Here are tips on scambaiting, gleaned from Contributors worldwide.
This is not the world's healthiest hobby. Go outside, get some fresh air!
Well all right, if you insist, here goes.
Give no (real) personal info like your name, address, phone number.
Do NOT give out your bank account number, e-mail anyone a scan of your driver's license, passport, etc. On the other hand, if you could doctor up an ID for, say, the Republic of North Slobbovia. And complain about the high taxes there, and how you've always thought of relocating to some place friendlier to free enterprise, like Lagos.
Do NOT go anywhere to meet scammers even if accompanied by your sensei, sifu, or drill instructor. Such engagements should involve the police.
Don't call them on the phone.
You need not have received a scam letter to answer one. Just pick one and pretend it was sent to you. Express mystified, or enthusiastic, or skeptical initial interest.
Where to get scammers to play with
If you're one of the few people on earth who don't get scam letters:
Visit talk boards where people trade these things, like the Anti-Scammer Message Board (see link on main page). Please don't screw up ongoing anti-scams. In fact, just lurk for a while and pick up pointers and etiquette.
Search the web for the word 'guymen' or 'mugu'. Chances are you'll find talk boards that 419er scammers have staked out by posting such key phrases as a warning to other scammers. We saw one posted on a support group board for victims of brain tumors.
ISPs constantly close scammer accounts. Any scammer e-mail account more than a few weeks old may be defunct.
Use fake info
They are trying to rob you. It is quite OK to invent personal coordinates. The Lads are inventing everything they tell you, even to the point of using the names of other (real, living) people - well known officials in Nigeria, for instance. What's the harm in you being James Bond for a day?
Use a disposable e-mail account.
Phone number: phone booth outside a truck stop, police station, psychic hotline (expensive, not that the scammer will pay) ... maybe the phone number of another scammer!
Fax: sign up for eFax (use the disposable e-mail account and bogus information)
You're not obliged to give them any numbers, though. Besides, maybe you have a hearing problem, or your commanding officer won't let you use the phone, or aliens are tapping your phone. You can kill a lot of time this way.
Address: if you must have one, get a PO Box. Get someone to set it up in another town maybe.
Make up bank names, bank accounts, names of towns. The Lads aren't big on factual continuity, why should you be?
Pointers from "Seymour": (we haven't tried these but "Seymour" is a veteran scambaiter)
"They [eFax] assign you a number randomly, so the area code could be anywhere in the country, but that's all the better when dealing with the Lads. You download their reader software...I was afraid that it might contain spyware, but I researched it pretty thoroughly and it seems to be okay. When installing it, just be sure to unmark the checkboxes or it will take over your browser. Even if you uncheck everything, it will install an icon in the Explorer menu bar, but that seems a small price to pay to get to see the tripe from the "Central Bank of Nigeria."
For voicemail, I like Laservoicemail:
Another source, which I think is related to the one
above, is http://www.k7.net/
More about expensive phone numbers
interesting remarks from Mr IC
He says 419ers call random pagers (!) or send faxes to businesses offering to buy any extra stock on hand - they do bother to make the items related to the kind of business but still often put their location as Nigeria on the faxes.
The call back number is an 809 prefix which is the number of the Virgin Islands. Anyone can get a number and starting charging anyone who calls a very large charge to their phone bill.
Mr. IC points out that this could also work against the lads.
"I would suggest you set up your own 809 prefix number and put it on your website so that your members can give it out as their phone number and maybe even a second number of course to be used as the number of your bank or lawyer or whatever. I'm sure you could ask for volunteers on your website to set this all up. You could really lead the lads on and keep saying that you swear this is your number and you waited all day for their call telling them how angry you are and demand that they keep trying. Can you imagine how many times you could get them to try your number before they received their phone bill?! You could nail these guys with large charges on their phone bills and keep a running total on your website - I would suggest donating the "profits" to charity."
