by Alan Robles
Most of us would love to see scamsters jailed, but if that isn't going to happen, we may as well settle for seeing them ridiculed.
In an online sport that one site calls "Bait A Mugu", the goal is to respond to a scam letter, play along with the criminals, and persuade them to do a variety of bizarre acts: carve and mail (at their expense) weird sculpture; photograph themselves posing with a giant fish, or standing on their heads, or holding placards with inane messages.
It's all part of how people are responding to the growth of online scams. In one case a victim actually turned the tables, scammed the scammers and wound up with more than $30,000 in his account. Another person has chosen to dramatize a typical scam letter in an amateur video.
The most popular response, scambaiting, arose when some people got tired of seeing their inboxes clogged with tons of advanced fee fraud letters. As one of the sites says, "why should scammers have all the fun?"
|Scamster, you've been pwned|
Because it involves playing on a criminal's greed and gullibility, it's in effect a scam in the opposite direction. For those with a lot of time in their hands, it's also a game which could last months, and where trophies -- the entire email exhange plus humiliating photos -- are gleefully posted online for the world to see.
This isn't a game everyone can, or should, play. If all you're interested in is a sober discussion of the 419 scam and your options, you should just visit the 419 Coaliton and read its checklist on how to deal with scammers.
But if you want to play scammers at their own game, be aware of precautions you should take. First, never use your personal email address -- create a new one for baiting. If that new address doesn't get any scam proposals, just use it to respond to the usual fraud mail you get on your personal account. Do not cut and paste the original message, just reply to the email address the crook used.
Second, make sure the crook you're targeting lives far away -- preferably in another continent. It would be very bad for your health if he happened to be staying in the same neighborhood. Don't know how to do this? Maybe you shouldn't be scambaiting at all.
Third, be prepared to spend a lot of time being creative. Remember, you don't want to give the crook a single penny, you want him to do all the spending and degrade himself in the process. By the way, you can annoy scammers by this simple trick: respond to their mail by saying you've attached a copy of your bank statement in your response (actually don't attach anything). You'll get a response saying there was nothing attached. Fire back a reply questioning the crook's intelligence (be short and graphic). This always makes them angry.
If you want tips, help and anecdotes on scambaiting, try the following sites: