Scambaiting: what is it and how to become a scambaiter?

15 December 2017

Have you ever thought of taking revenge on scammers and fraudsters for their tricks with the use of junk emails, false phone calls from the revenue service, letters notifying of unexpected lottery prize, text messages requesting money for a friend or a relative and other types of con games? The idea, as it appears, is not very unique today, as active anti-fraud movements have been in existence for several years so far. They are commonly known as scambaiters.

Scambaiting concept

Scambaiting is a concept used to describe practices of vigilant people aimed at fighting back illegal actions of scammers and fraudsters chasing to trick naïve victims into deceptive promises and schemes, the ultimate goal of which is to misappropriate the hard earned money of ordinary Internet users.

Scambaiting may feature both active character expressed in actions taken directly against the scammers and informational nature, such as warning people on dedicated forums or websites against new emerging types of scams and methods used by the fraudsters.

Put simply, scambaiting is an action of scamming a scammer, when a user pretends to be a credulous victim and answers the letter or otherwise contacts back the scammers, playing games with them to waste their time and resources, and in some cases even to make money on them, thus inflicting vengeance on them for their fraudulent practices.

Scambaiting concept

Advance-fee scam

It should be clarified that the most popular type of sham, which is one of the most efficient ones in fact, is advance-fee scam. It involves deceiving victims into paying some fee for processing the transaction, as a result of which the victims would allegedly be able to come into fortune left to them by some forty-second cousin. Playing upon the avidity and greediness of people, scammers successfully persuade them that they are legal successors to some rich individual, who wants to make a property over to them, and to become wealthy they just need to pay processing fees.

While this case is most common, there are other types of such advance-fee scam, including the trick with the child adoption. A scammer writes to a victim that he/she is dying of AIDS or any other fatal disease and needs to lodge their children with the victim, and the children would usually come with some money to be provided to a would-be guardian. In order to formalize the act of children transfer a victim is required to pay a fee.

Sometimes advance-fee scam is called a 419 scam. 419 is a section in the Nigerian Criminal Code describing penalties and charges for the fraud crime. While there is a great number of scams coming from Nigeria, they may also originate from other countries.

Most popular scambaiting strategies

Scambaiting is per se a social engineering plot, when an activist fighting the scam makes lemonade out of lemons. In fact, fraudsters use similar tricks to defraud unsuspecting victims. Thus, a scambaiter step by step tries to win confidence of a scammer in order to make that swindler to smart for the committed crimes, and this may involve collecting information about the scammer in order to send it to law enforcement authorities, wasting their time and even entice them to pay some money.

Most popular scambaiting methods include these major schemes:

– Straight bait, it is a general and the most common category of scambaiting used by most activists. It involves simple email message sending to a scammer

– Phone baiting, it resembles the first category, but involves a phone talk with a scammer

– Cash bait, this category of scambaiting presupposes the trick of persuading a scammer to pay money. However, this type of scambaiting is basically an illegal practice, as scammers pay with stolen credit cards

– Freight baiting, this practice involves sending something valuable to a scammer, and a scammer in turn pays for the shipment. This kind of scambaiting also involves payments with stolen credit cards, and is disapproved by many scambaiting communities.

Some terminology

Mugu or Lad: Mugu stands for “idiot” in a language spoken in Nigeria, as scammers call their victims a Mugu. In scambaiting Mugu and Lad terms are used to denote a scammer.

Oga: a big boss of scammers. In most cases minor scammers owe some money to some senior criminal called oga.

Burn: blowing the cover to a scammer to put into the picture of the scammer’s being tricked. This is not recommended, because in this case scammers are getting wiser, orchestrating more sophisticated scam schemes.

Trophy: a proof of a baiter that he/she has tricked some scammer in fact.

Some terminology

Recommendations to beginner scambaiters

Below are most frequent recommendations given by scambaiting communities on the internet. By the way, one of the largest and most popular scambaiting Internet resources is

Fake personality. A scambaiter needs fake email address, name, phone and other personal details in order to contact a scammer for the ultimate purpose to avoid mistakes and to prevent the cover from blowing. In most cases it is recommended to use free email services like Gmail.

Fake information. Addresses and any other personal data should be totally fake. Scambaiters should not disclose their real information. In order to solve the problem with the phone number, scambaiters are recommended to use to make calls, and when a scammer asks why a scambaiter never answers the calls, the explanation may include such viable reasons as working, or shopping.

Fake ID. Scammers may ask for providing an ID, in this case a scambaiter may decide to make a fake ID, but it should be noted that in this case an activist may indirectly encourage a scammer to use this fake ID for illicit purposes.

Making a contact. Some users create separate email accounts for catching spam messages from fraudsters. That is not necessary, because in most cases scammers send so many spam emails, that they never remember the addressees. That is why a scambaiter may just copy a scam email on the web and paste it into a new email message marked as “Re”, thus posing to be a ‘reply’ to the scammer’s message.

It is not for squeamish people. Be ready for threats, witch curses, invective and other unpleasant things. Remember, that you are dealing with criminals.

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