"Do not to call any numbers you do not recognize with the 809 prefix. I'm not 100% sure on the 809 but it wouldn't be hard to figure out with a phone call to Ma Bell asking about area codes that can charge you for a call."[For that matter be careful of any area codes in the Caribbean. Or any strange number you're supposed to call back. Sad but there you are. Note: the 419ers often don't bother to pay their phone bills. They seem to treat them as disposable. ]
But what should I say?
Let your imagination run wild. Invent some weird family or business situation. Be somewhere else - North Pole, on an ocean voyage. Pretend to be weaker, sicker, and more gullible than you really are. (The Lads may offer comforting comments but they have no pity. None. They'll zero right back in on the transaction.)
If you're stuck, use themes and character names from a movie, book, or historical event. (Captain Picard, the Kray brothers, Bart Simpson, Ozzie Osbourne and Cthulhu have all made an appearance here.)
If you know several languages, feel free to use them. Finnish, Zulu, French, Spanish, Arabic, Igbo, Afrikaans and Italian have all spiced up Scamorama. Throw in gratuitous proverbs. Drag in God. (The Lads are big on that.) Drift off topic. Ask about their personal lives. Talk politics. Suggest romantic interest.
Waste time. Misunderstand them. Take offence where none was intended. Insist on being addressed properly. Say you didn't receive something they sent. Say you couldn't read their attachment. Send your response minus the vowels. Be confused about why their names keep changing (they will). Say you called but you couldn't get through.
The typical Lad scam involves a man pretending to be a woman, then referring you to his real self. They don't like being taken for women. Insist on dealing with the woman if you sense discomfort in this area. Remark on the incompetence and dishonesty with which she seems to be surrounded.
Invent friends, lovers, employees, who secretly undercut you with their own deals. If these unfaithful people have their own weird, time-wasting quirks, so much the better.
Ask the scammers for money. Claim someone else made you a better offer. They don't like it when other scammers compete with them. Negotiate percentages of the imaginary $40 million.
Demand a token of their sincerity, such as a photo of them holding a silly sign. The Lads like to make you fill out forms - make up a form of your own, a long and confusing one (think of your country's tax forms) and have them fill it out. Then criticize their spelling. The most brilliant example to date is that of Prof. Thomas Mallory of Miskatonic University, who got a Lad to apply for a position on the staff.
Arrange non-existent flights to wherever they're planning to meet and mug you. Have them wait, holding the silly sign, at the airport, or in front of a well-known web cam. If it's a ribald slogan in your favorite language, so much the better.
Invent a story about why you couldn't make the flight. Get scared at the last minute, ask them why your phone sounds like it's being tapped.
Go through drug withdrawal. Go on vacation. Get sick. Get really sick, die, and have your wealthy, lonely brother take over the correspondence. You can get pretty outrageous - some Lads will stick with it for a long time. They may not write you every day. You'll have to learn the rhythm of your particular Lad. It depends on what else they've got going. We have sometimes thought that a Lad knows exactly what's going on and is having a bit of fun himself. (Few agree with us.)
Send two scammers' mails to each other.
Tell them you'll to double-check their story with your old friend (name a well-known Nigerian official).
What about phony documents?
If the Lads do it, so can you! Just don't do anything illegal (in your particular jurisdiction). Is making a driver's license from West Dakota a crime? We dream of things that never were, and say why not?
When should I stop?
Whenever you like. Stop if you get bored, or it feels unsafe. If reading this web site makes you not want to correspond with scammers, we'll be equally pleased. You could be outside playing in the sunshine.
Should I flip them off at the end?* (American slang for rude gesture)
You can, but remember, in the most successful sting, the stingee doesn't realize he's been stung. Also this saves him for future sport.
Can I do evil crackrz stuff to them?
We don't know your awesome power! We do not teach that stuff. Maybe you could teach us.
How can I trace their mails and find their ISP?
There are ever so many tutorials and books on this. Start with the Scamorama header page, then google on. You're bound to find lots of info.
What about bringing in the police?
If your Lad is in your neck of the woods (see Headers above), do not take risks. If you feel in any way threatened, contact the police. Local police forces often have financial crimes units. National agencies take an interest (see Law links on Scamorama).
