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419 Scammer Scambaited to Re-Write Harry Potter By Hand!

419 Eater explains scambaiting as such: "Well, put simply, you enter into a dialogue with scammers, simply to waste their time and resources. Whilst you are doing this, you will be helping to keep the scammers away from real potential victims and screwing around with the minds of deserving thieves."

Here's a classic example of scambaiting (just one of many at 419 Eater, by the way): tricking Nigerian 419 scammer to rewrite Harry Potter's The Chamber of Secrets - all 293 pages of the book - by hand!

Previously on Neatorama: Scambaiting the Nigerian Scammers: The Butterfly Bait

I read the whole thing. That really was pretty cool. But I just don't believe how a scammer could fall for that themselves? They must have a minus IQ.
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I went to the 419 eater site. Thought it was kinda funny in an ironic sort of way that a site to help you not send your money to strangers....wants you to send your money to a stranger.
Is 419eater out to help you or just another scam?
Kinda funny is all I'm sayin'.
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419eater is more about the 'sport' of scambaiting than teaching people about the dangers of these scams i feel.
If your going to the site you most likely already have a pretty good idea there is no nigerian prince trying to get his inheritance out of the country and are more into the sport of no scamming *these* crooks.

On a side note, I'm actually impressed with the penmanship. It's much more legible then mine and I live in a supposedly 'developed' nation with a decent education system (read: USA).
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I've done some very minor scambaiting in the past...mostly when I'm bored. But that is some major league stuff there. I'm so not worthy.
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@kid icarus
Cyberdine is the corporation that makes the Skynet AI, which blows up the world and makes cybernetic assassins called Terminators.

Arthur Dent, in case that was missed, is the protagonist to Douglas Adams "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

Very Classy Stuff.
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I find the whole scambaiting concept very funny... but as I read it I actually felt a little sad for the lady. I could imagine her, jumping up and down thinking her ticket had come through; reading his e-mail about how much money she and her freinds could make. $4,000 is a lot of money, especially in Nigeria. They all get excited, possibly start buying things on credit. She is cautious as she continues to politely inquire how payment will be made. And then's not happening, and then shock and horror she gets an e-mail saying that she is associated with a criminal and will not get paid. And she keeps trying, but to no success. Everyone angry that there is no money.
I guess that's Karma for you.
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I have to say, I have mixed feelings about this. I have no sympathy for scammers, but the Nigerian scam is so old, the routine so familiar, and the approach so clumsy, I'm past feeling sympathy for those who fall for this, and feel growing sympathy for those desperate enough to try it. I can imagine someone knowingly entering into an illegitimate "business" (scamming rich foreigners) and thinking they've stumbled upon a legitimate business (handwriting!). So fine, and good, right? Let them suffer.
But most likely, this person herded up friends and family desperate to make a buck (no shortage of needy people in Africa) and convened a Harry Potter rewriting sweatshop. They must have thought they stood a chance to make a buck, and many of them likely did not start out in the scamming business. Basically, there is more than one victim here.
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Following up what Softie said, it is a shame that the scambaiter didn't require the book be written only by the original scammer. I mean, if this were really for a handwriting project wouldn't Mr. Dent want a sample of a single person's writing?

Scammers are not nice people whom I can easily picture coercing some poor relative or friend into working for them.
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I'll never understand how people scamming the scammers think doing so is any less wrong. The only difference I can see is that the Nigerian scammers are mostly uneducated and desperate (not to excuse their actions). Those scamming them appear to just be assholes.
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Oh, brother.

While I applaud the reference to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Terminator - excellent choice - I can't help but wonder why somebody would bother going to all that trouble. Oh, those poor desperate and uneducated Nigerian scammers, being suckered like that.

What sort of stereotype is that? Most scammers are pretty clever, but they turn their smarts to hurting others. I can't feel sorry for that, and neither should you!
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How are Nigerian scammers clever? Because they can trick idiots and be duped themselves? That doesn't sound clever to me.

