TTY services used by Nigerian credit-card scammers

TTY relay services are phone-banks staffed by operators who take text messages from the TTY terminals used by deaf people and read them aloud into telephones. This lets deaf people order pizzas, and otherwise interact with the hearing telephony world.

Recently, TTY systems have gone web-based: instead of using specialized TTY hardware, deaf people can use a chat interface in a browser window to interact with the operators.

This fact has not escaped Nigerian credit-card scammers. These folks are piping the output of Babelfish and other machine-translation services into the chat interface and directing the operators to place calls to merchants, directing them to ship goods paid for with stolen credit card numbers to mail-drops.

Merchants stand to lose big if they fall for the ruse – callers often try to order more than $10,000 worth of expensive equipment. People who legitimately use the service fear businesses will stop taking their calls, thinking they are fraud artists…

The only possible beneficiaries are the successful scammers – profiting from free phone calls intended for deaf people – and the four phone companies that provide Internet relay service. They are paid for the calls by the minute.


(via /.)

Glennf adds: The Nigerian TTY scam isn't new: bookstores have been experiencing this for quite a while. I started receiving queries about shipping books to Nigeria at, which is a book price comparison service, not a bookstore. I wondered why on my blog, and then received some startling news: Nigerians order books through TTY services and then resell them to Russia after stiffing the sellers. Wacked-out.