Police forces in West African countries have arrested 419ers but if you are living in West Africa, you are certainly a better judge of the effectiveness of law enforcement on this matter than we.
In South Africa, Holland, the UK, Thailand, the US, Australia, there have been arrests and prosecutions. Tread lightly and talk to law enforcement if you feel there is a prospect of an arrest. Keep the headers. Banks do not like being impersonated. They have their own fraud departments. We can't promise they'll be responsive, however. This is all we'll say for now - Scamorama is really more about comedy than law enforcement.
Will you post my correspondence?
If it's funny and imaginative, quite possibly. If it's uncomfortably crude (yes, that's subjective), or if it's racist, probably not. If your stuff isn't used, that doesn't mean it wasn't funny or imaginative. Maybe Scamorama never heard of the TV show theme you're using, or maybe the inbox is overflowing. Please be patient.
And don't take risks, just in hopes of being posted! Stay safe out there.
Do others know more about anti-scamming?
Oh yes. See the Anti-Scamming links on Scamorama.
UPDATE: new pointers as they arrive
From a Kindly Contributor::
[If you intend to record phone calls:]
He posts messages on bulletin boards on behalf of scammers :)
"My brothers, I am a confidence trickster from Nigeria. I use guestbooks like this to find victims to rob them and humiliate them. Something is telling me this is wrong. Please can you send me some spiritual advice, to take me away from this evil. Frances - but you can call me Mugu.
From a Kindly Contributor in Georgia USA:
There are two real places point MUGU state park (www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=630) and the point mugu federal credit union (www.pmfcu.org) which may be amusing.
I've been subject to these scam attempts since 1989 after I first visited
Nigeria and left behind a business card. Of course they were actual letters
in those days. May I suggest a new tactic in baiting the scammers - their
mastery of the English language is sometimes laughable, so how about
referring their letters to the company graphologist who might make
disparaging remarks about their intelligence/education before deciding that
they were genuine?
I told one lad that I went to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington and gave
them his name as a reference to get a visa. He freaked. Hahahhah
Hey: We haven't tried this, and don't yet have a good body of data linking 419ers to phishing, though it would make sense. That web site may be down now, but the technique might work for other fake bank web sites. Try at your own risk!
Love your site. It got me started in the baiting biz 5 months ago. I have led about 25 mugus down the path to nowhere so far.
There are two real places point MUGU state park (www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=630) and the point mugu federal credit union (www.pmfcu.org) which may be amusing.From a Kindly Contributor in the UK:
I've been subject to these scam attempts since 1989 after I first visited Nigeria and left behind a business card. Of course they were actual letters in those days. May I suggest a new tactic in baiting the scammers - their mastery of the English language is sometimes laughable, so how about referring their letters to the company graphologist who might make disparaging remarks about their intelligence/education before deciding that they were genuine?graphologist: someone who tries to study the character of a person based on that person's handwriting
I told one lad that I went to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington and gave them his name as a reference to get a visa. He freaked. Hahahhah
We haven't tried this, and don't yet have a good body of data linking 419ers to phishing, though it would make sense. That web site may be down now, but the technique might work for other fake bank web sites. Try at your own risk!
Love your site. It got me started in the baiting biz 5 months ago. I have led about 25 mugus down the path to nowhere so far.
Advice from Conor O'Prolite on how to generate a newspaper clipping:
"I use http://www.fodey.com/generators/newspaper/snippet.asp for generating cuttings."
end of pointer section
Is this where you mention the opportunity to subscribe?
Yes! You can subscribe in multiples of $10.
What do you do with the subscription money? Is that a scam too?
No, the money gets spent, all right.
And what do I get?
Continued Scamorama and a warm fuzzy feeling.
Is there any connection between subscriptions and being posted?
No, it's not pay to play.
But don't you sell mugs and mousepads?
Yes and shirts and tote bags, here: Scam-o-store.
Do you want more pointers? Sure, send them in!