say that until the corruption there can be truly wiped out, there’s practically no way average folks can contribute money and assure that money will get in the right hands.

  41. Takuan says:

    you know… that is a very good idea… competitive scam-baiting with cash prizes…only these would be real prizes.

  42. Takuan says:

    only a racist thinks of scambaiting as racist. Most of these Nigerian scammers are smarter than their victims. It is racist in the extreme to suggest non-white people aren’t fully capable of as much evil as any white.

  43. Maddy says:

    Hayden — I am a liberal too. My hateful screed is reserved for people who sit at the place in the liberal spectrum that makes us the right’s punching bag with their inability to hold anybody accountable for anything, unless they are in the groups/categories that they support … going to any lengths to excuse someone’s actions that has the good fairy dust on them, and yet judging others harshly. look at how hard they’ve been working in this thread to come up with “reasons” for the scammers. funny, they don’t seem to work that hard to come up for “reasons” when “evil” corporations do bad things, or a white cop is a jerk to some kid on a skateboard. They pick and choose, based on the emotional resonance of who they knight Ultimate Victim. I don’t. Or at least, I try very hard to apply the rules equally, which is what I thought a true liberal used to do.

  44. takeshi says:

    @ zikzak & others:

    Fact is, the more time scammers spend dealing with people who have no intention of parting with their money, the less time they have to take advantage of less scrupulous spenders. Whatever the scambaiter’s sense of ethicality, it matters not.

    I have done a bit of scambaiting. Nothing too crazy. Basically just letting them write to me, engaging them, making them think they’d be able to get a little cash, and then, after a week or so, dropping the bomb, and letting them know that they’d been taken advantage of and that their precious time, and in a few cases resources, had been wasted.

    It is not some sick infatuation in my case, as my grandmother was taken in by an email scam, but I can see your point. Still, would anyone have complained if Hitler had been killed prior to Poland’s invasion? Even if he was killed by someone worse, the result would be the same.

  45. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Jack: No, I have not contradicted myself. You can have a real economy and endemic corruption. The latter doesn’t mean everyone is corrupt; it means no areas are reliably free of corruption. It’s a drag on a working economy, but it doesn’t preclude one’s existence.

    I see you didn’t read the links, not even the first and most important one. This scam does not divide up along racial lines. Neither do scambaiters. Go back and try again. Read the piece on the ethics of scambaiting all the way to the last paragraph, where it says “We are genuinely offended by the accusation that we are racist.”

    In the meantime, how’s your own conscience? Why are you incapable of imagining any motivation for scambaiting beyond playing racist headgames?

    Yes, there was colonialism in Africa. Bad as it was, it didn’t turn all the colonized Africans into a uniform mass of poor helpless victims who are incapable of preying on their fellow man. They’re individuals, and members of the same species you are: just as smart, just as diverse, and with every bit as much of an eye for the main chance.

    Where do you think that “endemic corruption” and the cynical worldview that fuels this mess comes from? Just simple greed?

    Yes. Also sloth, lust, envy, gluttony, and a little pride. Probably not much wrath.

    Do you really imagine they were all existing in a state of prelapsarian innocence until the Europeans showed up, and that their only knowledge of evil is through example and contagion? These are human beings! If they can’t do wrong without outside assistance, they have no moral agency!

  46. Sister Y says:

    I ask again; Why does the actions of one person (which are harmless, regardless of their intent) give another the right to scam them?

    If there should be no repercussions for actions that don’t end up doing actual harm, even though the actor intended harm, then why do we punish solicitation, attempt, and conspiracy as separate crimes? If someone tries to steal something, but doesn’t get away with it because (say) the shopkeeper catches him, should he go unpunished because no harm was done (except wasted time)? How about people who solicit murder, but the hit man turns out to be an undercover cop? Even if no harm is done, we punish them, because they’ve behaved in a way that indicates they’re as dangerous as people who actually do harm. And that’s fair.

    Good arguments might be made against the scam-baiters but this it not one of them.

  47. Crunchbird says:

    Would you scam someone who had done nothing to you?