Regardless of what you think of them – if they're the most brilliant and evil people in the world – how is scamming one of them morally acceptable for the other person?
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so wait... there is no nigerian prince that is trying to get his inheritance out of the country? but he promised me soooo much money for just helping out.

now i am just bummed. :-(
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@Suzie: the article referenced that the original email and subsequent correspondence with the lady came from the same computer. Most likely, they're the same person.

@tedwilson: 419 Eater has an interesting post on the Ethics of Scambaiting.

Let me answer your question how is scamming one of them morally acceptable for the other person? with another question: isn't turnabout fair play?
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Is turnabout fairplay? Regardless, this isn't an example of turnabout. Somebody receives an email that they know is fake. It has caused them no harm. They could ignore it, but instead they take advantage of the person who had not actually done anything to them. What is that called?

Let's say a guy on the street offers me a fake watch at an inflated price. Hip to his con, I distract him, grab his wallet and run off. Am I a hero or just an asshole like him?
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Geez, change your name, Mr Wilson. You're making me embarrassed.

In your flawed example, you respond to the guy selling fake watches by stealing from him. That's not what happening here, and you know it. If you said, "Hip to his con, I pretend to sell him timeshares in Florida", it would have been more accurate. But that's less "immoral" sounding, isn't it?

They're not the most brilliant people, obviously. But they are deliberately trying to steal from you and from me. This trick does nothing to harm them, but mess with their minds a little. That's hardly "immoral".
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To say tricking somebody into copying an entire book by hand isn't harmful, I would ask you if you would mind having to do that. Is it only wrong if something tangible is taken? Labor has a value, too.

And it doesn't matter how wrong the scammers are (I think they're horrible for what they do). The actions one does to another are not made right or wrong by the actions of the other.
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I wouldn't do it. I think that's pretty much why it's funny. Because some scumbags got the tables turned on them. Guess what? They deserve much worse than that. It's a shame they couldn't truly be brought to justice for the pain they have caused many innocent people.

If it took their time away from trying to swindle money out of old people and duping the gullible, I'd say it's time well spent.

Is it harmful? Give me a break. Perhaps they learned a valuable life lesson.
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@tedwilson: What's your definition of turnabout? I thought it was a perfect example of turnabout: scamming a scammer!

I'd argue that scambaiting is actually beneficial: by wasting the scammer's time and energy, he or she is that much less able to scam other people!
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@Alex: I'm not debating any of what you're saying. What I'm saying is that doing this to somebody is wrong.

@ted: It's okay to harm somebody if it possibly teaches them a lesson? And what do you mean by "the pain they have caused many innocent people?" You don't know a single thing about the individual who's been scammed. This could have been the first time they tried to do it for all you know. Or maybe they've tried a thousand times and never been successful.

Nobody here has provided a single reason for why this isn't wrong. Is it karma? Sure. Is it funny? It can be, although I think it can cross a line into being sad very easily.
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That would make it even funnier if they've never actually been successful at scamming anyone. Hehe.

You come up with inaccurate comparisons, and ridiculous demands for proof. Nobody needs to provide a reason to why this isn't wrong. Park your ego at the door, dude.

Maybe you should send out millions of e-mails asking people to pay for the surgery to have that pickle removed from your ass.
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A pickle in my ass? Very mature. I'll assume then you don't have a valid argument for why treating somebody this way isn't wrong.

