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scam-baiting

Scam-baiting is the practice of eliciting attention from the perpetrator of a scam by feigning interest in whatever bogus deal is offered. The scam-baiter pretends to be duped, with the intention of making the perpetrators waste their own time and/or money, and exposing them to public ridicule if at all possible. Scam-baiters may involve the scammers in a long correspondence or encourage them to travel seeking a pay-off.

A surprising number of e-mail recipients fall prey to scams. One common example is the "Nigerian advance fee" message, which asks for advance fees that will somehow make it possible for the senders to access a large sum of money that they will share with the recipient. According to a December 2002 article in The Guardian, such e-mail frauds garner over a million British pounds (about one and a half million dollars in U.S. currency) a year from victims in Britain and the U.S.

There are a number of Web sites devoted to scam-baiting. The owners of one such site (at www.geocities.com/a_kerenx/), who sometimes refer to themselves collectively as Alexander Kerensky, explain: "The basic idea is to be the biggest pest to the scammer and waste as much of their time as possible and have a bit of fun along the way as well!" To this end, the site owners established a hotmail address and simply waited for a scammer's message to arrive. When they received a message about a "Nigerian advance fee", they responded as if duped. A long, albeit fruitless, correspondence ensued. The site owners have sometimes asked scammers to meet them by a public webcam and posted images of the culprits to the Internet while they waited in vain.

This was last updated in August 2005

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