How To

How To Be a Scambaiter and Get Some Justice

By Sydney Butler / June 1, 2018

Scammers are the bane of the internet. Most of us easily dismiss emails claiming to be from Nigerian princes or lotteries that we never entered. However, millions of people still end up losing their time and money to scumbag scammers from all over the world.

There is, however, a group of people who are fighting back against scammers. They take great pleasure in wasting these scammer’s time. Sometimes they even get them to reveal their identities. These people are known as “Scambaiters”. More and more people are taking up scambaiting as a sort of hobby. One that is both entertaining and could potentially save a real victim from getting fleeced.

So how do you become a scambaiter? What exactly do they do? I was wondering the same thing and here is what I found.

The Art of Conversation

Scambaiters do exactly the opposite of what we all have been taught when it comes to scamming emails. Instead of ignoring these messages, the scambaiter engages in a conversation with the scammer. They pretend to be a gullible victim and string the scammer along or get them to do specific things.

The goals and strategies that scambaiters use are varied and have different endgames. The one thing uniting them is that none of these plans are good for the scammers! So where do you start if you want to get on the scambaiting game?

Joining a Scambaiter Community

The most straightforward way is to join a scambaiting forum. Here you can learn from other scambaiters, get advice and share your exploits. It’s probably a good idea to spend quite a lot of time lurking on sites like 419 Eater so that you can see how various people approach the art of scambaiting.

Once you feel comfortable enough and you’ve absorbed good advice from other community members, you can attempt some scambaiting yourself.

Important Things to Remember

Before you dive headfirst into the game of scambaiting, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Always keep your own safety in mind, but also remember that scambaiting is meant to be fun. You’ll probably never get a final reply once the scammer realizes you are messing with them, but rest assured they are anything but happy with all the real victims they missed out on robbing.

Getting Your Hook In

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When replying to the scam email, don’t bother writing too much detail at first. All you need to do is say that you are interested and would like more information. Even if the original scam email already included everything the scammer wants you to do, ask them for the instructions again.

Every time you get a reply, interrogate or ask about one more detail. Ask them why they need a particular piece of information. Does the scan have to be in color or black and white? What if you can only pay in cash? It doesn’t really matter as long as each email you send back gives the scammer false hope that they might still get some of your money.

Making Scammers Do Dumb Stuff

The practice of getting a scammer to do something really idiotic in front of a camera and then send it to you is basically a form of trophy hunting. The idea is to let the scammer understand that you really would like to send them the money and information they asked for. The thing is, you can’t be sure about trusting them. So you need some sort of proof that they are a real person and you can go ahead.

Often the request is to provide a photo of them holding a sign with a specific message. Maybe you want a recording of them repeating a phrase. How about a wild goose chase to photograph themselves at the local zoo or while holding a banana. Scambaiters are always trying to top themselves.

There is a bit of a dark side to this, however. Sometimes the people in the pictures are not, in fact, the scammers themselves, but some poor schmuck who was threatened to do it.

Never Send them Money!

Piles of Coins

If your scambaiting is going well and you’re having fun, you might be tempted to fork over a nominal amount in order to keep them on the hook. In the end, it’s your money, but this violates an unwritten scambaiter principle. Never give these scammers a single cent of your money.  It doesn’t matter if it’s one dollar or a hundred, if you get to the point where things won’t keep going without a little money to grease the wheels, you should just walk away.

Stealing Money from Scammers - Don’t Do It

Some scambaiters aim to defraud the scammers and get some of that stolen money back from them. They might trick them into paying small amounts or paying for goods that will never arrive. While it might seem like this makes you a digital Robin Hood, the truth is that you are actually just compounding the crime. After all, you are being paid with money taken from stolen credit cards. In general, most scambaiting communities look down on this sort of thing.

Don’t Get Into a Talk with a Bot

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Everyone seems to be using chatbots these days. That also includes some scammers. You might be trying to waste the time of a piece of software. Since that’s entirely pointless, be sure to ask specific and difficult questions. If the person can’t answer them convincingly just move on.

You Can Use a Bot Yourself Though

Who has the time to do all their own scambaiting these days? I’m kidding of course, but if you want to waste a scammer’s time without all the hassle of actually doing it yourself, use a bot. For example, there’s the wonderful Re:scam. All you have to do is forward the email to the Re:scam email address and the bot will take over. If the scammer takes the bait, you'll even get updates on the conversation.

Doing it for the Right Reasons

Scambaiting can be a lot of fun and it's perfectly fine to enjoy doing it. However, if you're doing simply because you enjoy being mean, well maybe you should think twice about being a scambaiter. The art of scambaiting is mainly a public service. It's not a license to be a bad guy or a vigilante. If you can keep that philosophy in mind when hunting for the real bad guys, you can be a great scambaiter.

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