    Burtburt, why do you keep asking variations on this question? No one here is advocating scamming someone who had done nothing to them. They’re only voicing their approval of (gently) scamming people who have already sent out scamming emails trying to rip the scambaiter off. By definition, these are not people who have “done nothing to you.” They threw the first stone, or the first punch … and no of course I don’t “equate” a punch to an email, I was just trying to come up with a more transparent analogy for the type of criminal act that constitutes the scammer’s first contact with his target. They’re not sending out innocent requests for funds in a hope to improve their dire economic prospects, they’re misrepresenting their identities and laying the groundwork for very specific, sophisticated criminal fraud. I continue to say it: they deserve any humiliation or inconvenience that comes their way from the people they originally contacted as targets.

    Also, you might want to look up what minstrel shows actually were … a criminal persuaded due to his own greed to pose for a photo with a fish on his head, or perform a Monty Python sketch, doesn’t even come close to fitting the definition.

  48. Jack says:

    @#47 POSTED BY TERESA NIELSEN HAYDEN / MODERATOR:

    I see you didn’t read the links, not even the first and most important one. This scam does not divide up along racial lines. Neither do scambaiters. Go back and try again. Read the piece on the ethics of scambaiting all the way to the last paragraph, where it says “We are genuinely offended by the accusation that we are racist.”

    Teresa, I really am not going to accept that the scam baiters themselves describe themselves as not being racist. Most racists don’t say they are racists. From what I have seen, the majority of the pranks played by scam baiters are non-blacks telling black scammers to do goofy things to distract them. Please provide us with a neutral third part assessment of scam baiting and not claims made by the baiters themselves.

    And yes, these people are all individuals. Please reread what I have wrote. I DO NOT think intentional racism exists in scamming and scam baiting, but the unintentional racial divisions do exist. And that can lead to real racism or excuse certain scam baiting tactics that would be considered racist in other contexts.

    No, I have not contradicted myself. You can have a real economy and endemic corruption.

    But the real economy in a place rife with corruption is often the lowest level of the real economy. So yes, you can exist in a pure economy while others don’t. But not for long. And at some point the corrupt economy wins.

    Why are you incapable of imagining any motivation for scambaiting beyond playing racist headgames?

    Reread what I asked you to reread again. Greed, sloth, lust, envy, gluttony, and a little pride don’t add up to this mess. The reality is African countries were screwed the moment colonialism entered the picture and anyone who has studied any African history knows. Yes, people make their own choices, and they are not pure good or pure evil. But the level of colonialism can’t be ignored and is ultimately the root of all of this. It’s 100% naive to ignore the history of Africa in the modern world and how it has lead to conflicts and scams like this.

  49. Jack says:

    @#24 POSTED BY TAKUAN

    only a racist thinks of scambaiting as racist.

    Only staring at the tree denies you the view of the forest. Why do people resort to scamming to begin with? Because they are poor and resourceful. But they have no economy—and little hope of an economy—that can legitimately use their skills. So this is the way to go for them.

    How did this mess start? Just look at African colonialism and the artificial division of regions and the hate/strife it’s created.

    And now flash forward to now. Internet is setup to help the region grow. Yet there is no clear path. So the only path is the one of scamming.

    And we here in the “first world” with better tools skills take to “scam baiting” as a form of entertainment. So you know what? There’s no explicit racism happening, but it’s still a pretty sick form of entertainment that highlights race/class divisions.

    Not acknowledging that reality is dangerous and a bit delusional.

  50. Inox says:

    Scammers deserve whatever sort of grief scambaiters can convince them to inflict upon themselves.

    If we can be provided with entertainment as a result, all the better.

  51. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    You’re waving colonialism around like a magic wand. Could you please be more specific about its interactions with 419 scams and the cheerful practice of scambaiting?

  52. Red Leatherman says:

    “So the only path is the one of scamming”

    …Looks at cealing, Looks at wall…..
    ummmmm sokay.
    and umm your saying that only poor black Nigerians are scam artist and only upper class white people waste the poor scam artist time?
    …looks at cealing, looks at wall….

  53. lgagnon says:

    Takuan, I don’t think you’ve research racism or anti-racism well if you actually believe that “only a racist thinks of scambaiting as racist”. I think #25 sums up the problem quite well.

    And no, I do not say that “non-white people aren’t fully capable of as much evil as any white”; you just inserted that yourself. Keep in mind that a strawman argument is a logical fallacy.

