When the spam hits the fan!

I was bored and debating what to talk about tonight. So, when I couldn’t decide, I chose to ask a couple of friends, one who pointed me to the BBC news article that triggered this diatribe.


I am the financial controller of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). I got your Contact address from an associate working with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council. I and my colleagues are officials in charge of offshore remittance in this Corporation (NNPC).

We are seeking your assistance to transfer of Forty Two Million (US$42,000,000.00) to your account for further private investment.

Everyone has seen at least one of these types of e-mails in their pop box.

This insidiously ridiculous type of spam is commonly known as four-one-nines after the Nigerian criminal code that prohibits such practices. Their basic premise is to attract greedy or gullible investors who are invited to hand over money or bank account details on the promise of large future payments, which (funnily enough) never arrive.

Well, for at least one set of scammers, the tables were turned as the scam fell on them. BBC News World Edition recent news article on this situation reported that :

A court in Nigeria has sentenced a woman to two and a half years in prison for her part in the country’s biggest ever international fraud case.

The arrests and persecution are being hailed a victory by the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria. This organisation has been trying to cleanup the world-wide reputation of it’s nation, as well as the … well, let me leave it in their own words from the website:

The EFCC will curb the menace of corruption that constitutes the cog in the wheel of progress; protect national and foreign investments in the country; imbue the spirit of hard work in the citizenry and discourage ill gotten wealth; identify illegally acquired wealth and confiscate it; build an upright workforce in both public and private sectors of the economy and; contribute to the global war against financial crimes.

Of course, there are other ways to deal with these perpetrators. You can always follow the safe, sensible and friendly advice of The 419 Coalition, or then there’s the fun way … Scambaiting.

If you’ve never heard of it before, scam baiters pretend to be willing victims who turn the tables on the 419 spammers and slowly draw their newly found prey into an oft lengthy discourse, for a number of purposes, from the mere desire to waste the scammers’ time, seeking to embarrass them, hoping to cause them to reveal information which can be passed on to authorities, or simply (and quite commonly) to amuse the baiter.

On this line, one common goal of scam baiting has become the photographic trophy. The scammers are goaded or cajoled by the victims into having a picture taken of themselves while holding specific signs, holding certain poses and, if at all possible, with some form of ridiculous prop.

Some scambaiters have also managed to send the scammers to a Western Union office to collect the supposedly sent money, get them to book hotels for them or even succeeded in receiving cash from the fraudsters themselves.

Some of the more amusing techniques utilised include giving the scammers a long, silly questionnaire to fill out, filling up the scammers inboxes with large attachments, making scammers call the baiters back on the telephone (usually utilising anonymous VOIP numbers) to waste their time and money and, ofcourse, hacking into the scammers’ email accounts in order to find their victims’ addresses, in order to send them warning letters.

A recent technique that was developed is called an “ASEM bait” (Accidentally Sent E-Mail). The aim is to fool the scammer into believing that the scambaiter has accidentally sent an e-mail to them when the “victim” is actually intending to send the e-mail to another scammer.

In my humble opinion, one of the best sites for this phenomena is the 419 Eater. Check it out for an afternoon waster …


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