Every day millions of people around the world receive emails from royal Nigerian family members, relatives of wealthy government officials, dying mothers in search of adoptive parents, or Russian women in desperate need of plane tickets out of Russia. Millions of dollars are promised to the prospective suckers in exchange for personal bank information, large money transfers, or even trips to Nigeria for hand-to-hand delivery of hard earned cash. This form of spam mail that slipped past anti spam is known as Advance Fee Fraud (AFF), or more widely referred to as a 419 scheme, named affectionately after a section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud.
While many of these letters are very creative in their attempts to rip off the naïve, there exists an even more creative and hilariously ingenious movement of people who dedicate their time to beating the scammers at their own game. They call themselves "scambaiters," using greed as bait to reel thieves into various time consuming, humiliating, and ironically money-wasting ventures. Here are some of the funniest and most innovative ways scambaiters have turned the tables on the 419ers.
A Mr. F. Williams Smith from the “special committee for Budget and Planning of the Ministry of Petroleum” contacted a scambaiter, offering 25% of $10.5 million in exchange for a “nice account in which the funds will be transferred.” What Mr. Smith got instead was a carpentry assignment. Calling himself Derek Trotter, the Scam Baiter posed as the director of Trotter Fine Arts Dealer and Art Scholarships. Through a series of cleverly constructed emails and the promise of $25,000-$100,000, he managed to lure Mr. Smith into submitting artwork, specifically in the form of elaborate wood carvings.
What was expected:
What was carved, expensively shipped, and received:
In the end, after weeks of phony paperwork, disagreements over the shipping fees, and the untimely “death” of Derek Trotter, neither Mr. Smith nor his carpenter-on-call made any money from the transaction, and as is the goal of scambaiters, no one got ripped off by Mr. Smith during the entire process.
Another scammer by the name of John Boko fell for the old Derek Trotter wood carving trick and eventually shipped over this:
But due to “shipping shrinkage” the piece did not meet the agreed-upon specs and was refused. So John Boko was given a second chance top make his small fortune, only this time he was to carve a replica of the Commodore 64. It’s amazing what greed can make people do.
Most scambaits follow the same format: the scammer offers millions, the scambaiter refuses and counter offers several thousands. This next case is purely and simply amazing. A “solicitor to the late President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” by the name of Barrister Mussa Issah fell into the web of “Arthur Dent,” whose company happens to be conducting a “four year long research project on Advanced Handwriting Recognition and Graphology systems.” The bait: $100 per handwritten page, with a minimum of 100 pages. The result: All 293 pages of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, handwritten! And of course, for nothing.
Make Me a Movie
The Holy Church of The Order of The Red Breast
“Dear Sir/ Madam,
I am fine today and how are you? I hope this letter will find you in the best of health. I am Prince Joe Eboh, the Chairman of the "Contract Award Committee", of the "Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)", a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
NDDC was set up by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha who died on 18th June 1998, to manage the excess revenue accruing from the sales of Petroleum and its allied products as a domestic increase in the petroleum products to develop the communities in the Niger Delta Oil producing areas. The estimated annual revenue for 1999 was $45 Billion US Dollars...”
I would dearly love to help you. If you ever decide to join our faith then of course I could help you both with my experience and financial support. I wish you well in your endeavour my brother.
Yours, Father Hector Barnett
Taking the bait:
Dear Father Hector,
If joining your faith is what it takes to help me of course, I am ready to join you. I'm from a good Christian family. I will do anything you want me to do in the faith. Don't forget that I have to transfer the money to your account as urgently as possible. Send me your account details. I hope to read your mail soon.
Prince Joe Eboh
Reeling in the Prince:
Our ministry was founded in 1774 by a wonderful lady by the name of Betsy Carrington. She spent many of her first preaching years in Kenya, spreading the holy gospel amongst the local people there. She was the first person male or female to promote Christian texts and beliefs to the Masai warrior tribe.
The most famous account is when as a test she had to remove the top part of her clothes and paint the top half of her body and breast with the red Masai war-paint as a gesture of faith and belief to them so that they would accept her and trust her. She was almost immediately accepted by them and was one of the most trusted westerners known at that time.
As a qualification to enter the Holy Church of The Order of The Red Breast, all followers must go through the initiation procedure that Miss Carrington made so famous. I have attached a photograph of four of our young inductees going through the procedure.
Please use this picture to enable you to make the same marking on yourself. I have also attached a small picture showing the design in more detail. I look forward to welcoming you into our membership my brother.
Father Hector Barnett Financial Development - Holy Church of The Order of The Red Breast.
The Prince’s response:
The complete versions of these and many more amusing scambaiting stories are available at websites like http://www.419eater.com, and http://www.scamorama.com, They are filled to the brim with emails, photographs, false documents, videos, and tips on how to protect yourself against 419 email spam, and how to become a baiter yourself. There are those who feel that scambaiting is cruel and degrading, but when you consider the fact that Advance Fee Fraud has been ripping millions of dollars away from innocent people, many of whom lose their homes, their jobs, their friends, and even their lives, a few wood carvings and a red breast is the least we can do to repay the favor.