    You seem to assume that these people do this out of “evil”. The poor tend to commit crime because there aren’t better opportunities available. The middle-to-upper class, not wanting to admit that their own wealth (created and continued through hundreds of years of slavery, theft, genocide, underpaying workers, etc.) contributes to this, will, in a moment of cognitive dissonance, tell themselves that crime happens because of “evil”. If you did research on this, you’d know that this is only a comforting lie.

  54. jennab says:

    Hi Teresa: nowhere in my comment have I indicated that any of the scammers ‘bosses’ or young guys were innocent. In fact I carefully asserted that I thought their behavior was cruel. I think there is a fairly simplistic assumption running through many of the comments on this thread that you either have to treat the scammers or the scambaiters as blameless – that you have to take sides. It’s clear to me that both are guilty parties.

    I think what’s important to point out is that if your claims for the ‘ethics’ of scambaiting rests on the scammers being affluent/elite/well-educated then those claims are founded on an assumption that’s wrong. More generally I find that ‘ethics of scambaiting’ page on the 419eaters site to be founded on no credible information whatsover. It’s written to justify whatever activities the scambaiters want to justify – not on any actual knowledge about Nigeria, Nigerian people, or the history of the country.

    The question I ask of scambaiters is – of all the things you could be putting out into the world – is this really what you find to be the most worthwhile? To put sexualized, degrading images of West Africans (sometimes with a homophobic subtext no less) that ultimately are meant to celebrate your own cleverness and technical skills – your own stock of arcane knowledge of pop culture?

    And I certainly agree that blocking all communications from people in Nigeria, Ghana, or any other country with Internet scam problems is a terrible, terrible idea and only further penalizes the broader society for the criminal activities of the few.

  55. Santa's Knee says:

    @24 Jack:

    I find you white guilt interesting and wish to subscribe to your newsletter…

  56. Wareq says:

    Really? People spend time and effort on this?
    Weird Al broke it down 14 years ago.

  57. lgagnon says:

    #26, I used the word “generally” to point out that it is not always the case, but it usually is (although it is more often middle/upper-middle class people who scambait than upper class ones). And yes, there are probably some poor white scammers, some poor non-white American scammers, and some non-poor scammers. But nonetheless the Nigerian scams are generally done by poor black Nigerians.

  58. Burtburt says:

    @72

    What you’re describing are the legal repercussions of attempted criminal acts, and the criminal system is designed to punish people for such things.

    But this goes directly against the argument that scambaiting is just wasting the scammer’s time and in no way harmful to them.

  59. Kennric says:

    I understand both the appeal of scambaiting – what exactly are we meant to do for these poor hungry scammers? Go ahead and send them some money?

    It is a bit like self-defense, reacting in kind to an attack. Of course the immenent danger is not physical, but then the defense is not a physical attack either – time/energy/money/dignity being exchanged in a dual that, to be fair, you did not initiate. Perhaps there should be consequences to such behavior? Perhaps it is a social obligation to sanction against this kind of activity with some kind of real downside for the perpetrators, no matter what their state of financial security is? We don’t generally let fraud go unpunished when it is perpetrated by the poor in this country, else it would become the staple industry of the poor. Surely those that attack us in such ways ought to have their scam fail painfully for them? Maybe people wouldn’t do it if the most common consequence was humiliation?

    Of course, there are holes in this line of thinking, at least in regards to the 419 scams.
    A: self defense is never an issue if you can walk away without harm instead, and if you are savvy enough to know its a scam, you can walk away unharmed.
    B: this is a business – that means any of the consequences they suffer are worth it to them – the bottom line will dictate when they stop, not whether a day at the office sucks. Also, like any business, the people reaping the rewards are definitely not the ones doing the hard day-to-day work. I strongly suspect the people in those pictures are -not- the ones running the scam, nor the ones who would get your money if you sent it.
    C: considering that the most effective way to stop this is for everyone to wise up and stop sending money to them, (it only takes one or two to pay for the scam), and considering the fact that you likely aren’t humiliating the scammer himself, it seems like this is mostly entertainment, not social betterment.

