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Scam baiting

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Scam baiting

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Scam baiting is the practice of pretending interest in a fraudulent scheme in order to manipulate a scammer. The purpose of scam baiting might be to waste the scammers' time, embarrass them, cause them to reveal information which can be passed on to legal authorities in the hope that they will be prosecuted, get them to spend money, or simply to amuse the baiter.

Scam baiting emerged in response to e-mail based frauds such as the common Nigerian 419 scam. Many websites publish transcripts of correspondences between baiters and scammers, and also publish their "trophies" online, which include videos and images scam baiters claim to have obtained from scammers.

Scam baiting is almost always an Internet pastime, though scam baiters claim to have been the primary source of information for law enforcement officers in several scammer arrests.


The main goal of scam baiting is wasting a scammer's time. If the scam artist is talking to a baiter this means that they aren't talking with a potential victim. The majority of baits are conducted with this primary goal in mind. These baits are referred to as "straight baits".

However, often a secondary goal of the baiter's amusement emerges. To that end, a common status symbol among scam baiters is the collection and display of a photographic "trophy," a picture ostensibly taken of the scammer by themselves, usually while holding custom made signs, or in odd poses with specific props (such as placing a fish on one's head).

Many scambaiters will also claim to have sent the scammers to a Western Union office repeatedly to collect the supposedly sent money and get them to book hotels for them. A few baiters have also allegedly succeeded in receiving cash from the fraudsters (this is commonly referred to as 'cash baiting'). This, however, is not typically condoned by many scambaiters because it is illegal. Tom Craig, a former Scotland Yard officer, says that it would be unprecedented for 419 con artists to part with money and suggests that scam baiters could easily forge the scanty "evidence" of such successes.[1] The opposing argument to this is, of course, that it doesn't serve a scam baiter's purpose to brag about made up 'successes', especially in illegal deeds, such as cash baiting.

Scambaiters also claim to have also made telephone calls with scammers. These telephone calls are usually made to be humorous, and to waste as much of the scammers time as possible. Additionally, this wastes the scammer's money on an overseas call. Many audio recordings can be found on sites dedicated to scam baiting, documenting the conversations of the baiters with the scammers.


Some claim that scam baiting is racist, since the targets of choice are black Africans. Scambaiters say that they are baiting the fraudsters because they are criminals who demand attention with dishonest messages, not because of their race, creed or religous background. Many scam baiting websites have anti-racism policies. Also some scambaiters point out that there is a difference between the person who baits and the character played by the baiter, who may well be a racist character. [1]

There have been attempts to examine the work of scambaiters at various times. A person posting on message boards under the pseudonym "whistleblower", who claimed to be a regular scambaiter, attracted criticism for engaging in an activity known as "badgering" (which involves pretending to be a scammer and actively "baiting" scambaiters). This person allegedly uncovered instances of what amounted to extreme racism by various baiters, and published the results of these investigations on scambaiting forums along with corresponding IP information.

Some critics also claim that baiting can often endanger the lives of scammers, if they become indebted to other gang-members as a consequence. However, the chain of causality is usually felt to reside with the scammer who, in most cases, initiates communications and actively seeks to defraud. It is also a known tactic for many scammers to attempt to make even baiters feel guilty for their actions.

The vulgarity (and sometimes racism) of published transcripts and trophies also depends on the web site and scambaiter. Different baiters have different styles, and different scambaiting web sites tolerate different levels of obscenity, and some may not be suitable for children or work.


Scam baiters claim that a beneficial side-effect of scam baiting has been the exposure of false and fraudulent "lottery," "banking" and "credit" services, which are often created by the scammers to further their scams and make them seem legitimate. Some scam baiters specialize in hunting down and "killing" these fake sites in order to remove one of the tools in the scammers arsenal.

At least one scam victim was murdered when he travelled to meet the scammer[2]. At least one website actively advises against this activity due to the danger of retaliation.

There are very few known cases of a scammer finding the identity of a scambaiter, since baiters always use fake email accounts and are careful not to disclose any personal details. Some baiters claim that they received information that the scammers visited the fake addresses the baiter gave them.

Scam baiting can also be considered a type of sting operation, although many scambaits are simply trying to waste time instead of catching the scammer, so it may not fit the definition.

Notes and References

  1. Dan Damon. Turning the tables on Nigeria's email commen. BBC. July 13, 2004.

See also

External links

See these directories also:

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