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., 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

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Pistorius leaves Pretoria High Court to be taken to prison

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    IT Support Analyst - London - £22,000

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chel...

    PPC Account Executive

    £25 - 28k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A PPC Account Executive is needed to...

    Android Developer / Java Developer

    £35 - 45k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a tech savvy Android Develo...

    Sales Account Manager

    £30 - 35k + 25% Y1 OTE + Fantastic Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an e...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album