Does anybody who doesn't need to resort to personal attacks have anything to offer?
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Someone made a point; you can’t automatically assume the scammer is poor or that they don’t have a good quality of life.
But instead of being PC lets be realistic. If this scammer is indeed from Nigeria, Nigeria has the 9th most populated country in the world, a GDP around $700-$1500, and 60% of the population below the poverty line. Ok that is poor, it might not mean uneducated, but there is a pretty good chance this scammer is poor.
Is the idea of scam baiting scammers funny- yes.
Is the reality- not so much.
10 years ago perhaps a few people were duped by the African prince wanting to send them money- 10 years later no one is really that stupid. Anyone with electricity pretty much knows this is a scam- send it to your trash box. I've gotten them before for posting on Petfinder for Christ sake. Someone saying they will pay large amount of money for my animal (no specification that it was a cat) and will have it shipped to their home- would I please contact them and send a description of the animal. It is so obviously a scam.
So maybe this woman should have caught on that Arthur Dent could not possibly really want her hand written sample of Harry Potter. But she didn't.
Bottom line, do Nigerian scammers really dupe anyone these days- does any harm other than annoyance come from their e-mails? (Really I'd like to know)
Did this lady actually get a little screwed when the tables were turned? Yes. And that’s when it just wasn't very funny anymore.
She could have a family and kids- really the amount of money Arthur Dent was going to sned would be about 10 years salary!! It's like winning the lotto! I mean chances are she became a scammer out of some level of need for income.
But maybe I am completely wrong- she is just a bad evil person who got what was coming end of story.
And Ted, the pickle in the ass statement. Weak.
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Hmm, apparently I was wrong about no one falling for it anymore- and yes they do have electricity. A breif lookup of the 419 scam brought me to Wikipedia where apparently it has been going on in some for since the 1920's.
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No, not weak. Very apt. Tedwilson's comments are uptight, condescending, and holier-than-thou.

Not mature? I didn't claim to be mature.

Personal attack? Well, I suppose if these folks are doing serious harm to that poor single mom in Nigeria, just trying to make ends meet the best way she knows how, I suppose you could blow that out of proportion, too. Sure, why not?
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Despite the fact that you don't actually know me, let's say I'm everything you claim. And let's ignore the fact that devolving this thread with personal attacks is only counterproductive and does nothing to strengthen your argument.

I'm still waiting for an objective argument as to why it's okay to treat people this way. Anybody?
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Thought I'd check this one more time.

Really, tedwilson. I gave you an objective reason before; you simply chose to pass it off. Ignoring perfectly valid reasons is counterproductive and does nothing to strengthen your own argument.

It's okay because scammers are doing something despicably and horribly wrong, and the scambaiter's response is not harming that person in any way. The worst they've done is take up the time of somebody who would otherwise be committing illegal and immoral acts, and made them a little angry.

Tell me how exactly this scammer was harmed otherwise. You tell me I don't know a single thing about people who have been scammed, or if the scammer has even been successful. Well, neither do you know anything about the scammer. I know that innocent people get bilked all the time by con artists, and treating one con artist like this is not nearly enough of the punishment he or she deserves.

I drew a conclusion about your attitude from your comments. You're absolutely right; I don't know you. You may be a nice person, despite the condescension. If the pickle comment bothered you, I apologize. But hey, it ain't debate club, here. You're going to get all kinds of responses, mostly casual.

You can reply if you want, but I've posted my opinion, and I already know yours. You may not hear from anybody else, but good luck with it.
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@Suzie: being poor is no excuse for committing a crime. And mind you, this isn't a "I steal that bread because I was hungry" kind of petty crime - these are sophisticated (albeit grammatically deficient) enterprises.

And yes, Nigerian scammers cause significant financial damage to their victims. According to this Wired article, they scam $200 million from Americans (God knows how much worldwide) every year.
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Okay, to clarify (and please correct me if I'm wrong):

It's okay to convince somebody to write an entire novel by hand (something you've admitted you wouldn't want to do yourself, but is in no way harmful to them) because you suspect they may have done something illegal and immoral (but doing this to them is not illegal or immoral).

Is that your argument?
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You missed one crucial detail, tedwilson: 419 Eater got a scam email from one "Mrs. Miriam Abacha" promising $27 million dollar.

419 Eater turned the scam on them by scambaiting the sender. At no time did 419 Eater initiate the scam - they've just performed a remarkable turnabout.

Despite of the different characters that pop up, all of the emails come from one computer somewhere in Nigeria.
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No, I didn't miss that detail. We've been debating that quite a bit. Please read earlier posts.

I'm also pretty positive all the emails do not come from one single computer. That's ridiculous.
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I really have just two points to make here for all to ponder on.

1. The Good Book says, an eye for an eye. That's why in many countries, a murderer is executed.

2. Internet scams are not always coming out of Nigeria. Many come out of Europe. And I'm sure there are enough coming out of North America as well. As a tech, I know that location can be disguised on the internet.