    It is a little disconcerting to see the delight people take in the humilation itself, but then us social creatures have that instinct built in, to sanction and control social behavior through negative social consequence. More disturbing, to me, is how our mounting frustration with scammers, spam and general online bullshit has brought us to a point where we just want to hit back, and to hell with the analysis. All the really effective cons rely on exactly that kind of emotional response… but I digress.

  60. Xopher says:

    As her servants hacked their way through the brush surrounding the tomb of her executed husband, the Nigerian Princess Díla da Zarb’é contemplated her life. No longer would she have to live in secret, attended only by her 50 most loyal servants, able to eat caviar only twice per week! Now that she had found, at last, a kindly westerner with an appropriate bank account, she would be able to convert the $30 million in blood diamonds her husband had swallowed before his death, and live as she had formerly been accustomed to living.

    As she deserved to live. She was firmly convinced of that.

    At last they arrived at the tomb. It was pathetically small; the mausoleum would barely hold her and the 5 men (actually 4 men and one transgendered-in-transition-from-female-to-male, greatly enhanced with bioengineered hormones) she’d brought to do the heavy lifting. They’d had to leave their jackal-and-heron livery at home, lest they should be discovered. She would take vengeance upon those who had brought her to this humiliation, vengeance!

    With magical crowbars they pried the sealed lid from her husband’s casket. It fell to the floor with a crash. Then they all stood staring at the empty space within. They were undone; all of them knew that all their secrecy had been for naught, and they would soon be in the hands of the authorities. At last, Díla herself gasped out what no one else dared to say.

    “By the gods!” she exclaimed. “He’s been—decrypted!”

  61. Sister Y says:

    BurtBurt my brother, I was not arguing that scambaiting is harmless to the scammers – merely that “actual harm” occurring is not the only reason to act against someone.

    Xopher, nice.

  62. Jack says:

    Look, let me explain as simply as I can why I think scam-baiting is wrong beyond the subtext of unintentional race-baiting I have mentioned:

    I know of NO situation in the world where engaging a salesman (and let’s face it, that’s what these scammers are) discourages them from doing what they do.

    The historical best way of eliminating scammers is to always—and I mean always— ignore them.

    And since there is corruption in the system that breeds this mess, here is my extreme example of what I think would solve this. Filter ANY and ALL e-mails coming from countries that are known hives of scammers. And only send one response to them via an auto responder. One that basically says, “Look this is nothing personal, but until your country truly does something about the scammers that abuse this system we will not accept any correspondence from your region.”

    It’s extreme, but it puts the weight on the local system to truly purge this trash out of the equation. Soon enough every legit person will be hampered by this and be forced to say “Hey, idiots. Stop it. You’re ruining this all for us.”

    If this could be done on an ISP level or even if Google did this, I think it would make an impact.

    Extreme, but I think more effective in the long term than petty scam baiting which wastes not only your time but doesn’t address the larger issues.

  63. Xopher says:

    CrunchBird: Hear, hear. And right on. (Dating myself is better than sitting at home.)

  64. Takuan says:

    I expect the same ethics and morality from poor as well as rich. This is called “respect”. Many of the victims of these scams had lives damaged and destroyed. Should I use the same logic and excuse my committing crimes against others because I can recite a laundry list of grievances and wrongdoings?
    Ask any honest Nigerian that has worked for their living; are these scammers criminals?

  65. Crunchbird says:

    Wow … the possible appearance of discrimination makes you distinctly uncomfortable, and yet you advocate blocking all emails from scam-prevalent countries, the majority of which are perfectly legitimate communications, until their governments “do something” about a whole class of crimes that is difficult to police, even in well-funded Western nations? The mind wobbles . . .

  66. Burtburt says:

    @42

    “These guys talk lonely accountants into embezzling their employers’ money because they just need the cash for a little while, until they become fabulously rich. They snooker elderly retirees out of every penny they have. When their victims come to Africa looking for their money, they sometimes kidnap them and hold them for ransom. Sometimes they kill them. Sometimes their victims kill themselves.”

    You simply don’t know this is the case for the person emailing you. It could be, and these things have happened, but you know nothing about the individual emailing you.

    “Spambaiters, on the other hand, are wasting the scammers’ time and making them look foolish. Don’t try to tell me they’re just as bad. They aren’t.”

