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Monday, June 21, 2004

Internet Vigilantes Take On... Nigerian Spam Scams?



Vigilantism is most popular in cases where the morality is the least ambiguous, such as in the case of sexual predators who target children. Another condition is the inability or unwillingness of the govenment or law enforcement to address the problem effectively. The same is true online, of course. A new target has emerged, however- the famous Nigerian E-mail scams, also known as "419" scams. Read about it here.

I don't know if e-mail fraud really meets the test of a crime that would sanction vigilantism, and not just because it's a crime perpetrated against the stupidest members of society. Somehow I doubt it will really resonate with people on a moral level. After all, the "victims" self-select themselves- they are motivated by greed and the allure of ill-gotten gains. They end up giving away money instead ( which makes absolutely no sense) or they end up having money stolen from them since they gave out their bank account information ( which again, is a moronic move).

If people would stop corresponding with these fraudsters, the crime would cease to occur. This is markedly different from say, muggings, burglary, drive-by shootings, kidnappings, and similar crimes where the victim has had no contributory role in the crime except for their own bad luck.


The new online group, www.419legal.org, actually goes after the scammers through law enforcement channels, trying to get prosecutions. There have been loads of unnofficial groups working the net for a few years- that don't do it for criminal justice- they do it for fun:

A lot of sites like to correspond with, jerk around, annoy and humiliate the scammers. Like these guys.

This site archives many of the scam letters.

And- my favorite site of all : www.419eater.com where they post goofy pictures of the humiliated scammers and tell newbies how to join in the fun of "scambaiting", including how to turn the tables on them and scamming the scammers!

That said, if there's any public support for this anti-scam effort, it will be based entirely on the high annoyance factor that most people have with having to read and delete scam spam all the time, rather than any deep sense of sympathy for the dumb and greedy "victims". Then again, apparently it's really fun to screw with these guys, so who knows... maybe it will catch on.





Posted by Rex @ 3:23 PM

REX STETSON: ARMCHAIR VIGILANTE character name and distinctive likeness thereof: TM & © 2003 Armchair Vigilantism, Inc. All Rights Reserved.