Thursday, May 17, 2007

"I crave your distinguished indulgence" part 1

If you have an email address, at some time you have gotten the "Nigerian scam" offering or some variant. Someone wants to give you a large amount of money, but to get it you have to give a small amount of money - it's a scam as old as dirt. Or more accurately, the concept dates back to the 1500s when it was known as the "Spanish Prisoner" con.

I heard a friend say recently that he likes to answer back to these email con men and engage them in a conversation. He said maybe it keeps them from pestering someone else. An altruistic act.

Imagine my surprise when I open the June issues of Atlantic and there's a story titled "The Art of Scam-Baiting." (I'd link it for you but Atlantic requires a subscription so here's an excerpt.)

A vicious and intriguing cyber-war has broken out in the Spamosphere, or more specifically in what I’d call the “Scamosphere.”

I’m speaking of the emergence of “scam-baiters,” the avengers of the Scamosphere, who’ve arisen to take on “419” con artists, the scammers who pose in spam e-mails as agents for the widows of deposed finance ministers of Dubai or vice chairmen of the Ivory Coast Cocoa Trading Board. The ones who promise you a share of a multimillion-dollar “inheritance” stashed in a Swiss bank account in return for your help in getting access to it by posing as the legal beneficiary. The ones who then try to persuade you (and it’s amazing how many are blinded enough by greed to believe the pitch) to fork over one “advance fee” after another to “estate attorneys,” “private bank managers,” and other fictional “facilitators”—until you awaken to the fact that you’ve been taken or are broke. (The name 419 comes from the number of the section of the Nigerian criminal code that applies to fraud, though the advance-fee fraud is actually a variation on the centuries-old “Spanish Prisoner” ploy.)
The photo here is from the site 419 Eater. This is a meeting ground for the scam baiters, and the photo is an example of the nutty stuff they get the scammers to do with the promise of getting the money they are after. There is page after page of photos and some of them made me laugh out loud.

OK, kids, digest all this, review the selected reference materials, and I will follow up with you on this next time...

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