Definitely an interesting topic. These scammers are extremely devious, clever, convincing, and manipulative. However a lot of them are VERY, VERY
stupid as well. Go to your favorite search engine and look up scam baiting and you'll find tons of interesting (and usually entertaining) reading
about people who intentionally seek out scammers and lead them on in order to waste their time and money, and to make them look foolish. My favorite
site is 419Eater. But there are many, so just pick one, grab a beverage, and kick back as you read about scammers getting a little bit of their own
I've done some scam baiting myself, mostly dealing with romance scammers, and for the most part they are very easy to spot. But in order to do so one
must know what to look for. That's the problem. The victims don't have a clue.
From what I have seen most romance scammers fit into three categories. There's the ones from Africa, but mostly Nigeria, who are sometimes called
Lads by scam baiters. There's the type from Europe and the former Soviet countries. They are typically referred to as Vlads. And then there are some
who come from the Philippines. They all operate a little differently.
The Vlads are likely to use a pre-written script that they don't usually break away from. So if you start an email conversation with one and they
never seem to answer any of your questions, but rather appear to be having a conversation with a brick wall, then that's a definite sign of a script.
Sometimes you'll find one who doesn't use a script though, and those are the ones that are much more convincing. They typically give out pictures
from modeling websites, but sometimes they will take pictures of someone themselves. For example, let's say the Vlad is actually a guy, but that his
girlfriend is aware of the scamming, so he'd take pictures of her to send to the potential victim.
The Filipinos seem to prefer using web cams and instant messenger chat, and most of that chat takes place in internet cafes.
The African/Nigerian group are more like the Vlads in that they use scripts, send pictures of models or other people, and can seem to be talking to
The most common first method of getting money from a victim is by claiming that they (the scammer) has run out of funds to pay the translation service
they use. So they ask for money to be sent via wire transfer. After that the ways they ask for money can vary greatly.
So here's some red flags to watch for:
- Scripted emails from the would-be scammer.
- A sob story about moving to with their family and now being stuck there, which in turn necessitates that funds be sent from the victim to help get
- A sob story about being out of money and stuck in a hotel in , and having the hotel manager being very irate and demanding money immediately.
- Asking for money for translation services.
- After contacting someone who had a personal ad with excellent language skills, that person uses terrible language skills. This is usually because
they will copy/paste the profile of another personal ad...sometimes the pictures too.
- Pictures of people who are just too perfect looking. Sometimes they will even try to use images of celebrities.
The sad part about people who are victims of these scams is that there is very little that can be done about the money they've lost. At one point
some time ago I had read that a surprising percentage of the Nigerian GNP came from scam money. So this is a huge problem around the world, and I
can't see it going away any time soon.
At the very least, I definitely recommend looking at one of the scam baiting sites just to read up on how to spot scammers. Such knowledge could be
very handy when talking to someone who may be engaged in a questionable online relationship already. The good sites have sections dedicated to
educating people on what to look for, and some have information on how to deal with being scammed. In addition they have info about other types of
scams...and there are many. Anything from selling cars to renting homes to moving millions of dollars. These scammers are extremely creative.