I can personally vouch for the fact that over 50% of the scam mails I have received have come from some country in Europe. While a rather lower number like maybe 20-30% come from some country in Africa. At least that is my experience.

I personally enjoy the fact that these people are getting the run around. Maybe if they get enough sour grapes they will decide to go legit.
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tedwilson, I'm afraid your defence of these morons is lame to say the least.

They deserve everything they get! Yes, making a scammer hand write a complete novel is fair, legal, moral, and pretty damned amusing. I have no sympathy for them whatsoever. I do not "suspect" they've done something wrong... it's obvious to anyone with an IQ of 1 or more that they are up to no good. But unfortunately they still make money out of it. A LOT OF MONEY!

And I actually know someone that was stupid enough to hand over a couple of thousand pounds to one of these gangs (ABOUT $4,000). Yep, he's a bit dim, but a thoroughly nice guy. And they took his money!

These people are nasty pieces of work. They often belong to dangerous gangs that are known to mame and kill.

The bottom line is that "Nigerian" scammers are dangerous criminals. Something needs to be done about them and the government clearly aren't doing anything. If someone wants to bait them they've got my full support. The BBC actually had one of them digging for buried treasure in the middle of a public park in Belgium last year :-)

As for me, I'm a pretty peaceful type and never start trouble but if someone punches me I'll punch them back harder. If they con me out of money I'll take them for everything they have. If someone burgles my house I'll burn theirs down.

I don't reverse scam myself. I just report them. What's the point? They are pretty easy to spot and you've got to be a bit dim to fall for them. But if someone wants to have a bit of fun with these idiots I say good for them.

Unfortunately we now seem to live in a society that no longer takes appropriate action against criminals. I'm sorry if that goes against tedwilson's woolly liberal views but I think it's perfectly OK to turn the tables on these idiots and hit them where it hurts.

What I don't understand is why tedwilson says it's NOT OK to strike back at these people. He keeps questioning everyone's arguments (which all seem pretty clear to me) but doesn't seem to have one himself.

If you try to kill someone but don't succeed that's OK is it? If it's your first attempted murder or you've tried 1000's of times but not succeeded, then that's OK is it?

As far as I'm concerned, if someone sends one of these emails and a scam baiter responds by persuading them to hang themselves, I have no problem with that! They really do deserve it! And yes, it's morally justifiable.
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Let me get what your saying straight.

1) People who commit crimes are not guilty if
a) The crime was unsuccessful and unprofitable.
b) The person who commited the crime is poor.
c) It is the first time the person has commited this crime.

2) People who commit crimes , should not be punished in any way by the people they try to prey upon. People who are attacked (even by E mail fraud) have no right to retaliate and cause harm to those attacking.

I understand that you are extremely naive and unexperienced. You believe that people who commit crimes aren't bad just misunderstood. You also think that the world has some kind of formal order and international law and universal judgement. These people commit international crimes that our society has no way of prosecuting- so they go unpunished. There is no real international court of justice to file a complaint to against these anonymous theives.

So yes I have the right to retaliate and cause harm to people trying to steal my money through fraud. I need to make sure my retaliation is proportional and just.

1) Just - because I know the person I am targeting sent me the first E mail trying to scam me. Scamming people is against the law in most of the world. Meaning that the person sending me the mail is a criminal.

2) Proportionate - Making someone spend many hours copying a book sounds like a decent punishment for fraud (If the scammer were American and were to be caught he would spend a few months in prison , which is even worse than writing Harry Potter. Ted wouldn't want to be in prison either so maybe we shouldn't put criminals there at all).

Anyways in a social structure - A society has the right to find a means to protect itself. This is an interesting way the international community has found a way to protect itself from these 419 conmen.
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Hi guys we have a real issue with Work From Home Scams, there must be a way we can get these idiots back, funny thing is most are from the victims own country.
Any ideas, most start with ads and websites like:
"Executive Style Income"
Earn money from home approx $5000 per week
Results may vary
call 1800 XXXXXX

There must be a way to mess around with these non tax paying symbiotes
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well i got another 419 letter
so i got him to send a picture of
himself and my email adress on his
computer before i termated all post it
so if we get a data base of mug shots
of these clowns.
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