The Ethics of Scambaiting
Most decent people who stumble across this site are initially amused
by the antics but then start to feel some pangs of conscience -
sure its funny but maybe its not very *nice* to string
them along like that. After all, surely they wouldnt be doing
it unless they had to
Over time there have been some excellent answers to this question
so it was decided to collate these together.
1. Surely no one believes it when they get one
of these letters?
It often comes as a surprise when you hear of someone who actually
believed that some ex-presidents son wanted their help to rescue
the family fortune. In February 2004, Nigerian Finance Minister
In Nigeria, we are always amazed that anyone could be
so stupid as to respond to such an offer.
The fact is that many people do believe these letters enough
to make 419 crime quite a lucrative money earner. It has been estimated
that there are well over 250,000 scammers involved in 419 scams
worldwide and that they reap in over US$1.5 billion annually. The
average victim pays out US$20,000.
People who already know that its a scam tend not to get taken
in. But there are so many variations from help me get this
dead mans money out of the country before the nasty government
confiscates it to Im dieing. Please look
after my children when Im gone that it is quite
easy for someone who does not know to get sucked in. And of course
once the scammers have their claws into their victim they use every
trick they know to make them pay more and more until there is nothing
ScamPatrol comes across between 15-20 victims per week, many of
who have already sent money at the time they were warned.
Sadly, many of those are already so convinced by the story
that they refuse to believe the warnings and continue to contact
2. But only people who are greedy and a bit dishonest
themselves would get sucked in. After all most of the letters require
you to pass yourself off as a relative on legal documents so they
deserve what they get.
Many of the early letters did state either that person x (usually
a foreign national) had died without relatives and the corrupt government
would confiscate this money if person Y (the victim) doesnt
impersonate a relative to claim the money. Another variation was
that the money had been obtained by over-invoicing oil contracts
and they needed help to sneak it out of the country. But usually
these letters had a disclaimer to the effect of, "This is a
completely legitimate transaction. It will be carried out legally,
and you will be protected from any breach of the law." This
was to reassure more honest victims that everything was above board
Now letters come in hundreds of different formats just check
out the Surplus Letters Forum! There are the well-known next-of-kin
letters, the orphan scams, repentant dying sinner needs help giving
fortune away to charity, tsunami victim donation appeals, fake cheque
scams, wash-wash, anti-scam scams (been a victim of 419 crime? Well
get your money back for you at a price!) and more.
Good, well-meaning people get tricked. Consider this woman:
From: XXX XXX Jennings <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Amanda Fairheart-Smythe
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2004 12:09:16 -0600 (Central Standard Time)
Dear Amanda Fairheart-Smythe,
I wish I had received this email over 3 years ago. This man has
stolen all that I had saved and money that I borrowed. I heard
from his Mother (?) telling me a sad story that she was dying
from Aids and wanted me to take her children as my own when she
died. She had set up an Inheritance account and put it in my name.
How stupid could I have been? What I sent was to cover legal fees,
legal documents, etc... The money was never sent here. I have
heard in the last couple of days from the bank and have found
out that Kwesi Bandermann and others are thieves. Why did it take
over 3 years to find this out? I would never put your informants
life in danger. My life is in danger now as well as my family.
I have received threats this week. I am so afraid now and don't
know what to do. How did you know that Kwesi Bandermann was expected
to arrive here by plane? He did not arrive and I pray to God he
doesn't. How did you get this email address? Only 2 people had
it. It was Mr. Richard Meddings and Kwesi Bandermann. I can tell
you the whole story if you need it.
XXX XXX Jennings
All she wanted to do was adopt some children whose mother had died
of AIDS. She was scammed over 3 years and lost vast amounts of money.
Greedy? I dont think so.
Also consider the vast number charity scams. Less than 2 days after
the tsunami killed over 200,000 people in Asia on Boxing Day 2004,
scam letters were being circulated. People responded to these not
because they were greedy but because they were generous and wanted
to help those in trouble.
3. People wouldn't send them money if they didn't
have it to spare.
Again, this is false. Those who fall for these scams believe they
are about to get millions of dollars. Compared to such huge sums
what is $20-60,000? They see it as a 100% risk free investment that
will pay off within days or weeks.
