Turning the tables on the 419 scammers
November 21, 2003 5:26 AM   Subscribe

"Although this letter will come to you as a surprise..." Fed up with having their inboxes clogged with emails from Nigerian fraudsters promising untold riches, the victims are finally hitting back in what has been described as the Internet's first blood sport.
posted by tranquileye (16 comments total)
I haven't laughed this hard in ages! Great post.
posted by damnitkage at 6:18 AM on November 21, 2003

Agreed. Great post. In fact, It's just the right size for a FPP, every link is interesting, the poster did his/her homework, the FPP hits all the criteria of the MeFi guidelines, it's both thought-provoking and good for a laugh, and I personally can't think of a single negative thing to say about this post. I nominate this for best front page post of the year.

I used to say the only and best way to handle spam is to ignore it. However, now I'll have to put a caveat to that stance. The second best way to handle spam is to ignore it - the best way to handle it is to humiliate the spammers. ...Just don't get yourself killed in the process.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:39 AM on November 21, 2003

Yes, yes, that's all well and good.

I'm not going to nominate it as best FPP, because it's just a repeat of so many before it.

I mean, really.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:04 AM on November 21, 2003

What Zach said.

And, yes, the 419 scam has been discussed before, but this post advances the discussion by focussing on the clever people scamming the scammers.
posted by johnnydark at 7:08 AM on November 21, 2003

Hasn't this post already been done 2 or 3 times on Metafilter already? Still, it never fails to please.

The 419 scam in my email in box has been tailing off lately, though.

Now it's the "Penis Patch" ads which really piss me off, and I found myself replying to one of those a few weeks ago:

"Dear Sir/Madam - Thank you for your kind and tempting product offer, but I find your product unecessary as I have already achieved my target size for the length and girth of my member (exactly matched to the corresponding sexual organ possesed by my dear wife) by means of certain secret methods I acquired while travelling in Bali. I was enjoying a number of refreshing alcoholic beverages with an elder of his village who, after the third such beverage (the name of which escapes me at the moment), began to boast of the size of his sexual organ. I expressed my incredulity, at which point the man opened his garment and displayed the monstrous object. I was suitably impressed and asked him if the trait ran in his family. No, he replied, we have certain methods. Two drinks later, a bribe of several hundred ( US$ ) had secured a promise to reveal these methods.

The man was true to his word and, I'll have to tell you - after 6 months during which I daily employed this curious Balinese cocktail of stretching techniques, breath control, the use of lead weights, and also a foul-tasting herbal mixture - my sexual organ quickly grew to unexpected proportions. The experiment was so successful, in fact, that my wife requested at the 13th month that I stop my regimen.

I am writing to extend to you a special, one time only business offer.............
posted by troutfishing at 7:09 AM on November 21, 2003

Yeah, I would guess that everyone has seen those sites by now. I read several of the letter exchanges on the 419 Eater site, and my favorite is this one, where he posed as Gillian Anderson "and her brother, Neo".

When I see those pathetic guys balancing a loaf of bread on their head and holding a bottle of wine to their temple, I kind of feel sorry for them. But if you remember that some people have actually been killed in these scams it seems like justified retaliation. Besides, this guy doesn't exactly look like he's doing it to help his suffering family.

And for all those geeks it's an outlet for their pent-up aggression -- those who have been bullied on the schoolyards can now bully Nigerian scammers by means of their superior intellect and Photoshop skillz. Kind of like class warfare and "revenge of the nerds" mixed into one.
posted by Eloquence at 7:17 AM on November 21, 2003

I strung my scammer, Farnadez Mobutu, along for over a month, relishing his preposterous documentation that assigned me the rights to the $20million-worth of diamonds (to which I was going to have 10%). He spent a fortune in cell-phone calls from Holland (as I told him that I couldn't hear the internet phone).

He asked me to come to Amsterdam airport with 7000 Euros (approx 7000 us $) "to pay the storage charges on the diamonds". I told him that I couldn't find a flight to Amsterdam at such short notice, and to meet me at Maastricht, as I wanted maximum inconvenience for him.

He called my cellphone from the airport to ask where I was; I told him that immigrartion had stopped me as I had so much cash, and that I'd had to tell them about our scheme, and that I'd given the photograph he sent me (so I'd recognise him at the airport) to the immigration police so that they could go and get him in the Arrivals hall to corroborate my story. He slammed the phone down and I never heard from him again.

posted by Pericles at 7:22 AM on November 21, 2003

Way to go Pericles cool story. Bastards.
posted by stbalbach at 7:31 AM on November 21, 2003

The guy with the bread on his head on this page just makes me chuckle.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 7:33 AM on November 21, 2003

What worried me about my guy was that I managed to get the address of the internet cafe he was using and his girlfriend (he wanted me to send money to him via western union; I told him I couldn't, but would send two 50 euro notes to him). I got photos of him (self-link) but neither the dutch police nor the british police replied to the email I sent with this information.
posted by Pericles at 7:45 AM on November 21, 2003

True, we've been over this ground many times, but the Guardian story is so funny (Princess Tikka Masala!) I don't begrudge the repeat. Still, I agree with thanatopsis, "front page post of the year" is a bit much.
posted by languagehat at 8:09 AM on November 21, 2003

Always worth mentioning is "Diamond" David Lee Roth, and his many encounters with 419 scammers. Classic stuff.
posted by Ljubljana at 8:46 AM on November 21, 2003

I dunno; I get spam for penis patches... and security patches. I'm confused...
posted by baylink at 9:40 AM on November 21, 2003

Oh, and re the picture on the 419eater page, I think we can all agree that "Semen Stains" would make a great name for a rock band.
posted by baylink at 9:44 AM on November 21, 2003

Am I the only one who sees a (not so) subtle racism in this? These people certainly deserve our derision, just like any spammer/scammer, but I've never seen people go to such lengths to mete out "justice" to any other folks. Moreover, this unique brand of vigiliantism places a strong emphasis on visual ridicule. Ha ha, look at the silly, stupid black man!

You never hear tales about people scamming the "make money fast" scammers. Why is that?
posted by mkultra at 10:44 AM on November 21, 2003

Mkultra I was just thinking the same thing - "Dance, Boy Dance!" I sense a vague tie to british colonialist humiliation fetishization, or the opening boxing scene in "The Invisible Man" .

Or maybe I just completely lack a sense of humor.
posted by pomegranate at 12:22 PM on November 21, 2003

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