Scamming The Scammers

Well, since it is July 4th week and many are away from their desks, I thought we could have some fun this week by taking a look at the practice of Scambaiting. Scambaiters are a group of individuals who take pride in messing with the heads of the so-called Nigerian Email Scammers. You know the guys: the rich princes who will send you millions for helping them get money out of the country. Scambaiters use various tactics to lure the scammer in, in the hopes of tying up their time, money, and resources chasing after money that is never going to come.

While it is certainly a dangerous game to play (rule one of Scambaiters is that you don't give out your real name, country of origin, or personal information, for your own protection -- these are criminals, after all) the best do it with a fertile imagination and plenty of humor.

Take for example Mike Berry (aka Shiver Metimbers) who has written a book on his exploits ("Greetings in Jesus Name! The Scambaiter Letters") and actually had one of his "victims" paint a large mural of the book's jacket cover. His exploits can be found at, but below is a synopsis of one of his typical efforts. The following took place over a 6 month period and resulted in the scammers recreating on videotape the Monty Python "Dead Parrot" routine, which can be viewed in full at the Web site.



In July of last year, Mike received an email from "Ony Obo" a "rich merchant" supposedly dying of cancer and with 8 million bucks in the bank that he needed Mike's help in distributing to charity. Mike then started baiting the hook.

Claiming he couldn't help Ony, Mike took on the identity of Brian Anthony, a dealer in art and artifacts who gives out scholarships to deserving artists. Taking the bait, Ony now forgot that he was a dying merchant and claimed to own an art studio and would love to be considered for a scholarship. Mike (Brian) convinced Ony to create a "bust" of Mike's head and send it to him. Of course Mike could not pay him until the bust was received but assured him that once the sculpture was received in good condition, he would have a check made out for between $25, 000 to $100,000. A man of his word, Ony had someone create the sculpture (pictures of which are on the site) and sent it.

Unfortunately Mike, an expert in Photoshop, claimed a rodent had gotten into the box and had destroyed the bust and sent Ony a Photoshop-doctored photo showing a squirrel popping out of the top of the head. Of course he could not pay for a damaged bust and so Mike directed him to the "shipping company" that supposedly handled the return of the artwork, which was completely fabricated by Mike including logos and receipts.

But Mike had another project for him: the creation of a videotape needed for a client. All Ony had to do was reenact a script and send him the videotape for review. Mike directed him to a video production company (also faked) that would help him. Eventually Mike got a video of two Nigerians enacting the Dead Parrot sketch from Monty Python.

The video company was "pleased" with the effort and was preparing to send Ony his check when tragedy struck: the video owner was arrested and his case was being investigated by Spanish detective Juan Trique Ponee. It was a Spanish inquisition. Now all Ony had to do to get his money was to come to London and testify at the trial.

After six months, one sculpture and videotape later, Ony seemed to have gotten the message and stopped contacting Mike. The full story is a great read and I recommend it to you for summer beach reading.

By the end, you do feel sorry for the scammers, but the Scambaiters warn against sympathy: these are criminals who cheat and defraud helpless victims every day out of millions of dollars.

Unless, of course, they email the wrong guy.

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