Many of the victims take out personal loans, re-mortgage their
homes, sell possessions, borrow from family and friends, and more
to send money to these scammers. When the money is gone and the
scam finishes they are left with crippling debt.
I am a pastor in United Arab Emirates and am also a victim of
them. I am poor and hardly feed my family with my meager earnings.
I received an email on 28 Feb 2001 from a person called "Shan
Lee Shun" saying that he is the adopted son of a Japanese
widow who left huge wealth. He informed that this lady made a
will to divide a part of her wealth to many humanitarian organizations
and churches world wide and my name is also included in that.
My portion he said was $1.6 million. He sent some documents to
'prove' that and said that the money is invested with a GLOBAL
SECURITIES AND COURIER COMPANY in Amsterdam and I was invited
to visit Amsterdam to get this transaction done.
Foolishly believing this I went to Amsterdam but before going
they said that a handling charge of $18,000 should be given but
I had not even $500 with me. When I told about this to a friend,
trusting me, he gave this money by acquiring a loan from his bank
on the promise that I would return this amount soon.
I sent this to them to transfer the money to account in UAE.
Then they informed me that in order to release the amount I should
produce a Drug Clearance Certificate. For that they said that
$50000 was required.
Still believing this, I told another friend of mine and he offered
to help me by acquiring a loan from the bank. With this amount
I went to Amsterdam where they took the money from me, gave me
a 'certificate' and sent me back along with some bank transfer
'receipts' of money to my account.
Later on I came to know that this was fraud and I got cheated.
Since then I am in a very difficult situation that I cannot even
feed my children well or send them properly to school. I am paying
back the amount every month with almost all of my earnings and
still I need to pay a big amount which is left.
I just pray to God to settle my debt. I have complained once
to the Amsterdam Police and no action has been taken by them.
God bless you for all what you are doing to help these kind of
John C 04/12/03
4. They wouldnt send much. After a couple
of times they would realise that theyre being duped before
they lose too much money.
It would be nice if that was the case. However, the most successful
of these criminals are very good at what they do. Plus, it gets
to a point where the victim thinks Ive come so far
and paid so much, surely it this is the last payment.
The victim becomes trapped into a never-ending spiral of fees and
setbacks each costing more and more money.
There are documented cases of victims from a number of different
countries who have paid out millions to these scammers. Some of
them are still convinced that the money they were promised a share
hit twice in scams, court told over $2 million
Money Scammers Claim a Major Victim - $320,000
5. But the scammers are only trying to get ahead
& feed their families. If the West hadn't raped their country
of its wealth they wouldn't have to do this.
Funnily enough, this is the argument most often used by the Nigerian
lads and their supporters. Recent lad visits to the forum show that
this is a prevailing justification for their scamming.
Basically the argument goes something like this:
1. Nigeria was a happy and peaceful country until the west came
2. Western companies, such as Halliburton and Shell, bribed their
way into the country and proceeded to strip Nigeria of its assets
leaving the inhabitants poverty stricken and struggling to survive.
3. Therefore the West is responsible and now it is payback time.
Lad to Janne Pekkala (Baiter):
Ok, I don't realy call it cheating, most times the smart person
become victorious. Some body has to pay what we call retribution
From what Africa went through during the Slave trade era
The west took all our resourses, Manpower, and our cultural
and traditional wares
Some body will pay some how what your lineage owed
This fails to take into account several very basic facts and concepts:
There is a culture in Nigeria that esteems those who can
make money without working.
One moderator of our forum, Old
Coaster, grew up in Nigeria and notes:
In the 18th century, European traders sat in hulks and trading
posts at the mouths of the Oil Rivers, Badagry and other sites
and were well used to the ridiculous amounts demanded by Nigerian
traders for Palm Oil, Ivory and Slaves. Serious negotiation was
involved and people like John Holt are on record complaining about
the difficulty of dealing with the locals
I grew up in Nigeria long before oil was discovered in the Niger
Delta. The culture of Southern Nigeria has always admired those
who can make money without working and I have scam letters going
back to the 1950's.