    I never said they’re just as bad. But I would argue that tricking somebody into (for instance) carving a keyboard out of a piece of wood and telling them they have the possibility of winning something is still a bad thing to do. And I believe it’s wrong to treat somebody that way. Especially when you know nothing about the individual emailing you.

  67. Xopher says:

    Sister, did you notice the actual Hausa in there? (Besides “Hello” it’s about all the Hausa I know.) And there’s a canting reference to the princess’ name in her arms as well.

  68. Jack says:

    #29 POSTED BY SANTA’S KNEE:

    I find you white guilt interesting and wish to subscribe to your newsletter…

    White guilt? Hilarious! I’m the first American born child of immigrants who survived the Holocaust and anti-Semitism of post-WW II Poland who came to American with practically nothing and lived in poverty most of my life. Yes, I am “white”, but you know what? I personally experienced much more prejudice and hate as a kid than most other “white” people I’ve known.

    And you know what? Racism and hate are indeed colorblind. But they exist. Just look at the whole Russia/Georgia conflict: white against white. But drawn on ethnic lines few outside of the region understand. Look at China/Tibet; Asian against Asian. Ditto on all of that.

    In the case of Nigerian scammers, there is a very clear class division that is also disturbingly paralleled by race.

    A scam-baiter in the U.S. (who is most likely not black) playing games with scammers in Nigeria who are majority black is a bit disturbing. And even if that is not an intent, the results of the action still need to be felt.

    My initial position stands the same: Just ignore the scammers and don’t play mindgames with them. At least appeal to that level of intelligence.

  69. kip w says:

    This is a little tangential, but my favorite story of someone turning the tables on someone attempting to steal from them over the internet is The P-P-P-Powerbook.

  70. kip w says:

    Tangentially, my favorite tale of someone turning the tables on a would-be internet thief: The P-P-P-Powerbook!

    (I hope this doesn’t show up twice — I closed the window too soon a minute ago, and have refreshed three times without seeing it. Apologies if I’ve fckd it up.)

  71. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Burtburt, honest well-intentioned people don’t spam the internet with thousands of instances of 419 scam letters.

    Bad guys exist.

  72. kip w says:

    Feh. I slink off in shame, pausing only to note how much more tense and vibrant the prose in the second version is, marred only by the pre-emptive and totally futile apology.

  73. arkizzle says:

    ..a salesman (and let’s face it, that’s what these scammers are)

    NO. No they are not. They are con artists. They are criminals.

    The historical best way of eliminating scammers is to always—and I mean always— ignore them.

    Ignore criminals? Rather than doing something about crime, we should just ignore it? You don’t think getting foiled time and time again will have an effect? Or that letting them know we are “on to them” is going to change things?

    Filter ANY and ALL e-mails coming from countries that are known hives of scammers.

    Uh? Maybe you don’t have any international dealings, but to apply communication sanctions to countries in general is not the answer here, and, frankly is the kind of foreign-policy gross over-reaction we have seen in the past, that only targets the innocent.

    We need to publicize the problem in our own countries, and get our citizens to stop sending them money. With no returns and some wasted time the scams will stop.

    Until another scam is invented..

  74. anthony says:

    It’s clear the scammers are just that, but it’s also true that when white scam baiters humiliate black scammers we are reminded of a not so distant racist past. It’s unfortunate, but there.

  75. Santa's Knee says:

    “White guilt? Hilarious! I’m the first American born child of immigrants who survived the Holocaust and anti-Semitism of post-WW II Poland who came to American with practically nothing and lived in poverty most of my life.”

    Well, let’s see: I am also “first American born child of immigrants who survived” the massacre that was the Spanish civil war. I grew up on welfare in the slums of Hartford, CT.

    “I personally experienced much more prejudice and hate as a kid than most other “white” people I’ve known.”

    I am filled with sorrow that you know so few white people. Being of Castillian descent but relegated to the hispanic barrio due to my family’s (who didn’t all make it to the land of the free alive) lack of English, I also feel for you – growing up as an ausenseiter in your own home town. Kids and fools can be quite cruel to those they see as different.

    However, you have failed to convince me to retract MY statement.

