From the unexpected lottery winnings and Nigerian princes wanting to share their millions to beautiful overseas women who can’t wait to propose marriage, scammers will use just about any angle imaginable to get you to reach into your pocket and part with your cash. They are relentless, criminal fraudsters. Being the heartless fiends they are, they don’t discriminate on targets either, so whether you’re a pensioner or a highly paid business executive makes no difference to them. So long as you have access to money, then they want it!
It can be difficult to grasp (or believe) just how much is lost to scammers each year. Statistics show over $229 million was lost in 2015 in Australia alone and that figure can only be based on reported cases. USA statistics cruise into billions of dollars each year and the majority of victims are those that can least afford it. Individuals, moms, dads and grandparents who’ve been dutifully saving a small retirement nest egg their entire working lives, to only then lose a good chunk (or all) of it to a scamming criminal is heart-breaking. Given the profitability of scams, this isn’t about to change any time soon.
What you can do to help
The best way to fight these criminals is to simply educate the elderly and technology illiterate about how to recognize a scam. Basically, help explain and spread the word. If you want to make an even bigger contribution, then turn the tables on scammers and beat them at their game. Scam the scammer!
Playing scammers has become somewhat of a sport that has evolved over many years now. The idea behind scam baiting is to waste as much of a scammer’s time as possible, so that while they’re busy trying to extract money from you, they’re not targeting a real victim. This is known as the art of “Scam Baiting” and can be highly entertaining and satisfying!
If you’re going to get into Scam Baiting though, you need to exercise some caution. Never forget that at the end of the day, you’re dealing with, and taking on real criminals.
Below I’ll briefly discuss some basic techniques and rules of scam baiting safely, along with web resources where you can get tips on how to bait. How to protect your identity and get mentored on how to play these fools by experienced scam baiters from all around the world.
On with the show..
Scam Baiting Safely – Safety tips 101
Again, if you’re going to take on criminal scammers by baiting them, make sure you’ve taken appropriate precautions to protect your true identity.
Dealing with SMS Scams
Thus far, I’ve mainly talked about email originated scam attempts. You get an email for a “too good to be true-get rich quick” offer and you reply as though you’re genuinely interested. But then we have SMS and telephone scams to consider as well.
SMS scams generally consist of either Mobile Premium Services which try to trick you into going to a link and signing up for some ridiculously overpriced service, or a text message scam. Never reply to these scams or provide bank details if asked via text message.
This type of scam is difficult to bait, so the best way of dealing with an SMS scam is to simply delete the message, block the number on your mobile and then forget about it. Never use any “Unsubscribe” links provided in the SMS. It might say Unsubscribe, but what you may really be doing is agreeing to some type of subscription if you follow that link.
To fight SMS scams, report the number the message originated from to an online Scam Watching service so other people can benefit from your report. Some good scam watching sites you can report to will be listed in the AntiScammer resources towards the end of this article.
Telephone Call Scammers
Now these can be fun!
You get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the ATO or the IRS about a problem with your last tax return, or it might be from Microsoft or Dell about your computer sending out viruses, a utilities supply company telling you there’s a serious problem with your Gas or Electricity service or even the FBI! The list goes on and on.
Depending on how careful (or liberal) you’ve been with your personal details online, the caller may well know quite a bit about you. Your full name, home address, which service provider you use etc. Don’t let this fool you! If they ask for “any” sort of confirmation about confidential details, immediately treat the call with suspicion.
If you think the call “may” be legitimate (most won’t be) then ask for their employee identification number and tell them you’ll call back. Ignore any contact number that they may give you and call the company on a number you know is correct to confirm if the call was genuine or not.
That out of the way, the majority of the time it will be fairly obvious the caller is trying to confirm the details they already have about you, and/or trying to get additional information about you. As soon as that’s realized, then it’s game on and time to have some fun with them.
Don’t be rude or abusive. They’ll just hang up if you do that and move onto the next potential victim. Rather, sound genuinely interested (or concerned, depending on the nature of the call) and make excuses to play them along.
One favorite game of mine is to see how long I can keep them on the call. Ask them to hold the line for a moment and put your phone down for a while. Play some annoying and crappy on-hold music near the phone if you like and periodically check to see if they’re still on the line, always reassuring them that you won’t be much longer. My own record for keeping them on hold like this currently stands at 47 minutes!
Another favorite game I like to play with phone scammers is acting vague and unsure. I’ve had a 20 minute conversations with telephone scammers by telling them I didn’t own a mobile phone, after they had called me on my mobile! The growing frustration in their voices when trying to explain why I’m wrong is gold and it can be very hard to not break out laughing during a call.
Answer their questions with something irrelevant. If they ask about your home, tell them you live in a camper van or tent and don’t have electricity. Mention your cat that’s been missing for a couple of days and how you found it. Ask their advice on your pet goat’s strange skin condition and just make up other stories as you go along. Use your imagination – almost anything is fair game. As you improve at this, they’ll stay on the line with you for ages, and all the while you can feel confident that while they’re talking to you, they’re not talking to a real victim. You’ll be doing the world a huge favor and can have a big laugh about it later with your friends.
As long as you never give away that you’ve been playing them, or become abusive, the risks of telephone baiting are minimal. I have never hung up on a telephone scammer. They’ve always hung up on me in frustration and likely put a note next to my name that I’m clueless and not to bother calling me again.
Note: If you get a call with a recorded message that asks you to press a number on your phone to continue the call, hang up immediately. Never engage in this type of call and block the number if it’s persistent. Report the number to your telephone carrier.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are some excellent free resources around the world where you can get help with your scammer fighting activities. Here’s just a few..
● 419 Eater - Join this great community to meet and get mentored on Scam Baiting safely and effectively. Some of the things these guys have managed to get scammers to do has to be read to be believed and is highly entertaining.
● Scamwatch Australia - Report scams or get help if you’ve been targeted.
● Scams and Frauds USA - Report and get detailed information about current scams targeting US citizens.
Many other resources are available. Just use your favorite search engine to find them.
I hope I’ve aroused your curiosity to a point where you might consider joining the global fight of Scamming the Scammers! Or at least learn a little more about the sport. In the interest of brevity, I’ve not touched on other baiting methods, like setting up a virtual machine to allow tech scammers to connect to your computer. Google, Facebook, and YouTube are your friends. Learn more about other techniques there.
One final comment. If you go to the first couple of Anti-Scammer resources I’ve listed and listen (or read) about past documented scam baits, it’s often easy to start to feel a little sorry for the scammers. Never forget or lose sight of the fact that these people are criminals. They are not poor or people looking for a way to feed their families, no matter what yarn they try to spin to you. Most live very comfortable lives as a result of their criminal activities.
Should you wish to contact me about the content of this article, simply message me on Experts Exchange or make a comment below.
Till the next time...