Us Old Coasters became increasingly irritated with the outrageous
prices demanded by traders for Nigerian Craft work as the tourist
business increased and naive tourists (usually Americans) paid
the initial prices asked which could be up to 20 times the going
The somewhat "jack the lad" culture of southern Nigeria
combined with the stupidity of foreigners showed how easy it was
to make money from the white mugus and intelligent scammers soon
developed the 419 scams, initially via fax and then via the internet.
Children raised in this culture soon learn that scamming is acceptable
especially if you are successful. A Nigerian member of this
The attitude of the family is largely dependent on the degree
of success their chum has with scamming, if the lads been on it
for 3 yrs and only has a fairly used car to show, he's a failure
and no-good... but if he's built a couple of houses and cruises
around in an X5, all hail the king! They even give him a chieftaincy
title in his hometown!!!
Using internet cafes costs money. Those poor starving Nigerians
who cant afford to feed their family also cant afford
to use internet cafes.
It is the better educated Nigerians who are able to speak
some English. While we may laugh at the way they mangle it (how
well can you write in another language?) they wouldnt be able
to speak it at all if they werent somewhat better off than
many of the rest of their countrymen.
Scams do not target Westerners. They target anyone with
money. In this
thread one of the 419eater moderators, Lew_Skannen replies to
this claim with a list of some of the victims that he has personally
1. Thai women, catering assistant in Bangkok - lost about £20,000
of money borrowed from family and employer. When she told the scammer
she had no money he told her to go borrow some.
2. Saudi Arab - $130K
3. Egyptian - sick wife - lost $10K
4. Egyptian - $7K
5. Black American woman - student - lost $2K
6. Black American woman - single mother - lost about $10K but was
saved from losing another $20K by a timely phone call.
7. Korean guy - Lost $1000+
8. Mexican woman- reasonably wealthy family I think - lost $120K
9. Polynesian woman - $5K
10 - Colombian man - $500 only.
Successful scammers make a lot of money out of it. If they
were really doing this to right past wrongs then the money would
be used to assist the poor. But this money doesnt get distributed
to the poor. It goes straight into their own pockets. The money
that their victims have borrowed to fund this business deal and
will spend years paying back goes on supporting a lifestyle that
very few others in Nigeria can enjoy.
In the course of this business I have purchased several luxury
cars and built many large houses which I rent out. Believe you
me my friend, an American sucker is born every hour. Take you
for instance if you had any money you would have lost it. The
only thing keeping you safe is your poverty. You should thank
God for that!
Many countries are poor and many countries have come off
second best from colonialism but Nigeria has a huge amount of valuable
natural resources. There is more than enough to drag it out of poverty.
However corruption is a colossal problem - Nigeria is rated as the
second most corrupt country in the world (after Bangladesh) and
that corruption is right through the whole of the society
from the top down. Nigeria will not be able to escape what some
see as the legacy of colonialism until this problem is dealt with.
As long as it is tolerated, or worse encouraged, by the majority
of people then they will continue to struggle as a poor nation,
stigmatized by a reputation for corruption and scamming.
6. Those pictures with the signs & poses
are degrading. How can you make them do that?
They have a choice and they could (and sometimes do) choose not
to send a picture. There are no trunk boxes with $20 million that
they must get out of the country. They are simply doing it to extort
money out of the victim. If they believe that holding a silly sign
or posing with a fish on their head is going to get them some easy
money from a gullible victim then they will do what it takes. They
Actually there are a couple of benefits from asking for photos
with signs. One, of course, is the humor aspect. Another excellent
benefit is that now some scammers are becoming wary of any requests
for signs and are dropping legitimate victims as soon as they ask
for some kind of photograph. This is always a good thing!
7. Okay, so they are trying to get money out of
people. Thats a crime but it not like its fatal!
Sorry guys, actually it can be. Numerous victims of scammers have
committed suicide or been murdered due to these scams. One particularly
nasty type of scam involves getting a victim to travel to the scammers
country, usually Nigeria, South Africa or to Amsterdam, with large
amounts of cash to finalize the transaction. The victim
is then kidnapped, often beaten and tortured and sometimes killed.
This is not a rare event. It has happened numerous times. At the
time of writing this FAQ the latest known victim was a 29 year old
Greek man, George
Makronalli, who traveled to South Africa as part of a 419 scam.