  76. Anonymous says:

    I have been doing a show for the past 4 years about my correspondence with a nigerian.

    Last year, I sent him a press packet from the booking agency and asked if he’d like to invest. Then, after he wrote back very angry angry angry, my attorney, Perry Mason, enlisted the scammer’s assistance in scamming me out of money.

    Ultimately, I received a money order from the scammer for $3.50.

    The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam

    http://www.spamscamscam.com

  77. arkizzle says:

    Jack.. rape is sex. Forced sex.

    Saying they are “salesmen” disempowers the criminality of their actions to let them say “I’m just doing my job”, which is bullshit. Saying “conman” describes all the salesman-type techniques you are hinting at, but also includes the loss/victims/deception in the understanding of it.

    ..the entry level of getting online nowadays is painfully old..
    Huh? I’m not even sure what that line means. Something about old people?
    Anyway, it’s beside the point, It’s not about technological education, it’s about social education. This just happens to be a new-ish con, that happens in very specific circumstances (online).

    If there was a “don’t be a dummy” campaign explaining people getting offered millions from strangers, and suprise-surprise getting ripped, there might be some headway. Frankly I’m amazed that people fall for this shit, but they do. And it is not because they don’t get the internet, or aren’t techno savvy, it’s because they have been conned and are unaware of this type of con.

    And seriously, santions against Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Spain, and the Netherlands.. are you insane?

  78. buddy66 says:

    Dear Mr. Burtburt, Sir:

    My name is Buddy Bumwalla, and I am temporarily residing at a hospiyal here in Oobladee, NIGERIA, recuperating from grievous and mortifying wounds suffered when the aeroplane carrying my wife, the Princess Hideho of Matadore and my stepfather, Professor Omo Hybo, crashed near the Mutara escarpment, killing most unfortunately both of them. Amost grievous thing I’m sure you will agree. But more importantly, there is a matter of 1.6 billion$ in a Swiss bank that must be claimed by next month or be forfeted to international finacers and stockholders of my in-laws large international corporations. Perhaps you can be of aid to me.

    I have been given your name from some friends at a place called BOING BOING, which is I am told….

  79. Red Leatherman says:

    Apologist for scam artist! Meanies wasting the scammers’ precious time!
    Makes me wonder if some people here are just taking the side of the scammer for the fun of the debate. but forgetting the all important rule of understanding the subject you argue.

    Blame the Belgians!

    “Listen to the yell of Leopold’s ghost
    Burning in hell for his hand-maimed host.
    Hear how the demons chuckle and yell.
    Cutting his hands off, down in Hell.” (V Lindsay)

    Hey anyone know what happend to Busted up Cowgirls site?

    Teresa, if you and Patrick make it to FW TX sometime I’ll accept that drink but if you use any big words like “prelapsarian” down here
    y’all hafta buy me two

  80. Burtburt says:

    @53

    You don’t know the person you’re emailing with has spammed the internet with thousands of emails. All you know is there’s a person on the other end who is emailing you. You know nothing of their circumstances or motivations. They could be evil (whatever that means) or they could be desperate.

    Have you ever done anything dishonest? If so, does that make you a “bad guy?” If so, are you then deserving of being treated this way?

  81. buddy66 says:

    Dear Honorable Mr. Burtburt, Sir:

    This is the second letter I, Dr.Buddy Bumwalla, with good intentions I am sending you….

  82. dvdst says:

    @ BurtBurt

    Call me crazy, but I think doing bad things makes someone a bad guy. Does doing good things make someone a bad guy?

    I would say the times in my life when I’ve been dishonest I have been a “bad guy”.

  83. thorn says:

    my very favorite on the scam o rama site (lads from lagos), was one i read in the mid to late 90′s (the site’s been around for *a while*). it was one with the guy who insisted on traveling by boat, with his mother-in-law: “a fine seafarin’ woman.” just as funny as the scambaiter’s written pirate-speak were the baffled and desperate replies from his scammer. “why must you come by boat? Why can you not travel by plane?”

    i made the mistake of reading at work, laughed until i was *screaming*, and almost wet my pants.

    unfortunately, the site currently includes only material dating back to 2000 or 2001. boo!! but it still exists! yaaayy!!

  84. Maddy says:

    What if the scammers were all coming from eastern europe? mobbed-up eastern bloc scamming? and U.S. people were getting them back — would the same apologists be out in force? I doubt it. Thr r sm clwns wh jst cnnt mgn tht blck flks hv t b hld ccntbl fr NYTHNG n ths wrld. t’s th gt tt jl fr crd. THAT’S called racism. It’s not stealing bread in the rural south to feed your children — it’s exactly as Hayden says — sophisticated criminals. But to make someone, po-po victims and marginalize their cunning and humanity s th fr lft’s gns rcsm. Ptrnzng th lss lttl sls cz ‘m s mrl nd pltclly crrct nd knw y’r jst nncnt chldrn wh hv bn wrngd by bg dddy whty. wht t s, s sck cmpttn t grb mrl hghgrnd — ‘m th dvng rd t tr vctmhd wth my shnng str f my prfct mrl cmpss, wh knws nly ccsns r mns! wll, gss wht — hr’s lttl trd n yr pnch bwl — gss wh thnks y’r th bggst nd mst bnxs rcsts? ctl frcn-mrcns! ll my – pls sy thy ht th slf-rghts lfty plgst mch mr thn th spr-crckr rcsts. Bcs th spr crckr rcsts jst ds t t f sns f slf-lthng nd nvy. Bt wht my – flks dctd m t ws — t th cr f th slf-rghts lbrl rcsm — thnkng y r bttr thn smn, y hv t frgv thm ll thr sns, lk Jss n th crss wth th mr mrtls blw hm. Th scmmr plgsts nd t g mt wth th KKK nd crt th prfct rcst bng …

  85. lgagnon says:

    #32 Takuan, you expect the same ethics because you don’t have to live in a world where ethics have to be violated just to survive. This is the reality of the heavily impoverished even in the US; it’s even moreso in the 3rd world. The fact of the matter is, the rich and relatively rich people of the 1st world do very little to help relieve the poor’s suffering (here or there). Meanwhile, their wealth & labor are stolen by the rich and the 1st world without enough given in return.

    This isn’t about whether or not grievances and wrongdoings have been committed. It’s about the fact that they are suffering through poverty because of those wrongdoings. Yes, what they are doing is criminal and is unethical. But you miss the fact that, as long as the 1st world treats the 3rd world as just a resource pool to be robbed and ignored when said robbery leaves the people impoverished, it’ll be necessary for the poor to do whatever it takes to survive. That is what you seem to not understand about poverty: that it makes unethical choices necessary because the middle-to-upper classes rob them of all other choices.

  86. lgagnon says:

    Likewise, Takuan, I think you should get your hands on this book that BoingBoing previously mentioned, as it may help you understand why the poor will often behave in unethical ways:
    http://www.boingboing.net/2007/01/04/off-the-books-the-un.html

  87. Anonymous says:

    Several years ago my father was able to get $25,000 out of the “we need your help to get money out of XXXX country” scammers. Temporarily. His mistake was not immediately withdrawing the money out of the account he had provided. Because two weeks the deposit had been removed by the issuing bank. And somehow the FBI was aware of the whole thing because they showed up on his doorstep. Whatever happened with them, my father’s not talking.

  88. travelina says:

    Brian Sack (who executed the brilliant Polish postcard prank) foisted my all-time favorite reverse con on Nigerian scammer “Dr. Abu Hassan,” and wrote enthusiastic and inane emails to lure the scammer into his trap. He never made any money off it but his correspondence with the increasingly frustrated “Dr. Abu” makes me giggle with joy. He wrote to Dr. Abu under the nom de plume of Michael Bloomberg. His first email begins:

    From: Michael Bloomberg
    Date: 10/10/03
    Subject: Re: EXTREMELY URGENT

    Hello Dr. Abu!

    My name is Michael Bloomberg. I live in New York City and am in receipt of your letter suggesting a partnership wherein I will provide you with my bank account information and you will transfer $350 Million to it for safekeeping. I understand that for my assistance I stand to be compensated 5% of the $35 Million commission you stand to receive.

