Scam busters: The man who bombarded a con-artist with Shakespeare texts isn't the only victim getting even
When Edd Joseph fell for a fake online advert, he sent his scammer nearly 30,000 texts - and counting. His isn't the only revenge
Pity the scammer who scammed Edd Joseph. The unnamed conman may today be using the £80 he took for a non-existent games console to buy a new phone. Joseph, meanwhile, is taking revenge after falling for the fraudulent online ad by bombarding the “seller” with the entire works of Shakespeare, by way of – so far – almost 30,000 text messages.
The stunt, revealed in the Bristol Post, cost Joseph nothing (his phone gives him unlimited texts) and gained him only fleeting celebrity and a sense of schadenfreude. But it also represents a victory on behalf of any of us who have felt powerless in a digital world populated with increasingly devious scammers.
Scamming the scammers has become a sport, inspiring many to rise up and take revenge or beat fraudsters at their own game. It is also the title of a new book by a writer more used to holding governments to account. Don Mullan’s eyewitness accounts of the Bloody Sunday killings in Northern Ireland compelled Tony Blair to launch the Saville inquiry. As it rumbled on, he received a perplexing email.
“It was from a man called Lazar claiming to be a Serb living in Africa who was dying and had a teenage daughter whom he wanted me to take care of in return for £500,000, and to manage a £5m fund on her behalf,” Mullan says from Dublin. “Anyone with an inbox has received emails like it and most of us delete them but this time I decided I would respond.”
Scamming the Scammers reproduces the ensuing, epic exchange, which is too long to recount here, as well as three others with people who, by various and wildly imaginative means, tried to convince Mullan to give them his money.
“I realised they were dealing in lies, so I began to deal in fiction and these extraordinary relationships developed,” he says.
After a couple of emails, Lazar became Michael, which Mullan believed to be a slip‑up. Instead, Michael, explained, Lazar had died and he was his solicitor. Mullan would need to send the legal fees required to release the promised payment. He didn’t, of course, but took pleasure in wasting the scammer’s time, inventing his own scenarios and fictional conspirators.
“Part of the challenge is you didn’t know what you were going to get in reply to each email. Generally, I would never spend more than 15 minutes on this a day, but I saw it as a kind of relaxation,” he says. “I also enjoyed using an imaginative part of my brain I didn’t realise I had.”
Whole websites are devoted to similar “scammer baiting” of online fraudsters who, in all their guises, cost the global economy as much as $200bn (£120bn) a year, according to some estimates. 419eater.com, a British-run site that now has more than 50,000 registered users, targets the same kind of “advance-fee” swindlers who, in the case of those working in Nigeria, break the “419 code” in that country’s fraud laws. Dan, a user from Cornwall, was featured in a Channel 4 documentary on the subject, broadcast in January, in which he lured a London-based scammer to a remote chapel in Cornwall before exposing him in front of the cameras.
For all the illicit joy such behaviour brings the baiters, they acknowledge that those who fall for scams are often vulnerable people. “I deal in the book with five people who were driven to suicide,” Mullan says. “One beautiful old granny in New Jersey had emptied her savings account of a quarter of a million dollars, which she had saved up for her grandchildren’s education.
“In the end she felt utterly disgusted with herself and drowned herself. There is a dark side in all of this which needs to be exposed.”
“Scamming the Scammers” by Don Mullan (£9.99, Paperbooks) is published next month
Life & Style blogs
Versace haute couture review: Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
The face of fertility: why do men find women who are near ovulation more attractive?
What supermodels really think about posing in the nude
People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
- 1 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response from Ellen DeGeneres
- 2 What supermodels really think about posing in the nude
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A dynamic, customer oriented Pr...
£30 to £32k : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Trainer / IT Trainer to join an a...
£25000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting, well-funded near s...