He was then kidnapped and killed when his family refused to pay
the ransom. A day later, police found George's body in Durban. Both
his legs and arms were broken and he had been set alight - probably
while he was still alive.
More links to victims stories:
- scroll halfway down the page to read the stories
Even if the scam does not cost the victim their life often it can
strip them of everything they have worked for and hold dear. Many
victims end up losing their homes, retirement or education savings,
businesses and jobs, and their professional or personal credibility.
All they are left with is large debts that they have no way of repaying.
The tangible cost of fraud crime is easily translated into dollar
amounts. Less easily measured, and perhaps the most exacting cost
of all, is the severe emotional impact of fraud crime on many of
its victims. Fraud crime is a personal violation. Although there
is no serious physical injury many victims of con-men speak of the
betrayal as the psychological equivalent of rape. Their trust in
their own judgment, and their trust in others, is often shattered.
They may have hesitated to tell family members, friends, or colleagues
about their victimization for fear of criticism. Family members
and business associates may even have been financially exploited
at their urging, resulting in increased feelings of guilt and blame.
The dread becomes immeasurable, unrelated to specifics, just an
all encompassing blanket of depression.
Fraud often evokes the following feelings or emotional reactions
among its victims:
- self-doubt, shock, disbelief
- societal condemnation and indifference (the attitude that victims
of fraud deserve what they get as a result of their own greed
- isolation (when victims suffer their losses in silence rather
than risking alienation and blame from family members, friends,
- anger, resentment, and a sense of betrayal toward the offender
for taking advantage of them especially if they were someone they
- frustration with criminal justice professionals
- shame, embarrassment, and guilt if they feel they contributed
to their own or others' victimization
- fear for their financial security
- increased concern about their personal safety and well-being
or that of their family.
Some of the same physiological and long-term emotional effects
experienced by victims of violent crimes are also experienced by
fraud victims such as:
feeling of terror or helplessness
rapid heart rate
inability to eat or sleep
loss of enjoyment of daily activities
Short-term effects on victims include:
- preoccupation with the crime (thinking about it a great deal,
talking about it constantly, replaying the crime, wondering what
they could have done differently, etc.)
- inability to concentrate or perform simple mental tasks
- concern that other people will blame them for what has happened
- increased strain on personal relationships (even to the extent
of divorce or withdrawal of support)
In the extreme, fraud crimes have led some victims to attempt or
succeed in committing suicide. One of these was Leslie Fountain
who committed suicide by setting himself alight after he was cheated
by an internet scam. Artists Against 419 dedicated the Worlds
2nd 419 Flashmob in his memory.
As you can see, 419 scams are about more than just pick-pocketing
a handful of small change from victims. The scammers ruin lives.
They use every trick in the book to get as much money as possible
out of their victims. They do not care about the people they scam
or the effect it has on them. They dupe the generous and the greedy
No matter what a persons motivation for answering a 419 letter
nobody deserves to be put through the kind of hell that these scum
have waiting for their victims. And no scammer deserves to profit
from lying and stealing.
That is why we have no problem with baiting. Every scammer baited,
every lad who poses with a sign for a baiter, every false form filled
in, every fake bank taken down means that less victims are scammed.
We keep the scammers busy with safe targets. We occupy
them and waste their time. Hopefully some will decide its
not worth it and get an honest job. Others may get caught in a sting.
Many of the members on the 419eater.com forum are also active on
other forums that assist the victims, such as
These members have seen first hand the profound effects that are
experienced by people who have been scammed. Some of them deal with
hundreds of victims a year. They know all too well the suffering
of the victims. Any sympathy they might have once had for the criminals
has evaporated when faced with the day to day grim reality of the
suffering inflicted on innocent men and women who have had the misfortune
to get caught up in a 419 scam.
Please dont offend them by siding with the scammers. Posts
that question the ethics of scam baiting, call baiters racists,
try to justify the scams or call victims greedy will usually result
in a polite request to use the search button before posting. Continue
to post and you may find their patience stretched.
8. What can I do to help?
There are a couple of key things you can do to help.
