The UK site Scam Detectives has a fascinating interview with a convicted Nigerian email scammer:
Scam-Detective: How did you find victims for your scams?
John: First you need to understand how the gangs work. At the bottom are the “foot soldiers”, kids who spend all of their time online to find email addresses and send out the first emails to get people interested. When they receive a reply, the victim is passed up the chain, to someone who has better English to get copies of ID from them like copies of their passport and driving licenses and build up trust. Then when they are ready to ask for money, they are passed further up again to someone who will pretend to be a barrister or shipping agent who will tell the victim that they need to pay charges or even a bribe to get the big cash amount out of the country. When they pay up, the gang master will collect the money from the Western Union office, using fake ID that they have taken from other scam victims.
The full interview is worth checking out.
Chances are you’ve at some point received a poorly worded email from a troubled Nigerian official promising you piles of money. And while most people smartly send such missives to their junk folder, some people continue to fall for the scam.
Now, Ars Technica reports, the problem has led to a new online game that’s rising in popularity: Nigerian Scammer Baiting:
Scam baiters are the vigilante enforcers who come together to waste hours, weeks, or months of 419 scammers’ lives for nothing more than the satisfaction of knowing that they are distracting them from real victims. Though the world of 419 scams has existed since long before the Internet, people continue to fall for scammers in droves—certainly, scammers are making millions of dollars every year by promising money, goods, and romance that they never deliver on. That’s part of why scam baiting has actually become a somewhat popular pastime online, with thousands of users flocking to scam baiting forums to share stories and ideas on how to string along more scammers. And hey, why not? Most of us end up spending too much time screwing around on the Internet anyway—these folks just use that time to make scammers miserable.