    I will assume you received my email address from my uncle Jack, who had previously worked with a little boy named Ndugu who lived outside of Lagos. Otherwise I’m not sure how you would have come across it. Perhaps I’m on a list of people who enjoy fine wines? I like fine wines. I don’t believe I’ve ever had any Nigerian wines. If you have vineyards then perhaps I will try some at some point. I believe I read something about Mobutu Sese Seko once. I’m not sure if he’s Nigerian, but the name sure sounds it…”

    Sack’s correspondence with the scammer dragged on for months, with Sack seemingly eager to cooperate but insisting on silly conditions and peppering his letters with remarks and questions about Dr. Abu’s favorite color, badminton, Heidi Klum, and ending his letters with expressions such as “Praises and Yogurt!”
    http://www.banterist.com/archivefiles/000024.html
    http://www.banterist.com/archivefiles/000028.html

  89. jennab says:

    I spent 8 months living in Accra, Ghana researching Internet café use for my PhD. After a great deal of effort I was able to locate and interview some of the scammers who were based in the area. First of all, to put to rest some of the presumptions I keep seeing coming up over and over again. The use of the Internet and a general ability to speak and read/write English does not alone indicate elite/privileged status in urban areas in Ghana and I’m quite sure the same is the case in Nigeria. Yes indeed many Internet scammers are in fact quite poor and lacking in all sorts of opportunities to further themselves through legitimate means. It’s helpful to know that many scam operations are run by a ‘boss’ who very well may be affluent and educated – but is often employing marginalized, young men and these are the ones you often see being humiliated in scambaiter photos.

    I think scamming activities are misguided, cruel, and frequently founded on all sorts of assumptions about Westerners that are wrong. But I see precisely the same ignorance on the part of scambaiters. A big part of the problem is the miserable representations of Africans that Westerners and the Western media are constantly propelling as a form of self-affirmation. At the same time the representations of Westerners (as wealthy and greedy) on the part of scammers are stupidly self-justifying in nearly the same way.

    What I find really distasteful about scambaiting (and here I’m talking about 419eaters.com which I think is the most egregious example) is the particular strategies used where imagery of scammers (universally black people on 419eaters) are displayed as ‘trophies’ holding degrading signs with sexual messages that the scammers have been tricked into holding. The scammers limited grasp of English or American slang is manipulated by scambaiters. They are convinced to pose with signs that read – for example – ‘I love cocky sucky’ or ‘mi semen stains.’ On top of that 419eaters goes out of its way to demonstrate the technical and by extension intellectual or educational inadequacy of scammers. They do this for example by showing and making fun of badly forged documents. In other words – this site is contributing to imagery that links images of Africans to a crude sexuality and communicates a technical and educational inferiority that the generally white, Euro-American scambaiter claims to have triumphed over with their clever tricks. There is that class of scambaiting represented by 419eaters.com that is just repulsive and totally blind to what underlying inequalities it rests upon.

    At any rate – I would love to see BoingBoing treat the whole scambaiting issue with a little more thoughtfulness and less insensitive and ill-informed glee.

  90. keighvin says:

    I have US$2,850 in fraudulent money orders from Nigeria as a trophy for wasting 4 months of a scammer’s time – but the best part is that they were intercepted by a different scammer en route (in the Republic of Benin) and swapped out for their own, with their own contact information and instructions.

    It’s important to note that these are not small operations, either. Despite being spurious on at least 6 points, the money orders I have went though a 2 color lithographic press (on prepared paper which may have undergone its own run at some point), laser printer, and ink-jet all with coordination and sophistication, and most unwary consumers and rubber-stamping tellers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

  91. Jack says:

    @#34 POSTED BY SANTA’S KNEE

    However, you have failed to convince me to retract MY statement.

    Okay, on topic: Do you realize that most Nigerian scammers self-describe themselves as consciously going after rich white European/American people?

    You see that’s the amazing thing is they are very clear on the racism in their own actions. Doesn’t make it good, but there’s no argument from them. But when it comes to the mostly white American/European folks who are scam-baiting? There’s incredible logical leaps to avoid the issue of race entirely. As if that can’t be an issue because they don’t intend it as an issue.

    If intent were the main fuel of racism and hate, then it would all be wiped away by now. But it’s these tiny issues of perception added up over the years that add up to the larger mess.

  92. Ugly Canuck says:

    “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.”
    I don’t know who said that first.

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