Make sure that your family and friends are 419 safe. Nothing
would be more gut-wrenching than to spend hours baiting and shutting
down fake banks just to find out old Aunty Enid has fallen for a
scam and sent her retirement savings off to Nigeria!
Bait! The more baiters the better as it keeps the scammers
Have fun when you bait. The more you mess around with a
lad the more likely hell be suspicious of the next new victim
reply that lands in his in box.
Keep alert for scammers details. Things such as account
numbers, physical addresses, fake bank web addresses, ccd
lists of other e-mail addresses and so on can be very helpful. We
have a team of dedicated fake bank killers who like to meet new
9. Isn't scambaiting and/or this site racist?
clearly set out that racism is not permitted here. For those who
doubt our sincerity, heres some evidence to back it up:
* We bait the scammers that come to us. Often that is via
seeding a guestbook that has obviously been harvested by scammers
before. Some baiters pick up scammers from the surplus letters
forum here at Eater, and some find them through publicly available
lists of known scammers, such as urgentmessage.org or similar
sites. Some baiters choose to bait scammers that approach them
on message boards, dating sites, or selling sites such as Ebay
or Craigslist. None of these sources differentiate between colour,
race or ethnic origin, so we have no way of knowing what their
characteristics are the only thing we know for sure, or
care about at all, is that they are scammers.
* The scammers can choose to be whatever race, colour
or ethnic origin they like, and baiters usually have no way of
knowing whether they are telling the truth. Scammers lie
its in their job description, and they have to be good at
it or they dont make any money. The scammers will rarely
tell the truth about anything and will try to avoid sending a
picture of themselves they use magazines and image sites
on the internet to harvest pictures of people to conceal their
true identity. We have no way of knowing whether the scammer is
sending a picture of someone who shares their ethnic background
or race, or whether they are telling the truth about any personal
* Yes, a lot of the trophies and pictures you will see
here are of people who are from, or claiming to be from, Nigeria.
There are a lot of Nigerian scammers, as 5 minutes research
on the internet will tell you. As we often reitierate here, that
does not mean that all scammers are Nigerian, nor that all Nigerians
are scammers. The vast majority of Nigerians are law-abiding citizens,
and we know that a good many of them are appalled at the reputation
that widespread scamming has inflicted on their country. We share
* White scammers exist and we bait them. Scammers claim
to be from all over the world, and there are indeed scammers all
over the world. Many of the love/dating scammers purport to be
white Russian women. We have no idea whether they are, in the
same way that we have no idea if someone claiming to be a black
Nigerian actually is what he/she claims to be, but the chances
are that we are baiting a significant number of white European,
East European or Russian love scammers. We also bait a number
of cheque scammers who say they are from China, and charity scammers
who purport to be from all over the world, including Asia, Indonesia
(especially after the tsunami), or the US (after the Katriona
hurricane notably). We have no way of knowing their race, colour
or ethnic origin, and it is immaterial to us.
* We have long-standing members who are Nigerian, and
also receive comments from Nigerian visitors to the site. Not
one of our long-standing Nigerian members has complained that
the ethos of the site is racist. One of our Nigerian members was
a mod until recently it defies belief to say that he would
have agreed to moderate the site if he thought 419Eater or scambaiting
* We have an active moderation team who keep a close
eye on posts, and will delete or edit any that infringe Eater
policy. Individual posts are reported for racism from time to
time, and they are always acted on speedily. The person posting
it will be censured immediately. We have banned people for using
racist usernames, linking to racist sites, and in one instance
we banned a member solely because we discovered that they also
belonged to a white supremacist site. They had not posted anything
racist or linked their site, so it was not for show. They were
banned because they were a member of a racist site and therefore
not someone we wanted on Eater.
Eaters anti-racism policy is sincere. We are genuinely offended
by the accusation that we are racist, hence this effort to persuade
you that we are not. If you have read this far, thank you, and we
hope that you will take some time to read the site, and make up
your own mind based on what you see. This site has a lot of stuff
that is fun and frivolous, but some things are serious the
efforts we make to hurt scammers and protect the innocent are testament
to that, and just as serious is our intolerance of bigotry.
Article by The Cheshire Cat with additional information