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 and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Software House - PRINCE2, PMP

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A dynamic, customer oriented Pr...

    Guru Careers: Trainer / IT Trainer

    £30 to £32k : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Trainer / IT Trainer to join an a...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer / Front End Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

    £25000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting, well-funded near s...

    Day In a Page

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate